If the expression “Hindsight is always 20/20″ is in any way true, then for hardscape contractors suitable planning for the season should include reflection on 2012 and processing that data into a plan of action well before the new season is upon us. As rudimentary as this may seem, an effective action plan may require only a few steps — 1) ranking your best sellers; 2) market research to put your finger on the pulse of climbing market trends for 2013; 3) cultivating pro-active partnerships with manufacturers and distributors who are positioned to help grow your business, and 4) have a keen sense of what makes your company different than the competition and leverage it to your advantage.
When putting your paver and wall best sellers in order, be sure to include shape, color, texture and patterns. According to Charles H. Gamarekian, Chairman/CEO of Cambridge Pavers Inc. — manufacturers of Cambridge Pavingstones with ArmorTec®, Cambridge Wallstones and a comprehensive line of outdoor living products, “Color, pattern and texture remain at the forefront when making a design decision and trust me, every homeowner has a wish list when it comes to their personal outdoor lifestyle experience.” By keeping a scorecard, you can guide your homeowner-customers and at the same time, monitor inventories, availabilities and often profitability.
As you may well know, raising the benchmark for curb appeal and heightening the outdoor living experience in the backyard are the topics flooding the marketplace. This is measured by the popularity of these subjects on television and print media. In the arena of pavers, larger scale shapes with definitive textures such as the Ledgestone Series from Cambridge with its natural-looking bluestone clefts on the surface have surpassed the company’s sales goals again this year. A reason for this is the unlimited pattern possibilities that can come from modular configurations. The Ledgestone Series is comprised of a 3-piece design kit with three additional individual pieces (9 x 9, 9 x 18 and 18 x 18), which are sold separately. The Kit itself is a combination of three extra-large square and rectangular shapes. The Cambridge Renaissance V Design Kit — again large configurations with a heavily textured surface — was a runner up in the textured category.
In responding to consumer demands for items such as outdoor kitchens and fireplaces, pizza ovens, fire pits, and refreshment bars, be aware that these items are available in pre-packaged kits, which will save you research, estimating and installation time. Cambridge offers a variety of kits all of which match or coordinate with the company’s pavers and wall systems in color, style and texture.
In these challenging economic times, teamwork between contractor, distributor and the manufacturer is more important than ever. Stop by your favorite distributors and dealers in your area and check inventory levels of products, shapes and colors you plan to promote. “Be forthright by asking to be reassured that your most commonly used items will be in-stock when you need them and not subject to a lengthy, special order process,” suggests Gamarekian. Distributors are likely to cater to the merchandising wants of their contractor-customers and go out of their way to support your stocking requirements because it equates to repeat business.
Final decisions are often brand-driven. Consumers find a level of comfort when they recognize a brand that has been featured on television, in publications and at home shows. Attendance at spring home and garden shows has risen back to 2006 levels, which means homeowners are contemplating investing money into their residences. Shows are a sales venue that should not be overlooked. Many manufacturers encourage teaming up with distributors and landscape contractors. It pays to look into incentives now. For instance, Cambridge offers exhibitors four free cubes of pavingstones and wallstones, valued at over $1,000. For more information, speak to a Cambridge Territory Manager. Contact information can be found at cambridgepavers.com.
When we think of branding, we usually think of logos attached to familiar product names and large companies. However, branding also associates particular styles, visions and/or philosophies with businesses large or small. How often have you associated a particular menu item with a specific restaurant when termed “Our Signature Dish”? With this in mind, it is important to present your personal techniques, like how you handle elevations, seating arrangements, banding, bordering, pattern inserts (circles and fans), landscape accent lighting effects and unique color pallets that will leave a mark of distinction in your design. There are many software tools such as the Cambridge DesignScape Visualizer ™ that help you create computer-generated renderings of your ideas explaining how patterns and colors work and interconnect with each other throughout your master plan.
The best way to summarize a “pattern for success” is staying on top of your game, deliver what the customer wants, and add a few surprises.