High demand for fasteners and building products

The fasteners and building supplies space has adjusted and altered in many areas this year, including providing extra services to customers throughout the pandemic, having the ability to respond to increased consumer demand, while also seeing some suppliers move into the construction space, including Macsim Fastenings.

AHJ recently caught up with Macsim Fastenings Chief Executive Officer, Mark Mackay-Sim, who not only spoke on how COVID-19 has positively affected sales over the last few months, but also the company’s extensive plans to continually develop, particularly in the construction industry. 

Like many fastener suppliers, DIY sales have boomed this year, particularly due to the implementation of many home office set ups nationally, after Australians were encouraged to work from home. This boom is also attributed to several of the Federal Government’s stimulus packages, which have assisted builders in continuing to work and employ staff throughout the pandemic, Mr Mackay-Sim said.

“In saying this, non-essential, non-mining sector projects which were already scheduled, largely remain in the process of completion, but have suffered from slower work rates due to onsite resourcing, as well as supply and activity restrictions.”

“We expect that sales will slow this year as stimulus induced DIY concludes and there is a drop in new project starts due to lower investor confidence. This will be partly offset by new government stimulus programs and fast-tracked projects, especially in infrastructure. Despite this we do expect that the growing confidence in some rural areas from recent rain and natural peril events will continue right through to 2022,” Mr Mackay-Sim said.

The pandemic has also given smaller hardware independents the opportunity to pick up local sales which might have otherwise moved to bigger box stores, according to Mr Mackay-Sim, due to customers feeling safer when shopping at their local stores. This has in-turn increased the demand for smaller packaging type products, he said.

“It seems that light duty anchoring products sold particularly well during this time and we have also seen strong sales elsewhere as DIYers progressively gained the confidence to tackle more complex projects,” he said.

Shipping arrangements of overseas suppliers has also had an impact on all importers during the pandemic, as regulators reduced the number of containers per ship that were allowed into Australian waters, Mr Mackay-Sim said. 

“It seems this situation has been made worse by port restrictions, recent industrial action on the wharfs, as well as poor weather from multiple east coast events which have also reduced the number of port entries,” he said.

COVID-19 aside, it seems the entire construction industry is also being impacted by modernisation in construction methods, as well as the increasing complexity of standards and specifications that are introduced from regulators and certifiers. 

“Construction remains a focal point of government policy with around 16 per cent, or over 330,000 of all small businesses servicing the sector and are also major employers. We believe governments will continue to provide the right policy settings to maintain confidence in the sector, whether it be during an economic boom or during the current downturn.”

“Macsim continues to introduce a number of new products to meet these new policy settings. We encourage retailers to contact their service representative or technical specialist to ensure they are currently up to date with the latest product specifications and requirements,” Mr Mackay-Sim said.

Macsim Fastenings has also continued to launch new products as part of its competitive value proposition to retailers this year. 

Macsim’s Rapid Set Polyurethane Foam is designed as a quick and easy way to install non-structural elements.

“We believe Macsim currently leads the decking fastener market with a range of spacers and decking screws designed for both the DIY and trade market. It is for this reason Macsim will launch a major decking fastener promotion this spring with our ‘Deckstravaganza’ consumer promotion to be held this September,” Mr Mackay-Sim said.

“Another new product of ours that is selling particularly well is our new Rapid Set Polyurethane Foam, which is designed as an easy way to install non-structural elements and is far cleaner than using concrete. This may also be used alongside our extensive range of mild steel bolts and anchors for fixing.”

“Our new MF10 Pink Gap filler is also going well, designed as a latex formulation which enables easier tooling, much higher flexibility than conventional gap fillers at the same cost. It also has the added benefit of extruding in pink, so users can see where they have been, and then dries to a white smooth finish so they know when to paint.”

“Our new range of aluminium packers are also proving to be popular as they are fire resistant and carry a 25-tonne rated load perfect for glazing and façade applications. These can be used with our fire rated MF605 polyurethane for glazing sub-sill applications,” he said.

Other recent launches in the Macsim range include black and white furniture screws, mixed cable ties which are perfect for use on end of aisle promotions, as well as snap-off wedge packers with eight levelling options and no excess. 

Fast deliveries drive sales for Bremick Fasteners 

Bremick’s new MultiOne is a multi-substrate screw that allows users to drill through timber, steel or masonry.

Sales have remained steady across all categories for Bremick Fasteners throughout 2020, according to National Sales & Marketing Manager Jason Wheatley, who said that the concern is not with product sales so much, but more the potential hardship within the community as a result of the pandemic.

“I believe there are currently more concerns around the industry coming to terms with the extra costs and measures that will also be required to manage this pandemic over time,” Mr Wheatley said.

It seems that Bremick’s point-of-difference comprises of its strong service-based offer, including its market offering of same day or next day deliveries.

“In a time when the customers have a variety of extra administrative and legislative considerations, having a supplier on board like Bremick that supports their requirements is important. Couple that with our professional sales team and continued innovation, Bremick continues to prove itself as a sustainable business partner within the industry,” Mr Wheatley said.

While Mr Wheatley agrees there is a large range of products to select from within the fastener category, this variety is reflective of the applications facing the trade and DIY markets every day.  

“For the trade, it is probably more about awareness than it would be education as they already have an in-depth understanding of fasteners. Our role as suppliers and hardware store operators is to expose the opportunity that comes with leveraging our new technologies, like the recently released MultiONE Screw from Bremick, a multi-substrate screw that allows end users to drill through timber, steel or masonry without changing fasteners,” Mr Wheatley said.

“The successful launch has been supported by customer training, website development, a social media campaign, instructional videos and a clear execution strategy that has resulted in strong distribution and consumer acceptance,” he said. 

Looking ahead to 2021, Bremick has a pipeline of future innovation that will not only evolve the fastener industry, but also support its customers with improved technologies, Mr Wheatley said.

Timber screws elevate sales for ITW Proline

AHJ also spoke with ITW Proline’s Marketing Manager, Mark Camilleri, and Product Manager for Buildex, Ramset and Pryda, Mitchell Connon, on current trends within the fasteners industry. When discussing the current state of the market, both agreed it was great to be a part of an industry that is experiencing a significant sales growth despite the pandemic.

Initially the lockdowns delivered a sales spike from tradies who wanted to stock up in case the hardware stores closed down, and DIYers wanting to use items for home projects, however it seems sales have continued on this trajectory, according to Mr Connon.

“Products that proved particularly popular during this time were predominantly timber screws including decking screws, treated pine screws, and the chipboard screw range, however this was not say that other products did not perform well during this time,” Mr Connon said. 

Growth in the category was definitely in the project-based type fasteners, according to Mr Camilleri, as opposed to more trade orientated categories, like chemical anchoring. 

“The most recent bump in the road is the Melbourne lock down which has impacted sales, but all other states are following that fairly buoyant sales trend outside of the Victorian market, which accounts for approximately 20 per cent of sales,” Mr Camilleri said.

Quality and innovation continue to ensure an on-going point of difference for ITW Proline, particularly with its Buildex, Ramset, and Pryda brands recognized for their high quality, as well as products that are manufactured in Australia, according to Mr Connon. 

“When a large proportion of products are manufactured in Australia, it is also much easier to manage that continuity of supply,” Mr Connon said.

“It is all well and good to have more demand but if the suppliers cannot meet that demand and there is significant out of stocks on shelf, then retailers are going to lose sales. By manufacturing locally, you have more agility in your supply chain. I think we are also lucky that we have long-standing suppliers overseas who were able to respond to the demand,” he said.

Maintaining good sales is all about communicating in a genuine way, according to Mr Camilleri, who said trialing products is also a popular way of introducing tradies to new products.

“Often a new product requires increased marketing, so tradies can tangibly see its time saving benefit or usability. They are not going to experience this until they try it for the first time, which is often encouraged via sample pack configurations. Increasing investment into digital is another important area of marketing, but this is more about getting the audience to learn about what is ‘new’. Video content is always an effective way in demonstrating benefits of products,” Mr Camilleri said.

This year ITW Proline also recently released a series of metal and roofing screws into the retail channel, which are traditionally used by builders. When deciding to release the new products to the retail channel, Mr Connon said ITW Proline brought out 20 new products, with 16 of these products produced in colours to match all COLORBOND fencing. The new product is also packaged in retail friendly pack formats rather than the traditional cardboard box format.

ITW Proline recently introduced new products to match all COLOURBOND fencing.

“Additional to the coloured screws, the Series 500 screws have been designed to go through 12 millimetres of steel without pre-drilling and the Smooth Top Tek are to be used specifically for steel framing. Previously these have not been available through the retail channel,” Mr Connon said.

Even though there are still a lot of historical players within the fastener’s market, according to Mr Connon, several new players are now being found online.

“The biggest competition in this space seems to be with the online players who have increased substantially over the last 10 years. As customers become more digitally savvy it is important that retailers continue to grow their online footprint,” Mr Connon said.

For now, ITW Proline continues to focus on the quality and innovation of its products to compete against traditional and online competitors, according to Mr Camilleri.

“We know what we stand for and we stick to our winning recipe. You cannot be a high-quality product at a really cheap price. You just need to pick your place in the market and be consistent in that effort. There will always be a low end to the market – it is just not somewhere we see ourselves playing across the Ramset, Buildex and Pryda space.”

“We know if tradies use a product that is frustrating to use, they will not use it again. But if a product speaks volumes in usability then tradies can see the difference between ITW Proline and its competition,” he said.

Sales strong at Simpson Strong-Tie 

Despite recent changes on how Simpson Strong-Tie conducts business during the pandemic, Managing Director, Herb Kuhn said he expects sales to remain strong, with new products and innovation currently driving growth.

Simpson Strong-Tie believes it is vital to understand its customers’ needs and requirements.

While Simpson Strong-Tie’s point-of-difference in the market is a mixture of product quality, marketing, reputation and innovations, this mostly lies with the company’s huge focus on the end user and their requirements, according to Mr Kuhn. 

“Understanding their needs and requirements drives us to innovate, especially in the Quik Drive space. With more and more builders using screws to fix sheet flooring, the development and release of a faster screw for this application has been a real winner,” he said.

Simpson Strong-Tie’s strategy for the last 15 years has been to create a demand at the end user level and this will always be the case, according to Mr Kuhn.

“When a customer walks into a store and asks for a product by name, then our team have done their job. Innovation is truly the key to growth however there are very few companies that actually design fasteners with new features. Our range of structural screws has, through demand, now driven many others to copy the product as a replacement for the aging batten screw. We are also looking at speed of install and features that increase battery life as we understand labour is a higher cost to the builder than the material,” Mr Kuhn said.

Maintaining its innovation throughout 2020, Simpson Strong-Tie has released two products this year, including the Quik Stik and the cordless collated offering to the Quik Drive system. Mr Kuhn said the company will also soon release a broad range of decking fasteners, as he believes on-going innovation is vital in surviving a competitive global market.

“The market has definitely become more competitive and as the world becomes smaller with the Internet and digital communication, this will only increase,” he said. 

Mr Kuhn also hinted at some new releases to come soon, however for the moment he said, “watch this space for some more new and exciting product launches.”