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Hearth & Home April 2019


Dallas Expo A Solid Venue

By Bill Sendelback

The vast majority of exhibitors and attendees went home with a smile, very glad they were there.

Some were concerned that Dallas, a new site for the HPBExpo, would draw disappointing attendance numbers. A few manufacturers even decided that the Dallas show would not be worth their participation. Fortunately, the skeptics were dead wrong. The March 13 to 16 Expo did not beat the big numbers of 2018 in Nashville, but it held its own compared to all the other Expos of the last decade.

Buying entities are always the most important numbers by which to rate an Expo. The Dallas show brought in 1,275 buying entities, topping every other Expo for the last six years – except Nashville. Retail customers totaled 856, equal to the 2017 Atlanta Expo. The number of exhibiting companies was the largest in a decade, even topping Nashville with 383 companies. There were 99 first-time exhibitors in Dallas, and that beat Nashville’s total by 27%.

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At 383, the number of exhibiting companies was the second highest since the 2000 Expo in Baltimore.

“We knew we were never going to surpass Nashville,” said Kelly VanDermark, the HPBA’s vice president of Exhibitions and Events. “Everyone loves Nashville.”

“We were very pleased with the show in Dallas,” said Jack Goldman, president and CEO of the HPBA. “While the total attendance was below that of Nashville, it was in line with our other cities, and most exhibitors were pleased with the quality of the attendees. We were happy with the convention center and Dallas’ central location. Our special events, such as the Tailgate and Cook-off event, were big hits. We’re looking forward to our 2020 show next March in New Orleans.”

Dallas, with a population of 1.3 million and 6.8 million in the DFW metro area, proved to be a perfect location for this Expo. Its central location and convenient travel access, combined with many good hotels and lots of quality restaurants featuring Texas beef or Tex-Mex, made Dallas an easy city to enjoy.

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza honoring JFK was within walking distance. A large historic park adjacent to the convention center features a herd of bronze longhorn cattle on the Chisholm Trail, and the log cabin that was Dallas’ first structure. At night, Dallas’ skyline was alive with its high-rise buildings bathed in multiple colored lights. Nearby attractions include Southfork Ranch of “Dallas” TV series fame, Gas Monkey Garage, and Billy Bob’s. Take notes since we will be back in Dallas for the 2023 HPBExpo.

Although it rained prior to the show, opening day was sunny and warm with blue skies that continued throughout the Expo, certainly helping attendance at the outdoor burn area and the Tailgate and Cook-off events.

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, one of the largest centers in the U.S. with 1 million sq. ft., is modern and well designed. The only drawback to the venue was that some of the meeting rooms were so distant and hidden that one needed either a GPS or bread crumbs to keep from getting lost.

There were 575 Education badges sold.

Most attendees may not have noticed the signs at the show featuring the HPBA’s upcoming 40th Anniversary. On October 20, 1980, the Fireplace Institute joined forces with the Wood Energy Institute to form the Wood Heating Alliance, now the HPBA. A number of exhibiting manufacturers celebrated similar milestones. Travis Industries is celebrating its 40th year, as is Pacific Energy Fireplace Products. Stoll Industries is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

Mike Holmes, star of the DIY Network and famous for his slogan, “Make it right,” gave the keynote address Thursday morning prior to the HPBA’s annual meeting and the opening of the trade show. Napoleon Products sponsored Holmes’ appearance.

A fan of recent Net Zero actions, Holmes is particularly concerned about air quality. “Eighty percent of homes have contaminated air, and climate change will only get worse,” he said. “We need to tell homebuilders that we want better homes, and we need to work with people to make better, more environmentally-friendly communities.”

Holmes sees a “massive opportunity” for the hearth products industry. “Clean air is the number one priority, and energy efficiency is number two,” he said. “We need to use the best products and educate customers rather than just sell them. Show them how they can use your products. Buyers want to learn about your products, so your salesmen need to know your company and your products inside and out. We need backup heat, and having a fireplace makes sense to me.”

The annual meeting following Holmes’ presentation featured outgoing HPBA chairperson Amie Ryan, managing partner of Ryan Bros. Chimney Sweeping in Roseville, California, handing the gavel to incoming HPBA chairman Joe Burns, president of venting manufacturer Bernard Dalsin Manufacturing in Farmington, Minnesota.

Exhibitors Were Pleased

The show lobby was absolutely jammed with attendees as the Expo opened. Soon after, most major exhibitors found their booths swamped. The consensus from most exhibitors interviewed was that it was a good show, with good traffic. Perhaps it wasn’t a great show, but most exhibitors were pleased.

“We had great traffic, particularly the first day,” said Patrick Moynihan, founder and president of Solas, “and we saw quality prospects.”

Jøtul – it’s not your father’s stove anymore.

“Traffic was okay, but not a record breaker,” according to Shawn Henson, director of Sales for Acadia Hearth. “We were very busy in our indoor booth and absolutely buried in our outdoor booth,” said Bret Watson, president of Jøtul North America.

“We were extremely busy the first two days,” said Ken Warren, owner of Flame-tec and TrueFlame. “I even lost my voice, but traffic seemed slower in the aisles, maybe because of the wide aisles.”

“There is so much more to take away from this show than just writing orders,” according to Dennis Stoll, co-owner and vice president of Stoll Industries. “You get to see, talk with, and hear from your customers. You get to develop relationships. And you get to learn what is happening in our industry and where it’s headed. Even when the industry was down a few years ago, we made certain to exhibit at the Expo.”

Many attendees commented that the show looked like more of a grill show than a hearth show. Grills of every kind, including a growing number of pellet grills and pellet fuels, were very plentiful. You could find a kamado-style, ceramic smoker/grill in almost any color under the sun.

The outdoor burn area was a little sparse, and it, too, was dominated by grills and fuels. The two standout hearth products outdoor exhibitors were HearthStone showing its line of wood and gas stoves, plus its new patio ovens, fire pit and cast iron cookware, and Jøtul, featuring its new F 500 V3 wood stove that won the Wood Products, and Best-in-Show Hearth Products honors at the Vesta Awards.

Ninety-nine first-time attendees attended the Expo.
Photo: ©2019 Melissa Spurrier. DTX Media.

Products of Interest

Not every interesting new product was entered in the Vesta Awards, and not every new product is innovative, which is the Holy Grail of the Vesta Awards. Here are a few other products that caught this writer’s eye:

Ortal displayed its new Tunnel indoor/outdoor, see-through, linear gas fireplace. ICC/RSF showed its RSF Opel Keystone wood-burning fireplace tested to 0.7 gph, the lowest emissions for a wood fireplace, according to ICC. The company also showed its new Le Bol wood fire pit grill.

Warming Trends showed its steel bonfire-styled gas logs and its new, larger, steel gas log in 20 to 44 inches in lengths. Modern Flames displayed its new Sunset Charred Oak electric log set that fits into any fireplace. Kozy Heat showed its Callaway 72 linear gas fireplace, allowing even wood facing right up to the opening, and including a heat dump.

Mendota Hearth introduced its Cool Wall, using natural convection to redistribute warm air up and away from walls around the fireplace. The company displayed its new gas log sets featuring much larger logs and more branches and twigs. MF Fire, a company formed by University of Baltimore students after they won a recent Wood Stove Design Challenge, showed its new catalytic wood stove certified to 1.9 gph.

Stoll introduced four electric fireplaces and a line of electric fireplace fronts to fit other models. HearthStone has entered the counter-seasonal market with three models of stainless-steel patio ovens, a countertop oven, a cast-iron fire pit, and new cast-iron cookware.

Dimplex North America is now Glen Dimplex Americas, with the addition of new products from its Glen Dimplex parent company, including Faber brand gas and electric models, Nectre wood stoves, Cadet electric wall heaters, and Space Grill collapsible grill in addition to its current Dimplex electric line.

The Napoleon booth was highly creative.

How Government Affairs Are Affecting Retailers

NSPS: A seminar on government affairs was aimed at educating dealers, particularly on the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and the controversial May 15, 2020, deadline for manufacturer and dealer sell-through of Step 1 models.

Regarding the NSPS sell-through period, John Crouch, the HPBA’s director of Public Affairs, summed it up. “A wise retailer will hold to the May 15, 2020, sell-through deadline.” He was referring to the fact that although manufacturers and the HPBA are attempting to obtain a longer sell-through period, dealers should not count on that happening. If there is any extension to the sell-through period, the HPBA hopes to know by mid-summer.

“As of May 15, 2020, manufacturers, dealers, and distributors cannot sell or even give away Step 1 non-2020-certified wood-burners. The simplest thing is to sell off Step 1 models before that deadline,” said Crouch.

What might be interpreted as a loophole is that the NSPS refers to NEW products, not used products. But to be considered used by the EPA, the unit must have been owned by a prior private party, and does not include burned display models. Unsold Step 1 models also cannot be shipped to Canada to be sold, since wood-burners sold in Canada “must be certified to the current NSPS standards or CSA B415,” according to Crouch.

EPA Website: The EPA is planning an expanded, interactive website featuring details of certified Step 1 and Step 2 wood-burners. The idea is to give dealers the information they need to compare wood-burning models for their customers.

Climate Change Issues: In both the U.S. and Canada, efforts are underway to “decarbonize.” In other words, to stop burning gas in order to reduce greenhouse gases. Starting with new-home construction, the movement is happening very quickly, says Crouch, as witnessed by regulations in the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, and efforts by the new governor of Colorado.

Hot Glass Barriers: This regulation requires manufacturers to provide barriers or technology to reduce the temperature of the glass fronts on gas hearth appliances. If barriers are provided, the consumer can remove them. “Your responsibility is to make sure any barriers are included with the unit when delivered and installed,” says Crouch to dealers. “When you service such a product, return the barrier to the way it was when you arrived. And be sure to document this for your protection.”

Tax Credits: The U.S. Biomass Tax Credit expired Dec. 31, 2017, but the HPBA is attempting to get it reinstated. That tax credit of 30% of the purchase price and installation costs is now before the U.S. Senate for the fourth time. Another effort that is “in the works” is a bill to authorize a national wood-stove change-out program sponsored by the EPA to allow only Step 2 models as replacements.

The Dallas Convention Center was one of, if not the, largest facility the Expo has ever been in.
Photo: ©2019 Melissa Spurrier. DTX Media.

Pellet Fuels Institute’s (PFI) Breakfast and Biomass

The pellet fuel industry was hopeful that all factors were aligned for a good 2018-2019 sales season, according to Tim Portz, PFI’s executive director, at the group’s breakfast meeting. While it was a good year, said Portz, it could have been better without a few regions seeing fuel shortages. Chinese tariffs on U.S. hardwoods caused sawmills to cut back production, reducing the raw materials needed for pellets. Heavy rains in some forests, such as in Pennsylvania, kept loggers out of the woods, further reducing raw materials.

“Let’s hope the winter of 2018-2019 is finally over so we can start producing inventory for the 2019-2020 season,” said Portz.

A panel discussion on how the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) is impacting the pellet industry featured Ryan Carroll, the HPBA’s vice president of Government Affairs; John Shimek, senior vice president of Brands and Product Development for Hearth & Home Technologies; and Matt Brownell, Hearth Products buyer for Coastal Farms, a 15-store farm and home chain in Oregon and Washington state.

Carroll pointed out that, despite the industry’s hopes of an extension of the controversial dealer sell-through deadline of May 15, 2020, of non-2020 certified wood and pellet burners, until any possible change to the NSPS is published in the Federal Register, that deadline stands. “We all should have been operating in that mindset for the last year,” chided Carroll.

Less than half of NSPS-affected products have been certified to the 2020 standard, said John Shimek. “The window is closing on the value of a sell-through extension. We’re hearing from dealers that they don’t want anything but 2020-certified models, so both manufacturers and dealers will need to go into this season with less inventory. An extension of the sell-through period would allow us all to take bigger risks.”

Coastal Farms sells more pellet hearth appliances than either wood or gas models, said Matt Brownell. “Between all of our stores, we have 400 pellet and wood models on display. Knowing that the May 15, 2020, sell-through deadline is approaching, we’re running leaner, with inventories down considerably. As a result, we’ll be writing more special orders with our suppliers next season.”

Brownell also said his people are not telling consumers about the Step 2 models. “If that gets out, it will not be good,” he said.

In a round-table discussion about the rapid growth of pellet grills and smokers, Jeff Thiessen, president of Louisiana Grills/Dansons, pointed out that 2018 saw very strong growth in this category.

“Our pellet grill sales were up by three times that of the previous year,” he said. “Now, with one million pellet grills in use and each burning an average of from four to six 40-lb. bags of pellets a year, this may not approach what is used for heating with pellets, but it’s a fast-growing, counter-seasonal market.”

Portz concluded the PFI breakfast by reminding attendees of the June 5 to 7, 2019, PFI Conference at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Put away your cowboy boots and Stetsons, and ready your Mardi Gras gear, because next March we’re going back to New Orleans, the site of our first trade show as the Wood Heating Alliance in 1981. The HPBExpo 2020 will be held March 11 to 14, 2020, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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