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EP Henry: Business not as usual in ‘The Future of Hardscaping’

EP Henry Director of Contractor Business Development Paul Cimini.
The demonstration was staged in the Atlantic City Convention Center, with separate one- or two-day admission from the Mid-Atlantic Hardscaping Trade Show. EP Henry staff worked with crews from Sewell, N.J., design-build contractor, Ledden Palimeno Landscape Co., in the two-day building demonstration. New products shown included pavers, hardscape units in expanded finishes, and a proprietary wall system EP Henry is targeting for late-2014 launch. The exhibit spanned paver and segmental retaining wall installations, permeable pavements, and rain water harvesting methods.
The demonstration was staged in the Atlantic City Convention Center, with separate one- or two-day admission from the Mid-Atlantic Hardscaping Trade Show.

True to a “Keep Moving Forward” theme, the Mid-Atlantic Hardscaping Trade Show (MAHTS) at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center earlier this year saw sharply improved metrics against 2013 figures: attendance and number of exhibitors up 50 percent and 35 percent, respectively, and many participants noting they are booked well into the season—a first for such an indicator since 2007.

Presented annually since 2000 by Woodbury, N.J., producer EP Henry, MAHTS encompasses trade exhibit; construction and business skills training; industry certification; plus, arena and classroom education activities. This year’s attendance, sponsorship and exhibitor figures were at the highest since before the recession.

While attendees indicated customers are once again ready to put money into their homes, tastes are evolving as more hardscaping options become available. Mindful that homeowners no longer want to be like their neighbors—and instead look for unique ways to express themselves and their personalities through the home and yard—EP Henry added “The Future of Hardscaping” symposium to MAHTS 2014. Centered on an arena with live construction of a next generation outdoor oasis, the two-day event brought hardscaping professionals together with new systems and products to be applied and mastered.

“The Future of Hardscaping” became a full-fledged production with bleacher seating, theatrical lighting and limited music for upwards of 300 attendees on each day. Crews’ building and installation activities were interspersed with presentations by four industry experts addressing design, business topics, perspective on looking forward, and what contractors need to capture the lion’s share of hardscaping business in their markets.

“Attendees came ready to learn and prove that the industry can adapt to a new economy and new kind of customer,” says EP Henry Director of Contractor Business Development Paul Cimini. “We have been through a rough five-year period. Business and customers have changed. We feel this [post-recession cycle] will not be business as usual and wanted to focus on design elements and the ability to generate new sales … to put profit back into labor and come up with products, applications and design ideas to drive the next 10 years.

“We need to see a focus away from price points. Consumers are looking for something different, but not quite sure what they want. If contractors only want to sell a paver or wall block, they shouldn’t expect to get paid for anything else. Through ‘Future of Hardscaping,’ we aimed to show them they can take that same paver or wall block and come up with a different design, and make a project worth more. Contractors need to educate and inform consumers of which project designs and features add value to their homes. We want them to focus not just on product, but how to address site-specific needs, and give them a leg up on competitors.”