Gold in the Garage

© 2003 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Spring 2003
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Pages 48-54

Gold in the Garage

Thanks, Whirlpool.

The garage door industry may be the beneficiary of a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign launched by the $11-billion Whirlpool Corporation, the world’s leading appliance maker.

In the cover story of our fall 2002 issue, "Garages: The Next American Fascination," we reported on the increased attention being given to the American garage. Some of this attention is courtesy of Whirlpool, which has launched a massive campaign to introduce Gladiator GarageWorks, the firm's new garage-organization product.

Gladiator, Whirlpool’s first major brand in nearly 50 years, is reportedly now on sale in 850 Lowe's stores and is expected to generate $300 million in annual revenue by 2007.

How does this benefit our industry? Here are two ways.

First, as homeowners begin to attach more value to the appearance and function of the garage, they will likely attach more value to their garage door products. The result: consumers may begin to demand higher-quality, higher-priced garage doors, like the much-envied front entry doors.

Second, new garage organization products provide opportunities for additional sales to dealers who wish to expand their product offerings and increase profitability.

To learn about these popular new items, we talked to three companies now making varying types of garage organization products. Our interviewees: Christopher E. Hubbuch, manager of integrated marketing for Gladiator GarageWorks (Whirlpool); Marc Shuman, president of GarageTek; and Jeff Kahn, CEO for GarageGrids.

Do your garage products need professional installation?

GarageGrids: Professional installation is not necessary, but we strongly recommend it. We designed GarageGrids with input from over 40 door dealers in the New England area with consumers’ safety and convenience in mind.

GarageWorks: No, a handy homeowner with simple woodworking tools can install them. However, we do offer a professional installation service nationwide.

GarageTek: Our products are only sold on an installed basis by factory-trained authorized personnel.

Would your products sell better if distributed through garage door dealers?

GarageWorks: Garage door dealers and Gladiator GarageWorks products could be a good fit and benefit both groups by offering an enhanced revenue stream for garage door dealers.

GarageTek: Our franchisees consist of both stand-alone and combined-concept operators. Combined concepts should be synergistic in nature, for example, dealers who also sell closet organizers or garage doors.

GarageGrids: GarageGrids is the only storage and organization product sold exclusively through garage door dealers. Garage door dealers represent the most natural and best channel for this product.

Why do garage door dealers represent a good channel for your product?

GarageTek: The concepts share common marketing and operational characteristics. The customers share a common mindset at the time of sale: they want to improve their garage.

GarageGrids: More than 10,000 residential installers visit an average of four garages per day to install, service, repair, or estimate work. That’s 40,000 sales opportunities daily or more than 10,000,000 sales opportunities annually.

GarageWorks: Although we do not currently sell through this channel, it is a logical path to pursue and could greatly enhance a garage door dealer’s product offerings.

Why do you see a future for your garage products?

GarageGrids: A 1999 study noted that 50 percent of homeowners with garages planned to reorganize their garages over the next few years. Next to their closets, garages are the areas that consumers believe need the most cleaning out. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that 25 percent of people with two-car garages don’t park any cars in the garage, and 32 percent parked only one car.

In addition, the growth of carriage house doors, coated springs, and openers such as Wayne Dalton’s new idrive indicates that consumers are concerned about how their garages look. That’s why we are enthusiastic about the future of GarageGrids.

GarageWorks: The garage has become the junkdrawer of the home and is often the largest room of the house. As homeowners collect more items, this space becomes a premium, and they need to utilize every square foot available. In addition, as time becomes more valuable, an organized garage allows people to get to the things that are enjoyable more quickly.

GarageTek: The garage represents the fastest-growing square footage in new home construction. Most builders are no longer providing basements.

How are your products selling so far?

: We have been extremely pleased with the sales and the acceptance of this new brand. With the backing of Whirlpool Corporation and the support of our sales partners, we have seen very strong sales in a very short period.

GarageTek: Our products have been well received. System wide, we’ll have sold more than $5.0 million our first year.

GarageGrids: We shipped our first product to a single distributor in the spring of 2002. In 2003, we have so far shipped to nine distributors in the U.S. and Canada and continue to look for more.

What demographic groups appear to be your most promising target market?

GarageTek: Our primary demographic profile is the affluent professional, people who won’t or can’t do a professional quality installation themselves.

GarageGrids: Affluent households, who also tend to be the most organized, new homebuyers who have immediate storage needs, and homeowners who purchase garage door openers, which indicates their interest in parking their cars in the garage.

GarageWorks: We focus on a mix of psychographic groups who see their garage as an under-utilized space that needs attention. These groups can cross multiple demographic points including, age, income, and geographic location.

If I were a garage door dealer, what would you say to convince me that I should sell your product?

GarageGrids: First, GarageGrids is a high-margin product, sold only through garage door dealers. Second, GarageGrids is a no problem – no callback product. The kits are easy to install. Dealers put them up using the same impact drills and standard lags they use to install doors. The product is impervious to weather, built to prevent insects nesting and laying eggs, easy to keep clean, and versatile enough to satisfy most garage owners.

GarageWorks: The opportunity the garage represents for a dealer is tremendous. By offering products from a trusted company like Whirlpool Corporation, dealers can be assured of satisfied and loyal customers. Additionally, we have spent a tremendous amount of time and resources to develop and test products that are safe, meet building codes, and are extremely durable. The unique design and functionality of our products will turn the junkdrawer of the home into a real showplace.

GarageTek: The synergies that exist between facility, marketing, and operational costs are significant. GarageTek gives door dealers an opportunity for greater profitability due to the spread of fixed overhead over greater combined sales dollars.

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