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Five Questions with: Katrina Ralston, Feeney, Inc.

Katrina Ralston, Feeney
Katrina Ralston

Katrina Ralston is president of Feeney, Inc., a manufacturer of architectural products for residential and commercial applications. In 2007, she spearheaded Feeney’s evolution from an industrial wire rope and rigging business to a manufacturer of innovative design solutions for interiors and exteriors, including CableRail and the DesignRail aluminum railing system. Today Katrina and her stepmother, Grissell Ralston, run the company together.

Q: As the fall of 2020 begins, remodeling and new housing starts have remained strong in most markets. What do you see as the biggest opportunity for dealers?

A: As the economy improves, I think a lot of our fellow Americans will spend more time and money focusing on creating and improving family-friendly spaces for entertaining. One of the biggest opportunities for dealers is to embrace technology and new ways to communicate with their customers. Implementing or improving an e-commerce website (or third-party selling platform) is a great way to drive sales and offer customer convenience and safety. Another big opportunity is to embrace social media platforms as a way to reach customers. It’s all about taking the dealer’s expertise online—educating and inspiring consumers in a whole new way.

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Q: The flipside of that question: what do you see as the biggest challenge?

A: The biggest challenge is making customers feel comfortable about opening their pocketbooks. Larger projects may be put on the back burner until people feel more secure in the economy. Also, people are changing the way they do business. Ordering online and onsite delivery are important, especially to compete with the big box stores that have not had to shutter their doors. The key is to maintain that personal touch that folks look for in an independent dealer. And that might be challenging too.

Q: The outdoor living market is healthy and growing. What trends do you think will have the largest impact in the next 3-5 years?

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A: Staycations! Many people are thinking twice about traveling this year. They have been spending a lot of time at home and are more invested in improving the spaces where they live, work and play. They are also looking at ways to let the outdoors in. Homeowners are realizing that their outdoor space may be underutilized and are looking at products that turn that space into a larger outdoor living area. This trend has been rising over the past five years, but has really spiked with so many people forced to stay at home.

Q: Deck railings is a very competitive category, with steady enhancements in design and performance over the past few years. Can you give our readers an idea of what developments to watch for?

A: We are seeing an increase in the use of mixed materials like wood and metal, even in more traditional railing styles. Lighting also continues to be a coveted add-on to extend the amount of time people can enjoy their outdoor spaces. The railing category has definitely changed over the years from a safety element to a design element (without sacrificing safety). The railing has become a feature that contributes to the stylishness of the entire indoor and outdoor space, and we are seeing more options for infills, top rails and accessories to meet growing demand for increased consumer choice and design versatility.

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Q: Feeney’s best-known product is its CableRail product, but there’s much more to your company’s story. What should LBM Journal readers be watching for from Feeney?

A: Here at Feeney, we are always looking forward and watching evolving trends and how people want to inhabit and enjoy their spaces. Bringing a mix of safety and design sensibility to indoor and outdoor creative spaces is what we enjoy doing. Look for updates to our VisualBuilder online deck design tool, which makes it easy to design a beautiful outdoor space, and more innovative showcase projects to inspire people to update their spaces in new and inviting ways!

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