REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: Is the crash in the sunroom market over?
Shaun Kennedy: The sunroom market, I believe, has come back. It hasn't come back to pre-recession levels, but it's certainly coming back. I see as evidence for that the fact that our inquiries over the last two years have massively increased. This year there are 10,000 more than last year. The financing is still choppy, and I don't think it's coming back quickly. But there is a sense of demand. And I think what is driving that is “Don't move, improve.” Homeowners are looking to expand [and] add extra living space.
RC: How are sales trending at Four Seasons?
SK: In 2007 our sales started to fall. In 2010 our sales started to turn around because of steps we took. Meanwhile, we reduced our cost base and began to obtain a lot more leads. We've taken a much more entrepreneurial route to drive our growth. We've invested in company stores and in sales training for the franchise network. We've also invested heavily in marketing. That's why we're here and some of our competitors are struggling. Our sales were up $5 million in 2011, and we expect them to be up an additional $5 million this year.
RC: Are you seeing a different demographic buying sunrooms?
SK: We have seen our demographic [become] a little younger. Historically, the sunroom customer was an empty nester, 45-plus [years old] with equity in the home and an average home price of about $300,000. Now we're seeing people add a sunroom to create a space for their children. So the buyer is 35-plus, same home price, with less equity in the home but a need for more space.
RC: What kind of marketing works best for Four Seasons right now?
SK: We do a lot of print, but we've reduced our print budget by 25% over the last three years. We've also quadrupled our Internet budget. Four years ago we were spending $1 million a year on Internet marketing. This year it will be $3.5 million. We want to ensure that our dealers come up at the top of organic search rankings. We get about 70,000 search inquiries a year. That represents about 50% of the business at Four Seasons today.
RC: How, or how much, do you plan to grow the company?
SK: Right now we have 275 franchises and eight company stores. Those 275 dealers still contribute the biggest volume. We'll be recruiting new franchisees as well as opening additional company stores. We believe we can double both dealer sales and store sales in the next five years.