Winchester, Va.-based Trex Co. Inc. has severed its relationship with Parksite Plunkett-Webster after the building products distributor signed a deal with Moosic, Pa.-based Azek Building Products Inc. to distribute its recently acquired Procell Decking Systems.
The Trex-PPW agreement ended effective Aug. 1.
Trex officials, in a second-quarter conference call July 31, said PPW's new deal with Azek violated the terms of the distributor's exclusive agreement with Trex as its only wood-alternative decking product.
Citing redundant distribution agreements in all of its regions, Trex officials downplayed the news, saying that they did not fear service interruption to customers or that any other distributors would follow PPW in adding other alternative decking products to their offering mix.
Still, PPW was one of Trex's larger customers, and generated 10-20 percent of Trex sales. That translates to roughly $50 million of the $337 million worth of goods the company sold in 2006.
Trex is the market leader in wood-plastic composite deck manufacturing and is credited for creating the product category. Trex boards are made of recycled polyethylene and wood flour. Procell decking is a flax-reinforced cellular PVC.
Ron Heitzman, president of PPW parent Parksite Group in Batavia, Ill., defended his company's decision to add Procell to its product offerings, citing growing customer demand.
``For some time, our customers have been asking us about this emerging category of decking - cellular PVC - in what is now a heavily dominated composites market,'' Heitzman said in a telephone interview.
Heitzman said it is important to PPW to carry all types of building materials. Trex and Procell have different aesthetics and performance characteristics, he added.
``In decking, there are hardwoods, softwoods, exotic woods, [wood-plastic composites] and PVC,'' he said. ``We want to be represented in all of those categories of products.''
Trex officials make an effort to have exclusive distribution agreements, and Trex has such arrangements with 28 distributors in 55 locations, said newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Andy Ferrari.
PPW has a history with Azek, so adding Procell was a natural fit, Heitzman said.
Azek President Ralph Bruno is a former Trex executive.
Azek's fast rise in the exterior trim and moldings category has PPW officials believing that Procell inevitably will follow suit.
``PVC is an emerging category,'' Heitzman said. ``I think it's going to have explosive growth percentages.''
Steve Van Kouteren, a principal with Exton, Pa.-based building products consulting firm Principia Partners, said the dynamics between PPW, the lumberyards it serves and the decking contractors that buy from those lumberyards ultimately will dictate how the severing of the Trex-PPW relationship will affect the deck board extruder.
Smaller players also could be hurt if new, exclusive deals emerge between Trex and new building products distributors, which would mean other composite deck makers would lose those accounts.
``Fifty million dollars is a lot of volume to replace in a short time,'' Van Kouteren said.
Trex's second-quarter sales were down slightly from the same period in 2006, but for the six months ended June 30, Trex reported sales of $234.7 million, up from $226.8 million in the year-ago period. Trex raised prices 7 percent this year. Company officials said Trex owns 35 percent of the wood-plastic composite decking market.