Q: The past year has brought record sales to many LBM dealers, despite the initial worries early in the COVID-19 spread. Now a year later and likely on the other side of the pandemic, what do you see as the biggest opportunities for dealers?
A: There is still a very good opportunity to upsell the builder/ contractor base to better valued-added products like VERSATEX. The rapidly rising prices and long lead-times of traditional materials like wood have given the dealers the ability to introduce man-made substitutes to customers that have traditionally avoided buying these types of products due to price. Smart dealers who table these types of products now will see their margins improve in the long run while at the same time satisfying their customer base who will see the value in products like VERSATEX and continue buying them even after the prices and availability of the traditional materials return to normal. Think of golfers who once they switch from a wood driver years ago and saw the benefit of steel and titanium never went back to wood even though the wood drivers are now one-third the price of metal.
Q: With building and remodeling strong and materials sometimes scarce, how does VERSATEX work with dealers to access inventory to fill orders?
A: VERSATEX has always been forward thinking in regard to manufacturing capacity. When the pandemic hit we never slowed down production even though the first 60 days were sketchy. However, when the dam burst and everyone wanted material, we were ready and we’ve maintained our industry best two-week or better lead-times throughout. Our supply channel, which includes our more than 40 wholesale distributors, is completely stocked up and this has given us and our partners many opportunities to take share during this time.
Q: You recently kicked off your VERSATEX Road Show, bringing nationally recognized builder Bobby Parks and a training center on wheels to about 100 dealer locations. How important is dealer education, and how have your tools for reaching dealers changed due to the pandemic?
A: This is our fifth year of doing the Road Show with Bobby. Even last summer/fall, though it was a bit scaled back, we continued to do it for the dealers that wanted it. We followed CDC guidelines and eliminated or changed the way we served food, but it was still successful. The Road Show helps the dealer sales team engage their contractor base in a hands-on and up-close and personal way. We feel, by far, allowing folks to get their hands on the product during training is the most impactful way for them to learn. Yes, over the past year we have done many online training seminars, and even had Bobby host three webinars, but we are excited to get back in front of folks in a more sincere way this year. I encourage dealers to do online learning offered by manufacturers but to not shy away from in-person events when they are comfortable returning to normal, as there really is no substitute.
Q: As homeowners—therefore builders and dealers—look to be more environmentally conscious in the products they choose for their homes, how does VERSATEX’s sustainability objectives help meet this demand?
A: VERSATEX has the Green Seal from NAHB due to sustainability, and our ability to recycle all scrap. On the commercial side there are up to five LEED points a contractor can earn using VERSATEX. The fact that the product does not require paints and stains with harmful VOC and prevents deforestation is a big draw. Additionally, VERSATEX has an integrated dealer recycling program for those that want to participate. We can take back any scrap left over on the job site, grind it up and use it again back in the process without sacrificing VERSATEX quality. At the plant we pride ourselves on using over 99% of our waste back into our process, eliminating any land fill impacts.
Q: VERSATEX recently launched new color options in its line of maintenance-free PVC porch ceilings. What are some other trends on the horizon that dealers should watch for?
A: Our color laminate program known as our Canvas Series has really continued to grow as contractors and builders are looking for more than just white, especially our soffit and porch ceilings. We will continue to add colors based on market demand. Our two new colors for 2021; Kitami, a replica of Japanese burnt ash, and Turner Oak, have really sold well. Additionally, we added a Piazza Blue T&G beadboard to our line that sells very well along the Eastern seaboard. I believe we will continue to add colors and SKUs to our portfolio as demand dictates.