For the January issue of ProSales, the assignment was to explore what’s happening in the decking world. With that in mind, I spent two days in October at the annual Deck Expo, looking at products and speaking with manufacturers about trends.

Three lessons from that show stood out:

  1. Composite manufacturers have solved most of their product issues and are now focused on growing the market.
  2. With that in mind, they’re looking for ways to claim some of wood decking’s share.
  3. As the industry mindset continues its shift from decking and railing to outdoor living, sales approaches need to adapt.

Will Composites Hit the Ceiling?
Though the composite and cellular PVC market share has grown steadily over the last few years, some industry analysts expect just a few more years of growth before it peaks.

One of these is Principia consulting. Its most recent research on the decking market found that while sales of all types grew during the past three years, composites grew the fastest, with 5.5% more product shipped by volume in 2016 than in 2012, compared to 3.8% for pressure-treated (PT) decking.

In the past year alone, Principia’s researchers interviewed more than 1,000 people in all parts of the value chain: manufacturers, distributors, dealers, contractors, and homeowners. Based on that, managing partner Lou Rossi predicts that overall composite market penetration will surpass the former peak of 17% in the next five years, reaching 20% on a volume basis.

Those predictions are for the entire decking market, including DIY, but according to the February 2016 issue of Professional Deck Builder, a sister publication to ProSales, the magazine’s pro readers already use composite, PVC, and other non-wood decking products on nearly 60% of their projects. Their embrace of this technology shows that manufacturers have solved their quality problems, with the market now dominated by attractive capped composites that weather well and need little maintenance.

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