Several members of our staff attended the FENCETECH Conference in Las Vegas, NV this week. FENCETECH is the fencing industry’s national convention and is hosted annually be the American Fence Association. As members of the national organization, we had the opportunity to attend a chapter meeting to meet with Bob Burton, the new President of the AFA. Bob is a 25-year veteran and avid supporter of the AFA and we’re looking forward to the next year as our industry begins to see a turnaround in the tough times over the last three years.
CFC has been a member of the American Fence Association for over 10 years. Whether it’s professional training and a greater exposure to new products and industry practices, we have found tremendous value in participating. This year’s FENCETECH has some interesting highlights in the Exhibitor’s Hall. Iron products joined vinyl as one of the most heavily marketed products (see more detail below). Vinyl fencing has essentially become a commodity nationally with thousands of players from extruders and manufacturers to wholesalers and contractors. Utah has been on the leading edge and at one time in the late 1990’s, over 90% of all vinyl fencing was installed in Utah. Since then, the trend in Utah has been to look for alternative products that offer a more natural look and greater durabilty. Whether it’s composite products like Trex or Timbertech, or Simtek, our sense is that vinyl has reached its peak. Our peers in other areas of the country where vinyl fencing has taken hold early on, like Colorado and Georgia, are reporting much of the same. Years ago, we offered the installation of vinyl fencing but since our core competencies were in wood we felt it wouldn’t make sense to continue competing in a marketplace that focused more on mass production than artisanship and quality. We did recognize, however, that in order to grow we would have to find other products that complimented our company focus on wood. Composites were the logical choice so we began working with Trex Company in the early 2000’s to wwwelop the Seclusions line.
Speaking of composites, FENCETECH showcased some new faces, mostly from China. With the red hot Chinese economy looking for places to sell their inexpensive wares, it’s not surprising to see an uptick in activity even in fencing products. The Chinese have been producing vinyl fencing for some time and are now pushing heavily into the iron market as well. And, back to iron: a significant number of old and new players were showcasing their products at FENCETECH. We visited with our supplier, Fortress, to see what’s new with them. They already have a stellar residential and commercial product, so we were happy to see that they are moving into industrial applications as well. Watch for more news shortly on the Titan product line. Most of the rest of the companies are either small players or new entries. Unfortunately, like many industries, it’s not hard to enter a market with an idea and some capital but without the performing necessary R&D or market research to determine if that idea can turn into a reality. There are several iron manufacturers that I’m sure won’t be attending the next FENCETECH conference.
In all, it was an informative session. We came back with several ideas for new product offerings and look forward to showing them to our customers.