Leslie Adkins is vice president of marketing for Trex Company, Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking and railing. Adkins has worked with Trex for 11 years and has nearly 30 years of marketing experience helping companies successfully launch new products and build brands.
Q: With strong confidence among builders and homeowners, what do you see as the biggest opportunity for LBM dealers?
A: Perhaps Trex is biased, but we see a continued focus on the growing trend of outdoor living and consumers’ willingness to invest in their homes. With labor tight and contractors being increasingly busy, there is increased pressure on dealers to have inventory on-hand for timely delivery. LBM dealers that take advantage of the winter buy programs offered by manufacturers will be positioned well to capitalize on this opportunity.
Q: The flipside of that question—what do you see as the biggest challenge?
A: LABOR. We hear this over and over from contractors across the country who identify labor as a major hindrance to growth. Of course, every challenge presents an opportunity—so as contractors schedule out with longer lead times, more DIYers are taking action. LBM dealers should keep that audience in mind as well.
Q: What do you see happening with the decking and railing markets for the next several years?
A: Between millennials moving into the home ownership ranks and Trex expanding our focus on converting would-be wood deck builders into Trex deck builders, we project that consumer interest in low maintenance products will continue to increase. Wood conversion is the reason the category has seen recent introductions of lower price point decking options—all intended to make low maintenance composite decking more accessible for homeowners who previously might not have considered composite decking. This, in turn, opens up opportunities for dealers: to focus on both the repair/remodel segment and new home construction, and likewise on both DIYers and professional deck builders.
Aesthetics continue to be important as more consumers seek to expand their personal design preferences to their outdoor living areas. This is where the mid-and higher-priced composite decking options are building momentum. The same holds true for railing where we are seeing a heavy focus on design options, and increased demand for alternative balustrade materials, such as mesh and glass applications.
Q: From your experience, what separates LBM dealers who sell a tremendous amount of decking products from the rest?
A: The most successful dealers are those with the ability to invest and carry inventory and the willingness to focus on the category with showrooms and promotion within their addressable markets. We also see a direct correlation between sales and dealers that invest in the development and support of a dedicated contractor base loyal to a brand.
Q: Today’s decking materials are light years from where they were when Trex created the composite decking market in 1996. What key innovations should LBM pros watch for in 2020 and beyond?
A: We can’t give away all of our secrets, but the trend for outdoor living is here to stay, and you can be sure that Trex is focused on what’s next in the category. From products like outdoor kitchens, fire and water features, and more, we really try to hone in on those elements that will make the outdoor space beyond the threshold ‘live’ like a room within the home.