Indi Sarkaria, Assistant Product Manager at Arbor Forest Products, explores the impacts for merchants of the rising demand for composite decking.

The current trend for home improvement, where homeowners adapt their homes to suit their lifestyle rather than move house altogether, means that decking has been growing in popularity.

In that respect, consumers are seeking out solutions that fit their fast-paced, time-poor lifetstyle and require less time for upkeep. They are also more aware than ever of the impact their choice of products has on the environment. Composite decking, such as Trex's – which are low maintenance, eco-friendly and backed by a manufacturer’s warranty of up to 25 years – offer an ideal solution.

But this growing demand for composite decking has boosted the need for expert installers. This in turn will impact merchants, but in what way?

Increased reliance on merchants

Consumers want to be confident that the products they purchase are going to be installed correctly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines.

This ultimately means that installers – whether landscapers, carpenters or builders – must be able to set themselves apart from competitors and one way they can do this is to seek professional recognition, in particular from the manufacturers.

Trex launched one such scheme in 2018. Called TrexPRO, it is free to join. To become a member, installers must have installed a Trex deck, which will then be assessed by a company representative to ensure it meets guidelines.

Installers can then create a company profile on the Trex website – which attracts over 70,000 visitors a year – featuring project images, customer reviews and contact details, setting them apart in a busy market and resulting in increased business.

For merchants engaging with those specialist installers and working closely with them is important. If they can respond to their demand for composite decking, in return they are likely to receive increased business from the installers who will come to rely more than ever on their local merchant to stock the products they need, when they need them – whatever the time of year.

It is important for a merchant to find out what projects local installers have coming up to ensure they buy in enough of the right product.

Customer relations

Successful merchant businesses are built on positive relationships with customers. And for merchants that partner with installers, the existence of schemes such as TrexPRO can help to build on this.

As a supporter of the TrexPRO scheme, Arbor Forest Products works hard to close the loop between merchants and installers to ensure ongoing positive relations. Merchants are actively encouraged to find and identify potential TrexPRO candidates, to work closely with and ensure they can take advantage of the scheme as soon as possible.

Another way Arbor Forest supports merchants is through its ‘Warehouse on Wheels’ service, which enables deliveries of multiple products to merchants in the exact quantities required in an environmentally-friendly way, whether that’s Trex or timber for the substructure.

This service means that merchants can deliver on installers’ needs, making repeat business more likely.

The Abor Forest Products team is also in regular contact with both merchant stockists and TrexPRO installers with the aim of building positive working relationships and, ultimately, continued success for both.

Shared expertise

As well as playing a role in the ongoing relationship between installers and merchants, Arbor Forest Products recognises the value of training, for both parties, which is why it invests in it heavily across the supply chain.

The company hosts TrexPRO events, led by a Trex representative and often attended by an employee from the company’s US headquarters, and has created a number of resources such as ‘how to’ brochures and videos.

But it is not only installers who benefit from Trex training: Arbor Forest Products offers stockists thorough training on features and benefits, best practice for installation, practical demonstrations and more.

It is this knowledge which can be shared between merchants and installers, along with positive relations built on trust between both parties that will help to boost merchant business as the demand for composite decking, and therefore installers, continues to grow.