Collins The Trend Tracker
by Mike Collins
January 29th, 2013

IBS Impressions: Optimism Reigns

This was the most upbeat Builders’ Show that I’ve attended since 2006. Nearly every one of the companies with whom we talked reported that sales are increasing. Traffic and attendance at the show were up strongly versus last year and the show was once again in two separate halls. Almost without exception, companies were happy with leads generated and the traffic in their booth. Several companies indicated to me at the midpoint of the show that they had already doubled the leads generated from IBS 2012. Only one person told me that he was disappointed in the traffic at the show. It turned out, though, that he hadn’t attended an IBS in eight years. One can see how that would create a Rip Van Winkle effect and a recovery era show would pale in comparison to those of the industry’s heyday.

Some folks can find the dark side of the sun, so they hastened to point out that the largest manufacturers in many of the product segments didn’t attend the show. Those companies make million-dollar investments in the show, so it’s best not to overweight their decision not to attend. Let’s remember the hundreds of small and medium companies that were willing to invest in the show and who reaped the reward of potential leads.

One of the unique things about IBS is the relatively large number of company presidents working the booth. There is something to be said for having top management at the show to put a face on the company. It’s also an invaluable opportunity to “speed date” with several hundred potential customers. Since most manufacturers sell through dealers or wholesalers, this face-to-face contact with end consumers is not an opportunity to be wasted.

Notable among companies that increased their footprint at the show was Ply Gem, sending a clear message to the market about their outlook. Interesting market feedback at the show included comments that the luxury housing market has come back significantly over the past two years. Wealth created in the technology and oil industries, in particular, is driving the construction of luxury homes. Also interest rates are still at historical lows and a lot of risk has been wrung out of the economic picture.

The tone at IBS indicates that if you’re not feeling the recovery, it may be something that you’re not doing. It may be time for an emergency assessment of your business, starting with key customers whose purchases don’t point to a recovery. Are you still getting all of their business? What are they seeing in the market? This recovery has been long in the making, so we must all make sure to take part in it.

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