Keeping Up To Date In Adhesives, Sealants & Tape

Bob Vila’s guidebook to building materials neatly sums up the glues and adhesives category in one-word bewildering.

Confusion is understandable, especially for consumers. Accustomed to the modest, all purpose glue displays used in nearly every store in America, they enter a building supply home center to encounter the widest array of chemical fastening products found anywhere. Packaged in tubes, cans, and buckets of all shapes, the full spectrum of products offered here ranges from sealants (don’t confuse them with sellers) as well as adhesive sealant adhesive caulks, to specialized construction adhesives, wall and flooring cement, and finally, a seemingly endless line-up of household glues and tape.

Manufacturers try to help. Industry gatherings and buying shows feature miles of integrated merchandising, informative displays, descriptive literature, and well-designed packaging. But whether due to poor housekeeping or retailers’ propensity to cherry pick their way through the offerings of this segment’s 100 plus vendors, good merchandising isn’t always reflected at the point of purchase. (See accompanying sidebar.)

And truth be told, marketing sizzle drives this category more than product innovation. Item One of this industry’s nastiest fights is a patent infringement squabble involving several manufacturers of clear sealant. The fight isn’t over the chemical sealant itself that’s been on the market for several years but over who has exclusive right to use see-through packaging.

Item Two Eagle-eyed buyers at the recent Home Center Show might have noticed that two major adhesives vendors are toying with the idea of using a character spokesman (one is a contractor, the other a DIYer) in their merchandising. The only problem Both characters are called Mac.

However those controversies are resolved, there are plenty of tough decisions left for merchandisers and buyers in this category. Here’s a rundown of what’s new for 1989

Construction adhesives

As usual, most new product introductions this year are line extensions, with the most popular being adhesives in easy to clean latex formulations. The big exception to this, however, is the comeback of the foam adhesive sealant category, currently offered by only a few companies.

Foam formulations have been marketed before. A few years ago, says one manufacturer, vendors found them too easy to oversell; when retail inventories built up, shelf life problems were revealed. Those stumbling blocks, as well as the controversy over urea formaldehyde, have been surmounted, apparently. The current marketing thrust targets consumers with claims that since urethane adhesives expand when exposed to air, one container holds five times more product than conventional tube adhesives (termed coneheads in some marketing literature).
The other end of the spectrum is represented by one manufacturer’s introduction of a professional grade application tool for foam sealants. The target market here is professional remodelers who specialize in millwork jobs. The applicator gun enables them to work with precision and cuts down clean up problems.

Another interesting trend observed at the Home Center Show is the importance of packaging. In the past year alone, for example, one leading manufacturer (which traditionally targets professionals) developed special billboard shipping cases suitable for floor display, introduced six pack tool box packages to appeal to consumers, and most recently, announced that it would be printing bilingual (SpanishEnglish) instruction on two of its most popular brands.

Packaging is also behind one of this year’s most popular adhesives price promotions the four packs (also called contractors’ packs). As noted on the shrink wrapping, the customer pays for three and get one free.

Hot melt adhesives

Although industrial applications (such as the shoe industry) have been commonplace for many decades, it wasn’t until the 1980s that glue guns came on strong as a D I Y product. The introduction of cordless units recently gave the category a boost, and there’s more to come by some accounts, the D I Y hot melt category could grow as much as 30% in the next five years.

Typically merchandised as a fastener along with solder, riveting tools, and staplers, glue guns have been most heavily marketed to the arts and crafts segment. Two new applications, being readied for introduction, may change that
A special woodworker glue gun is being readied for the serious D I Y market (estimated to include about 12 million households). Instead of the traditional glue stick, this system uses a cartridge containing a thermal adhesive found in the auto furniture window manufacturing fields. By moisture curing, the bond can harden to an epoxy for unusual strength.

Another product uses hot melt adhesive mounting discs as an alternative to nails for attaching hooks on any household surface wood, drywall, tile, metal, etc. The advantage here is simple the same glue gun can later be used to unglue the hook without leaving any residue (to say nothing of holes in the wall).

Household glues & tape

Under pressure from the grocery drug segment, manufacturers have been downsizing packaging through most of the 1980s in order to deliver higher sales per square foot measures. Super glue manufacturers took this a step further, packaging two and three products per card. Now, at least, one vendor is marketing baker’s dozen packs thirteen tubes of product on one card.

In this segment, the marketing wars are turf battles for pegboard space, with the combatants sometimes being sales reps. For example, several leading firms offer programs that put dozens of specialty glue SKU’s up on store shelves. One small midwestern manufacturer saw an opportunity to power market an all purpose epoxy in a resealable package. It also had a secret weapon An extra long display hook that is planted prominently in the middle of the competitive vendors’ programs. As long as it sells, retailers say, they aren’t inclined to move it.

A tinted wood glue for use with darker woods.

An emerging category solder glues. The product is essentially a silver paste that hardens when heated with an ordinary match or lighter.
New, improved versions of masking tape. Traditional masking tape, which uses a rubber based adhesive, leaves a residue, especially on the glass. In the last few years, a number of manufacturers updated this old standby, using very light acrylic adhesives (the type found on Post-It notes). The most recent innovations have gone a few steps further One company offers a version that connects the tape to a drop cloth; another has devised a special two sided tape (acrylic for adhering to glass, backed with a rubber based adhesive to hold newspaper).


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