IBS 2016: Impressions from Vegas

Greetings from Pittsburgh. It’s hard to believe we’ve been back home for nearly a week now and another Builders Show has passed us by.

Last Monday, nine members of the IBACOS and Alliance teams (shown right) descended upon Vegas for a bit of networking, education, and one-on-one meetings during the industry’s biggest annual event. While Vegas was a little chillier than we’d hoped, there was a lot of energy at the Convention Center – with more activity than we’ve seen in the last 5 years.

While we could, and will, go into detail on some of the specific intelligence we gathered, we thought it would be good to start off with top of mind takeaways. Earlier this week, I connected with Nigel Watts, Rich Baker, Glenn Cottrell, Anthony Grisolia, Jenny Gross, Lori Cullen, Ari Rapport and Craig Buck to get their impressions.

Here are the big things we saw.

  • Intent to act. For the past few years, there has been a decent amount of traffic at the show – with attendance building year over year. However, from our perspective, there was a lot of information gathering, but some hesitation to act. Most were cautiously optimistic about the market returning, but weren’t ready to aggressively invest time and money in making changes to their product or businesses. This year, we got a sense that the plans in development over the past few years are now being put into action. A new era of innovation is coming!
  • Imitation vs. innovation. There weren’t a lot of cutting-edge new products at the event. However, there were a lot of suppliers introducing me-too offerings reflecting some of the new products and systems we’ve seen over the past few years. Whether these new entrants will perform as well as or better than their predecessors remains to be seen, but it’s encouraging to see both bigger manufacturers and new companies entering the mix. That means they see opportunity for growth in housing and are willing to work for their piece of the pie.
  • Solutions vs. products. While this isn’t true across the board, we had the opportunity to talk with a number of leading suppliers (Alliance sponsors and others) who have used the last few years to build an arsenal of resources that will help builders deliver better homes more quickly and effectively. Manufacturers who don’t want their products to be seen as commodities and recognize the success of their partners will bring them greater success as well.
  • No surprise – labor is big. One of the biggest issues the industry faced in 2015 – labor shortages – was a prevailing theme this year not only throughout the education sessions, but also during conversations on the show floor. It’s clear that suppliers are putting much more thought behind how their products contribute to easing this pain and builders are taking a look at their own processes, from scheduling to trade relations.

It will be interesting to see how things evolve by the time we see you next year in Orlando.