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LBM's Big 3 Roofing Suppliers Tout Differing Approaches to Win a Growing Market

One gave away hard hats with NFL logos. One sponsors a Mexican soccer team. And the third--namesake of a baseball stadium--is deepening its stake in what could be roofing's next big thing.

The booths put up by Beacon, SRS Distribution, and ABC Supply at this month's International Roofing Expo (IRE) in Las Vegas all drew some of the biggest crowds, but they did so with different approaches. SRS created a space specifically for Spanish-language customers as part of its burgeoning "SRS Para Latinos" effort. Meanwhile, ABC Supply connected this reporter with two executives eager to talk about ABC's involvement selling solar panels. And as roofers waited to get their NFL-themed hard hats, Beacon took the opportunity to tell them about its dramatic growth of late as well as its investment in waterproofing and overall service.

The three are benefiting from relatively good times for roofers. One-quarter of the companies responding to a late 2023 survey by Roofing Contractor magazine survey predicted their revenues will greatly increase this year from 2023. Another 53% said they expect to record a slight increase.

“Overall, the industry seems really strong, and I think that will continue in 2024,” said Trent Cotney, Construction Team lead at the law firm of Adams and Reese. “Demand is skyrocketing. We can’t keep with all that needs to be done.”Finding good workers

was a common lament.

The Roofing Contractor survey also found that, on average among the 187 survey respondents, 36% of the crew and 20% of senior management spoke a language other than English. Those percentages include speakers of Polish, Portuguese, Russian and other languages, but Spanish is by far the most common.

SRS Para Latinos

Julissa Chavez has been striving to win Spanish-speaking customers for SRS since the Mexican-born, Atlanta-raised woman joined the company in 2014. She helped launch SRS Para Latinos at the August 2021 IRE. By this year, the group's 40-by-20 foot booth was so packed she could barely be heard.

More important, Chavez estimated that sales to participants in SRS Para Latinos (by using services such as the Spanish-language credit application) have helped SRS generate $126 million in new sales between November 2022 and November 2023. She believes sales linkable to SRS Para Latinos contributed 10% to 12% of SRS' total roofing product sales. (SRS reported $8.7 billion in revenue in 2022, but that figure includes money from its landscaping and pool supply divisions.)

Until now, much of SRS Para Latinos' work has involved creating documents, services and education sessions written and spoken in Spanish (with plans to reach out to other language groups). Ironically, Chavez now also sees a need to work with second- and third-generation Latinos who live with Spanish speaking grandparents and parents but are more comfortable in English--connecting with, as she put it, "the younger generation that eats tamales but doesn't speak Spanish."

Going Solar

In April 2023, when ABC Supply announced the appointment of a new VP of Renewable Energy, ABC officials declined Webb Analytics' requests to learn more about the company's solar effort. But for this IRE, ABC officials happily offered up Eric Cieslak and Anthony Romero, business development managers for ABC's solar efforts in California and Texas, respectively.

They said ABC sells solar products in about 70 stores now, with expectations that number will rise to nearly 110 by the end of the first quarter. And by 2028, ABC's goal is to sell solar in one third of its locations--especially states like California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida. Specialized staff are being hired, and cross-training of roofing sales veterans is under way, they said.

Cieslak cited a McKinsey study that believes solar power could be a $50 billion industry in the U.S. by 2026, but ABC was one of only a handful of sites at IRE talking solar. Among the exceptions were GAF and Certainteed showed solar panels designed to fit in with--not on top of--regular shingles. Another company, called Eave, billed itself as a potential silent partner for roofing companies who might want to sell solar on top of a traditional roofing job but not do any of the installation work. Another firm touted itself as the place to call when you need to deconstruct a solar array. But that was about it across the exhibit hall.

While the Roofing Contractor survey showed few roofers counting on solar as a revenue source, Cotney said he could envision roofing contractors becoming equally adept at solar and pretty much absorbing solar installation companies. Owners of roofs increasingly will see their roofs as potential profit centers, he said, either by generating electricity or, though green roofs, winning carbon credits. Roofers will want that business.

Beacon Builds Its Brands

Along with the construction helmets, the biggest giveaway at the Beacon booth were Lego-style blocks that could be used to build a dog--the mascot of Beacon's Tri-Built brand of roofing products.

Beacon isn't pursuing solar, but it has become a fan of waterproofing operations. On Feb. 12, it announced the purchase of Metro Sealant, a four-store operation in Maryland and Virginia. Last year, It bought five-unit Gavin Construction in 2023, and in 2022 it acquired the 18-store Coastal Construction Products (plus one-store Whitney Building Products) in 2022.

Growth is very much on Beacon's mind. Since 2021, it has acquired 60 locations of all types while opening 48 stores, even as it pursues more ecommerce sales.

Beacon also has been playing up its growing OTC (On-Time and Complete) network of stores. These branches share resources and coordinate operations to raise Beacon's service promise in key markets.

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