Stan Stokes is president of the K.C. Co., in Beltsville, Md. The K.C. Co. specializes in wood windows and operates eight showrooms in Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware.
Replacement Contractor: Who is the wood window customer in the replacement market?
Stan Stokes: Many of these customers grew up with wood windows, and that's what they trust. Many are in older homes in neighborhoods with a sort of showcase mentality. Those customers care about their shelter but they're also guided by the aesthetics of their home and matching that to the window. They may also be governed in their window choice by certain rules from the neighborhoods they live in. For instance, there are rules issued by historical associations for some neighborhoods in Baltimore that say you can't replace a wood window with anything but a wood window. Some won't even allow a [vinyl- or aluminum-]clad window.
RC: Is it a product that has to be sold from a showroom?
SS: It does not. However, there's something about coming into that showroom that builds an intimate relationship between the buyer and the company. Upgrades are much easier to sell in a full-size display sample in a showroom that looks like a real home as opposed to a cut-down product in the trunk of a car. We put ours in high-traffic areas where you have a good, solid high-end anchor like a furniture store or Whole Foods so that we can catch the walk-in traffic we might not have gotten through advertising.
RC: What is the No.1 reason why homeowners replace their existing wood windows with new wood windows?
SS: Brand gets you in the door, but the story behind the company keeps you in the house. We also find that customers today know a whole lot more than they did 10 years ago ? because of the Internet. So the salespeople have to be prepared to handle a customer who may know more about the product than they do.
RC: What is different about the wood windows you install today?
SS:: What's changed for us is that we've increased our percentage of pocket replacement sales versus total tear-out sales. There was a time when we were 90% tear-out.
RC: Do you carry products other than branded wood windows?
SS: Pella now has a vinyl window called Encompass that's distributed both through home improvement stores like Lowe's and through direct sell-and-install companies, i.e., our channel. We also carry a composite window made by Pella called Impervia. So we have three product lines that a salesperson can present.
RC: How do you decide which product is most appropriate for which customer?
SS: We have a process that the salesperson uses to try to identify buyers based on their needs. If the buyer is what we call a "shelter-seeker," they are basically trying to keep air out of the house, and we may go with vinyl if the neighborhood allows it. Since we now have that product, we do not lose to vinyl companies like we used to.
RC: If customers say they are afraid that their wood windows will deteriorate or rot, what is your response?
SS: It isn't the most common objection. And we have the technical information about wood preservatives and how to treat the window for maximum efficiency. But the best way to overcome objections is with testimonials or referrals. It's not important what I say about the window or what the book says about that window. Let me tell you what some customers who've had them for 20 years say. The K.C. Company has been selling Pella products since 1954. And the Cassidy family was in the window business well before that. So we have a lot of historical data and customer information, and we can open the door with a testimonial.
RC: Do you see a lot of companies repairing wood windows in your market?
SS: There are some. Actually, we have another division called Window Pro that does just that. We're an authorized repair service, and we service lots of products, including those of our competitors. That company does quite well. But of course you have situations where the window can't be repaired, so it creates replacement opportunities on the other side.