This report from experienced hearth dealers scattered throughout North America clearly shows regional differences in sales activity.
Don RichardsonArizona Fireplaces & BBQsCentral & South Phoenix, Arizona
“Over the last two years, housing values have increased eight to 10 percent each year because values were still below market from the down turn. This created positive motivation for people to remodel and spend money.
“However, for 2015 housing values are only expected to increase three percent as they now are at equilibrium. The momentum from 2014 will make 2015 strong, but be aware of it flattening some in 2016.
“The other positive reason for strong years for the survivors is fewer companies dividing up the pie.”
Jed MartinEarth Sense Energy SystemsDale, Wisconsin
“Obviously the cold weather and high fuel prices early in 2014 played a roll in shaping the season. We advertised more and decided to hire more professional salespeople and teach them a sales method that had to be followed by all. Pellets were not really an issue; we were a little tight for a week or so until we ramped up. We bring in around 300 to 400 train cars of bulk pellets (100 tons per car) and bag our own. So in short order we can catch up.
Ed. Note: That’s 35,000 tons of pellets being brought to Earth Sense. If the 350 hopper cars were hooked together, the train would be approximately 20,000 feet, or 3.8 miles, long.
“2014 was probably our third best year next to 2005/06. In 2015, business should be good as well; we will have to work harder to get the same amount of business, but it’s doable.Our stove suppliers did a good job, except that Lennoxinstalls were out up to six weeks, with three teams each doing three a day.Our January and February customers were anxious, concerned and motivated.”
Suzanne TurnerSurvival ProductsSalisbury, Maryland
“The year (2014) was significantly better than 2013. Sales of pellet and wood appliances showed the most increase, up 44-51 percent. Pellet appliance sales could have been better if pellet fuel supplies had been better.Appliance manufacturers did a fine job of supplying product, but the fuel shortage situation in both pellets and cordwood will have a significant impact in coming years.
“The general public is now aware of the shortages and there is no reason to think that the situation will improve in the future. Unless hearth dealers get their act together and make the pellet fuel business a year-round enterprise, and stop trying to buy only in the fourth quarter, the mills will continue to export product and serve the European market. The pellet industry will not survive unless we educate consumers and do a better job of supporting the mills. Firewood is another problem for us. There’s not enough and that problem shows no signs of changing.”
Mike DuvalSutter Home & HearthSeattle, Washington
“While we were down slightly in hearth, we were up in barbecue and outdoor products. The strangest thing about last year was how well we were doing in the first two quarters (well above 2013) and how slow things were in July, August and early September.”
Rose ColomboVillage Stove & FireplaceEast Falmouth, Massachusetts
“We were expecting a higher percentage of increase in business. Our installations were about three weeks out. Service calls were coming in in droves. Most of the time we tried to fit them in-between installs. We did run into some back orders on product, especially accessories and pipe that ran 6-8 weeks. The weather hasn’t really been harsh on Cape Cod. I’m assuming that, once we get a good storm, customers will be flying in to purchase. We don’t deal a lot with pellet stoves, however, a lot of other dealers did experience delays in pellets.”Jeff LunsfordThe Hearth & Grill ShopNashville, Tennessee
“The extended winter (March & April) plus earlier colder weather (October & November) made for a record year in 2014, almost overwhelming at times. We were out three to four weeks on installations after the middle of November, but the mood of customers was very good. Most were willing to wait. There was some delay in getting product, but nothing extremely bad. Bad (cold) weather helped sales, but at times hurt installations. 2015 looks good, but we are not forecasting it to be as good as 2014.”
Peter FaberCountryside Stove & ChimneyOxford, New York
“This year, customers came in ready to buy. Price was not a pressing issue that kept them away. We have no new home construction in our area so there was no boost from that sector. We kept pretty well supplied, had trouble getting venting in near the latter part of the season. Coal stoves are our number one seller and they were back-ordered 4-10 weeks. Each year since 2009 we have seen positive growth, so we hope the same occurs next year. We are still waiting for pellets, so that was a huge disappointment this year.”
Gary MurphyHeritage Hearth ProductsHalifax, Nova Scotia
“The most impactful on our business was the proliferation of heat pumps (we don’t sell them). Customer interest in hearth products was good, better than 2012. I believe stronger marketing has been the driving force. There were very few supply issues. 2014 sales would rank #4 since 1999. I think the outlook for 2015 is strong. We buy from both the Vermont Castings Group and Innovative Hearth Products, both of which are in a state of flux (and have been for a few years). If they get it together for 2015, that would be helpful.”
The Fireplace Centre
Kamloops, British Columbia
“Our strong increase in sales cannot be attributed to any one particular factor. Here are the driving forces –
- Strong product mix of exclusive, cutting-edge gas,
wood and electric products
- Consumers’ pent-up demand
- Improved regional economic conditions
- Efficient and experienced installation and service personnel
- Seasoned sales staff
- Strong Internet and social media presence
“Business was strong across all segments – retail, custom home construction and renovations.
“Supply of appliance and chimney components were of little concern, in large part due to our commitment to significant inventory levels.
“We have been in business since 1977. Our revenue this year was surpassed only in 2005.
“We are looking forward to 2015 and are optimistic that business will continue to be strong.”