Denny Manes, previously an attorney, went to work for Champion, based in Cincinnati, in 2002 and was named its CEO in 2007. Champion, the second largest home improvement contractor in the U.S., sells windows, entry doors, siding, and patio rooms. The company has 80 locations in 35 states and plans to open nine additional locations this year.
REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: Many larger home improvement companies have been in a holding pattern since the recession began. When did you begin to see an uptick in sales for Champion?
DENNY MANES: Actually, during the downturn of 2008 and 2009 our window and entry door business continued to grow. Our soft products were patio rooms and siding. But last year we added seven locations and saw growth in all our products. So we think it's a good time to expand our geographic footprint, take market share, and be the beneficiary of the expansion that has started. We're projecting 15% growth this year. Our business in 2010 increased more than 14%, and we had increases in all of our product lines last year.
RC: Are you canvassing to generate leads?
DM: We have been fortunate to be able to create demand through other marketing sources.
RC: What factors or trends do you see driving market growth during the next five years?
DM: Energy efficiency is still going to be a pretty big driver. People are thinking greener. They want to be energy efficient and they want those products. There is also some pent-up demand out there. That will put some people into the marketplace who weren't able to be there in the last few years, especially as credit loosens up and they can get financing. We think the economy is going to rebound.
RC: Do you have any plans for consumers to order your products directly online?
DM: As far as ordering directly online, versus a personal presentation in the home, I think it's going to take a while for us as a country to move in that direction with home improvement. Buying a home improvement project is not like buying a car even, which, of course, you can purchase online. With home improvement projects, the company needs to be out there to see what the [home's] issues are. So I don't see [online ordering] in the foreseeable future.
RC: Five years ago sunrooms were an important product category for Champion. Do you see them coming back as credit restrictions lift?
DM: In 2010 we saw a double-digit increase in our patio room business. Of course, our 2009 patio room sales were less than they were at that market's peak in 2007. And so far in 2011 we've seen an increase in prospects for patio rooms, and our sales have definitely been on the increase in 2011. [The tight] credit market has been a major limitation. But there are people out there who have been waiting. They want to increase living space in the home and that will drive demand.