Consumers seem to face a never-ending struggle to get organized. Almost 1 in 4 Americans say their garage is too cluttered to fit their car, according to an April 2015 survey from manufacturer Gladiator GarageWorks. Although no corresponding survey about closets exists, keeping them organized also is problematic.
“People are embarrassed by their closets, because they don’t have a system that accommodates their wardrobe,” says Ursula Hegvick, who is on the board of directors for Association of Closet and Storage Professionals. “If all things have a place and you know where they go, it makes your life easier.”
Manufacturers say that with the right indoor-storage system, consumers can store almost anything. Manufacturers are providing new garage- and closet-storage systems as well as accessories that make storage more convenient than ever before by holding a larger variety of items.
Besides new products that lower the entry price to a garage-storage system, manufacturers tell us that their pricing remains flat overall, because prices for wood and steel remain steady and the competition is fierce. That’s expected to continue.
GET HOOKED. At least seven companies dropped the prices for their garage- or closet-storage kits or introduced kits at lower prices. For example, in 2013, the lowest priced garage-storage system from Gladiator was its GearTrack Pack for $55. The wall-storage kit included two channels and eight hooks. Today, Gladiator’s least expensive system, which the company introduced in September 2016, is the GearTrack Essentials Pack, which includes a channel and six hooks for $30.
“When a consumer starts looking at storage and some of the marketing images the industry has, they almost get scared away,” says Josh Gitlin of Gladiator. “They see the $30,000 garage that’s meant to inspire, but we’re trying to get people to understand they can start small.”
Manufacturers of garage-storage systems also are looking to, ahem, hook consumers to make repeat purchases through the introduction of accessories, such as hooks or bins. Kevin Keenan, who is the CEO of manufacturer StoreWall, tells us that 87 percent of customers who buy his company’s wall panels will make another purchase within 12 months.
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“What does that tell us? We have to have a wide, deep, broad line of accessories,” Keenan says.
Over the past 3 years, the company undertook a “massive expansion” of accessories. Today, it has 22 types of hooks, 14 different shelves and baskets, seven bags, bins and totes, and seven so-called supersize accessories, such as hooks that hold a kayak. That’s up from 11 hooks, five shelves and baskets, and no bags, bins, totes or supersize accessories. One of StoreWall’s most notable new accessories is a bamboo shelf that attaches to the company’s wall panels and supports 150 pounds ($90). Holding that much weight allows the shelf to double as a seat for anyone who is under that weight and who wants to, say, remove his/her shoes before he/she enters the home.
At least four other garage-storage-system manufacturers—Flow Wall, Gladiator, Racor and Ulti-Mate—added specialty accessories to their product lines. In fact, Ulti-Mate, which is known for its premium closed garage-storage systems, released its first wall-storage unit in spring 2016 ($60 for a 35-1/2-inch-long section). “We are a garage-storage company, and we wanted something that looked like it belonged with our cabinets,” says Tom Ferolito of Ulti-Mate.
More is on the way. As of press time, Flow Wall, which added six different hooks in the past 4 years, planned to launch three additional hooks in spring 2017. Prices and details still were being worked out at press time, but one hook will be a dual hook that supports up to 80 pounds, says Susan Hirai of Flow Wall, which would make it able to support more weight than any of the company’s other specialty hooks. The new hooks are meant to store kayaks, bicycles or paddle boards, she says. Meanwhile, Gladiator plans to launch specialized kits in 2017 for gardening and for sports, Gitlin says.
“Accessories are becoming more specific, like specific hooks for fishing poles or downhill skis,” Hegvick says. “They do serve a purpose: the more you can compartmentalize, the more you’ll be organized.”
INSIDE JOB. The closet-storage industry also is increasing the number of accessories that go with its storage systems. Scott Davis of manufacturer ClosetMaid says the company will continue to provide more system options and accessories. “The accessory business for closets is a large segment of our business,” he says.
Two of the biggest manufacturers of wire closet-storage systems added accessories to their lineups. For example, in April 2016, Rubbermaid hit the market with three new accessories to its FastTrack storage system—a tiered shelf that extends ($40), plastic shelf dividers ($15) that act like bookends to keep stacks of clothes from tipping over, and a series of bins and trays (starting at $20). The bins and trays are meant to hold small items, such as jewelry or scarves, that would fall through wire shelves.
Meanwhile, ClosetMaid added “about 30 new accessory items over the last couple years,” Davis says. Two of those items, which came out in 2015, are a double hang rod ($25) to increase hanging space and a Closet Maximizer ($75), which clips to an existing hanging rod to add four shelves.
“Having an organized space—closet or garage—is not just about the systems, shelves and accessories,” Hegvick says. “It’s about a feeling. It makes you feel better and more organized. Everybody can relate to that feeling of calm over chaos.”
Brett S. Martin, who is a frequent Consumers Digest contributor, has written about home-improvement products for 16 years. He has written for Popular Mechanics and The Family Handyman magazines.