ROSEMONT, ILL. — Ward Manufacturing became the sixth member of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association’s Professional Product Line in July. Ward, which makes pipe fittings including pipe unions, clamps and flexible natural gas pipe, joined Delta Faucet, Bradford White, Anaheim Manufacturing, Hammond Valve and Water by Design as the newest member of the program. Delta Faucet also released the first wave of faucet it is offering through the PPL program.
Ward will be offering its grooved products, plain-end fittings, branch connectors, malleable threaded fittings, cast iron fittings and its Wardflex flexible natural gas piping through the PPL. Product packaging will carry the PHCC logo to identify the products carried under the PPL brand. All of Ward’s PPL products carry a lifetime warranty and are available only through wholesale channels.
“We do not sell to the retail market because retailers don’t care about the quality of what they sell to consumers and nonprofessional installers,” said Tom Gleason, vice president/marketing and sales for Ward. “If you want quality, integrity and air-tested products then you should buy Ward products through wholesalers. If you want price and nothing else then shop at Home Depot, but you won’t be getting a guarantee of quality on what they sell.”
Ward’s commitment to producing quality products is evident by its decision to have its products tested, Gleason said.
“We must comply with certain industry standards, and we must ask ourselves if it’s important for us to have our products tested the way we do,” he said. “There are costs associated with conforming to UL and ANSI and we believe it’s worth the cost for the quality we have at Ward. In addition, we must ask ourselves if we think it’s important to our contractors, which it is, which is a good reason to pay the expense.”
Delta Faucet introduced nine base models it will offer through the PPL program. Delta’s PL faucet incorporate two physical enhancements specific to the program, said Ken Martin, business unit manager of the OEM division of Delta.
“Some of the nine base SKUs are two-handle products, which are part of our Less Handles Program, so potentially contractors will have several thousand units to offer to their customers,” Martin said. “The PPL products will be basic Delta models with some enhanced features. One enhancement is a pressure compensating aerator that resists lime-up and keeps a steady spray pattern. That aerator is only available on our PPL products. Also our two-handle products will have brass stems with 1/4-turn stops, which is a feature available only on one other Delta line.”
Delta will be showing its PPL products at the American Supply Association show in September in San Antonio, Texas, and the PHCC convention in October in Nashville, Tenn. Delta is now producing a price list and literature to distribute to the trade since the PPL faucet became available Aug. 1. Delta announced its participation in the PPL program in October 1998 at the PHCC national convention in Toronto and took nine months to hammer out the details and enhancements of its PPL faucet, Martin said.
“When in Toronto we were pretty noncommittal about the enhanced features we would offer,” he said. “It took us awhile to decide what we were going to do, and we still have a lot of ideas to explore. We truly see this line evolving and being a plus for the trade. We are also investigating labor reimbursement as an enhancement for the future, but first we have to determine if it will make sense for us to offer that. That’s something possibly for the future.”
Joining the PPL program is a way for Delta to continue its long heritage of commitment to the trade, he explained. Phase II of Delta’s PPL faucet offering is scheduled for introduction in January.
The difference in consumer recognition between in-sight products such as faucet and out-of-sight products such as gas piping will not be a marketing hurdle, Ward’s Gleason said. Consumers can be sold on the quality of Ward’s PPL products even though Ward’s products are behind-the-scene components.
“A water heater is installed and connected to gas supplies with the behind-the-scenes piping we sell,” Gleason said. “Being a part of the PPL is all about the complete professional package. The consumer doesn’t need to know every detail about our product except that it’s of high quality. Contractors can tell their customers they can sleep better knowing our product is keeping them safe.”
With six manufacturers committed to the PPL and negotiations in progress with several others, the PPL is getting closer to its purpose of offering a complete line of plumbing, heating and cooling products, said Don Morin, PPL chairman.
“We need a company like Ward in our PPL arsenal because a water heater is only as strong as its weakest link,” Morin said. “We need a complete line of professional products to sell it and make it work. The typical consumer may not be interested in products like fittings but professionals are.”
Balancing marketing efforts between consumers and professionals will be a critical part of the success of the PPL marketing campaign, said Allen Inlow, PHCC-NA CEO. PPL representatives were scheduled to meet with the advertising company producing the television commercials by the end of August to discuss the progress of ad production.