As Dan Fulton moved into the top seat at Weyerhaeuser, Larry Burrows filled Fulton's former position as president and CEO of Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Co. With Burrows' slot as head of the WRECO subsidiary vacant, management looked to promote talent from within. Alan Shapiro was a natural choice. After 11 years in sales with Ryan Homes, Shapiro came to Winchester in 1996. Since then, he's worked up the chain of command, becoming president in March. In July, executive editor Sarah Yaussi spent some time with Shapiro in his new corner office, talking product, pricing, and pastimes.
AS: Our biggest challenge is to keep one eye on the weekly sales report and the other eye on the future. We know there's going to be a new market, and we know there's going to be opportunities in that new market. We're getting the organization ready to take advantage of that new market. At the same time, we're making all the tough decisions and doing the things you have to do to be successful today.
BB: You recently launched a new active adult product. Why did you make Artistry a Winchester sub-product versus its own brand, similar to your higher-end Camberley Homes?
AS: We tested the concept and asked focus groups, would Winchester be credible as we described the opportunity we were trying to deliver. With Artistry, we found out Winchester is very credible. They would see it a plus to be Winchester versus necessarily Artistry. What we did find, though, ? [is] it really starts as a product idea for them: "My house is the wrong kind of house; I need the right kind of house."
It's a little bit different story when we asked if Winchester can deliver the experience we're describing with Camberley, which is really all about trying to own the experience from the time they came in the door to the time their home was built. That was a very painful process for these people, building these big homes that are very complicated. So we set out to build a better process.
BB: Have you found that higher-priced product has fared better since that buyer has more discretionary income?
AS: There've been times where it has. When we have a couple good weeks at Camberley, we'll usually have a couple good weeks in our core business. Ultimately everything slows down, and you sort of go through the cycle again. I think part of that is, generally, they tend to be the more expensive communities, closer in, in the better locations, so you're less of a commodity.
BB: How are you preparing for the next selling season?
AS: We're looking at the definition of [our] buyer, [asking] are there other products that this buyer would desire, and then preparing the organization to deliver that. We believe we're going to be doing a lot more job-specific architecture than we've done in the past. The 45-to-54s are moving into the market in a big way. The 55-to-65s, there's not a lot of housing stock out there for them, and they're a very diverse group. It drives a lot of different types of niche products. We're working on getting the flexibility to respond quickly when a particular opportunity calls for new architecture.
BB: Winchester is very focused on the move-up buyer, who has to sell a home to buy a home. How do you handle that?
AS: I think people are just worried about how long and/or at what price they're going to be able to sell their home. It's been a moving target, so our philosophy is to look at the resales and use that as sort of a benchmark for when the market is going to return.
BB: Being from Maryland, you must love football. Do you go to all the Terps games?
AS: I don't go to all of them, but I go to the more high-profile games, the more exciting ones. I see a lot of basketball, but football is a little more difficult to get to because I'm a big Redskins fan, so I go to all the Redskins games.