March 19th, 2012
Employment, Housing Stats and the Mild Winter
Economists estimate that, in order for an economic recovery in the United States to be self sustaining, it is necessary for 200,000 jobs per month to be created. The February employment figures were released recently and 227,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy last month. This is especially significant because it is the third month running in which more than 200,000 jobs were added. The economy has added jobs each month for the last 24 months and in eight of the last 17 months, has achieved that critical 200,000 mark. As a result of this job creation, the unemployment rate is sinking from its peak at 10 percent toward a more manageable 8 percent level.
Housing statistics also reveal a broad-based recovery starting to take hold. Housing starts are increasing. The vast majority of spec building has been wrung out of the market and the majority of new homes today are being built by their intended occupants or by landlords. Vacancy rates among homes and rental units are dropping. Employment in the construction industry has begun to recover.
Into this improving economic environment comes a relatively mild winter. It’s possible that the mild winter experienced in most parts of the United States hurt door and window manufacturers in one way. It’s true that there is nothing like feeling a draft blowing through a door or window to motivate a home owner to replace it. If this mild winter persists without a spring snap back into winter, my opinion is that it’s time for the full bore press into the market. If cold drafts can no longer motivate sellers, how about focusing on the loss of air conditioning? Why hasn’t anyone created an ad showing a thermograph of a home with leaky doors or windows in the summer? I’m sure that a home with products in need of replacement and the air conditioning set on high would glow blue around the doors and windows. Who among us didn’t have a parent who constantly reminded us not to cool (or heat) the whole neighborhood. If loss of air conditioning won’t do it, focus on aesthetics. I continue to believe that ugliest door or ugliest window contests are brilliant. They generate interest because people like to know that their house, while not perfect, is in better shape than the Jones’. Also, most of the entrants are likely intended door or window purchasers who are taking a shot at free products. If they don’t win, many likely intend to get their doors and windows the old fashioned way. Whatever the case, a return to winter weather will be a reminder of the need to replace doors and windows and continued mild weather may signal a shift to focusing on aesthetics. Either way, now is the time for maximum effort in sales and marketing.