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Wild About Wood: Why wood works for your business

Industry experts share the reasons why this natural substrate should be one of your top-selling products.

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Note: This article appears in the June 2017 edition of A&E magazine. To ensure that you can access this and other industry-focused pieces, be sure to subscribe today!

Wood is a long-standing tradition in the awards and engraving industry. The substrate has been a popular one for plaques for many years, and it’s no secret why. Wood presents a classic, strong look that customers know and love. Also a sought-after substrate for trophy bases, perpetual plaques and other award items, wood continues to present a product perfect for the industry.

Along with its natural allure, there are quite a few reasons why wood products should be among your offerings. Between a variety of species and ease of decoration, wood should be one of your top-selling products. Not convinced? Let’s explore all the reasons why wood is a great fit for any awards retailer.

A SUCCESSFUL SPECIES

It seems simple-wood is wood. While it may appear that any type of wood will do for an award product, that isn’t the case. There are certain species of wood, and certain ways it is processed, that make for the ideal award substrate, among other factors.

“American walnut, hard maple and cherry are the best species for awards,” believes Terry Gross, The Gavel Co. And it’s not just for one single reason, either. “All three… have desirable laser engraving characteristics, interesting grain patterns, rich coloring, and are abundant and cost-effective.”

All of these characteristics combine for a high-profit opportunity for awards retailers. “You can create a broad range of detail and contrast with wood,” Josh Stephens, Trotec Laser, points out. He adds that wood is versatile and can be processed in many different ways, and is also quick to note that coated wood is a reliable go-to for that versatility.

But those aren’t the only factors playing in to what an awards retailer should look for in wood items. Equipment can also determine which products you go for. For example, if you own a laser machine, size plays a role. “It’s a good idea to regularly stock wood (and other materials) that fit your laser bed size,” Stephens states.

It also depends on how the wood will be utilized and whether it is the main body of the award or will serve another purpose. “There are various wood types that work well for awards, depending on the personalization that will be worked into the award,” says Shawna Flikkema, Colorado Heirloom. “If a plate is used, or the wood part of the award is a base, then walnut is a popular choice.” She also expands on the engraving aspect, stating that alder is a great option along with the cherry and maple because the engraving or personalization “pops.”

All of these species have one thing in common: a natural appeal. “Customers are attracted to wood products because they intrinsically like the look and feel of wood-its natural warmth captivates customers,” Gross points out. It’s a product that is beautiful from the start; personalization just adds that extra something special.

BEAUTIFUL BENEFITS

The variety of wood species to work with is one reason why the substrate is so popular in the awards industry. But that’s not the only alluring benefit it has. Wood is versatile, easy to work with, and brings a unique look to the table. But that’s not all.

According to Flikkema, no two pieces are alike, so customers often feel as if they’re getting a one-of-a-kind piece. On top of that, it can be customized in a multitude of ways. “There are many personalization techniques that can be used with wood: laser, printing, inlays, color fills,” she lists. “Wood is also a great material to use to make many different products: strips, plaques, boxes, urns, etc.”

There’s also another important factor that plays into the attractiveness of wood: price and profit. “Wood materials are relatively inexpensive compared to other materials,” Stephens states. And because of that, these products can generate larger profit margins under the right circumstances.

If that isn’t enough, wood also pairs quite nicely with other   substrates when creating awards, and even gift items. “A current trend is to mix materials,” Gross says. “(For example,) by adding glass to a wood box, it adds transparency while achieving greater durability than an all-glass box.”

Flikkema elaborates on that point. “Other substrates can also be inlayed into a wood plaque or base, giving the piece a good dimensional quality,” she suggests. She adds that wood can be used as either the main piece with the personalization on it or it can be used as a base for a resin, glass or metal award.

TRADITIONS

It’s easy to see why wood products should be among your shop’s offerings. Knowing which specific items to keep in stock is the next step to keeping your customers satisfied. There are a few that are tried-and-true, and a few unique items that are becoming naturally hot sellers as well.

Among the time-tested items, Flikkema points out that the traditional products will always be at the top of the list. “Plaques, frames and boxes are some of the more popular items,” she believes. Not only are they tried-and-true styles, but they are easy to personalize with equipment most shops currently use as well as some newer technology such as digital printing.

If your customers are looking for something more unique, or are on the hunt for more gift-style items, wood works well for that, too. “Customers appreciate gifts that are decorative and functional,” Gross emphasizes. “Food and beverage products are popular, such as salt and pepper grinders, hardwood cutting boards, tablet holders, and wine bottle caddies with compartments for glasses and a bottle of wine.”

To take your unique wood product offerings to even higher levels, Flikkema adds a few more items to that list that work as complementary products. “Another unique gift (you can create) out of wood is wine bottle toppers to hold wine glasses,” she states. She also adds boxes that are made as a base to hold a sculpture can serve as more artsy-style products.

A NATURAL SELL

You’ve put most of the puzzle pieces together: the benefits of selling wood award and gift items are clear; you’ve added some of the most popular as well as unique items to your stock. Now all you have to do is go out there and sell, which should come naturally with this substrate and a few marketing tactics.

Stephens returns to a point made earlier, but should be emphasized again as it’s one of the reasons wood practically sells itself. “No two pieces of wood are exactly the same. This presents opportunities to create unique pieces,” he says. Point this out to your customer, and he or she will automatically love that their product won’t look like anyone else’s.  

You can also have a deeper conversation about what wood offers. “Many people also want recycled or renewable resources. Different wood species can meet this requirement,” Flikkema points out. Take what she refers to as Blue Pine, for example. It is one of the trees being killed by the Pine Beetle. “The result is a beautiful, uniquely ‘blue’ stained pine wood. We consider this wood not just recycled or renewable but also reclaimed as it is harvested off the forest floor after it has already fallen,” she finishes.

Ultimately, don’t forget that wood simply carries with it a breath of nature and beauty. “Wood products inherently have an heirloom quality to them,” states Gross. “There is something beloved about receiving a customized wood gift.”

Note: This article appears in the June 2017 edition of A&E magazine. To ensure that you can access this and other industry-focused pieces, be sure to subscribe today!

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