As some states register record numbers of hospitalizations and the threat of additional shutdowns looms, anecdotal evidence suggests that door and window dealers’ best tools might be nimbleness and proactivity. Amid the virus’s first round of impacts, rather than waiting things out, “We immediately pivoted,” says Jeff Weaver, CEO and owner of Clarkston Window and Door in Pontiac, Mich. The company did so by having its employees lean on remote technologies to work from home—starting day one of mandatory shutdowns. With a phone system that allows workers to tie in remotely via smartphone apps and document scanners that allow them to digitize and share information remotely, “Because of the format for how we structured our paper flow within the office, we were already setup to do this,” Weaver says.

Jeff Weaver, owner/CEO of Clarkston (right) and his father, Jim.

Clarkston is one of numerous door and window companies reporting that—despite one of the toughest years on record for the U.S. economy—they’re still aiming for record sales. And those that were prepared to offer virtual appointments and quotes say those systems provided dividends early. Though, “We didn’t think that initially,” Weaver admits. “We were just like everybody else. The phones just died and we said, ‘Uh oh.’”

In Florida, the market for doors and windows began to slow in early March, says Tad Newman, president and CEO of Newman Windows. “People started panicking,” Newman says. “The coronavirus hit the 24-hour news cycle … in the construction business, and especially in the replacement windows business, when someone loses their job, they aren’t thinking about spending $30,000 on replacing their doors and windows. They’re thinking about how they’re going to pay the mortgage for the next six months … at the same time, when things start to tumble, people who have money start to hold onto it.”

Rather than recoil from the situation, Weaver and Newman say they began thumbing through past quotes. Weaver’s company came up special incentives and began advertising its virtual quoting system over radio and other forms of advertising.

“All of the sudden people were just coming to us left and right on our virtual system,” he says.

The results came quicker than expected. While Newman’s company typically produces around $1 million in sales per month, “In March, I sold three quarter of a million,” he says. By April, however, he was back up to $975,000 and, “In May, I was already back north of a million,” he says. This year, he expects to wrap up higher than 2019, despite the pandemic.

Others are thankful that they offer more than just doors and windows, allowing them to pivot to product sectors that offer immediate sales.

“This year, we were really scared about what was going to happen,” says Jenna Boeke, office manager for K&H Exteriors in Roscoe, Ill. “We’re in Illinois, where we have some of the strictest stay at home restrictions,” she says. In a twist of fate, however, a hailstorm made its way through the area just ahead of COVID-19. After pivoting to roofing, by June the company was already well on its way to a record year.

“Windows have always been our steady Eddy,” she says, making up around half of the company’s sales. “But I don’t know how we would have done had we not had those other aspects of our company.”

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