THE CHANGING CONSUMER: Females and Family Rooms

© 2008 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Summer 2008
Author: Craig Smith
Page 68

Females and Family Rooms
By Craig Smith

Editor’s Note: This is the final article in a three-part series of sales tips on how to respond to changes in the garage door industry. Industry veteran Craig Smith is vice president and general manager of GeniePro Sales Centers.

The typical garage door customer is not so typical anymore. Today, more single women are focusing on security, and more families are seeing the garage as the fun room of the house.

The Female Consumer
According to the National Association of Realtors, unmarried women—a group that encompasses divorcées, single mothers, widows, and never-married women—have become the second largest segment of homebuyers in the country, exceeded only by married couples.

From 1994 to 2002, the number of single women owning homes climbed from 13.9 million to 17.5 million, and the single-female segment of the homebuyer population accounted for 18 percent of all homebuyers in 2004.

Fannie Mae predicts 31 million single women will own homes by 2010. That's 28 percent of all U.S. households. This key segment of the market is one that door dealers cannot afford to ignore. Dealers must learn more about their needs and concerns about garage doors.

What Women Want
Women approach the garage from a practical standpoint. In most cases, the garage is their main entry into the home. They want to be able to drive into the garage and close the door behind them, shutting out weather and strangers. Because the garage door offers this protection, the front door is being used less frequently, if at all.

While the female consumer wants to feel secure in her own home, she also wants to feel secure about her garage door. Typically, women place a high priority on the maintenance and safety of their door and opener. They will appreciate being informed of preventative maintenance packages and safety features such as rolling code technology.

The New Family Room
No longer is the garage used just for cars and as storage for occasionally used items. The garage has been transformed into a bonus room, especially for homes without basements. Instead of adding another room, consumers are using the garage space as a children’s playroom, game room, home gym, or a personal sanctuary.

As the garage becomes more of a family room, consumers are renovating the garage with paint and cabinetry to make it more inviting. Adding a door with insulation helps regulate the garage temperature and adds an attractive interior finish. Windows and screens make the space feel more like a room and less like a garage.

Better and Bigger
More common is the addition of a third garage bay for homeowners to discreetly store items while still having the luxury of storing two cars. The percentage of new homes with a three-car-or-more garage has doubled since 1991 to 20 percent in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Many consumers want taller garage spaces and wider doors for their large SUVs, boats, etc. The typical single-car garage door previously measured about 9' by 7', but the trend is now toward 10' by 8' garage doors, according to the National Association of Homebuilders.

Catering to Customers
The day of the face-to-face sales pitch has been revolutionized. Consumers today do online research; they know what they want, and they're looking for the right dealer to meet their needs.

Many do not have the time to speak one-on-one. So, updating your Web site and showcasing your products and capabilities online is a great way to reach the techno-savvy consumer.

When you meet today’s new consumers/homebuyers, remember that they're not the same as your customers in 1990. Ask questions to learn their needs. Highlight product features that will make their lives easier.

Make your information and services convenient to their changing lifestyles. Meet their needs. And they'll keep coming back to you.

Craig Smith has more than 25 years of industry experience. To reach him, call 888-757-2687. The GeniePro Sales Centers are part of Overhead Door Corporation’s Access Systems Division.