The ’90s saw the birth of revolutionary product categories, the melding of hard and soft window coverings. Initially, these hybrid hard window coverings were slow to capture the attention of window covering consumers, as they were such extraordinary designs. However, millions of satisfied fabric window treatment consumers had pent up demand for simpler, easier to operate fabric treatments. The past generation’s drapery treatments were out of favor.
Clearly, the overwhelming positive attributes of function within
a fashionable product are too good to pass up. Fabric products with
adjustable privacy levels are now possible. Major fabric products
introduced within the last few years have focused on this functionality.
Whether they are called window shadings, privacy sheers or Venetian
shades, they all answer common concerns at point of sale: adjustable
light control with a soft, warm ambiance only available from Mother
Nature (who wants to live in a dungeon?); various textures; panoramic
views; and privacy when needed.
Traditional fabric products such as roller shades, pleated shades,
cellular shades and custom Roman or balloon shades answered a few
of these concerns, but are always operated up or down. These new
products offer practicality. Who better to fulfill this demand than
the massive hard window covering distribution channel?
PRACTICAL YET SOFT
Retailers apprehensive of the nuances of a custom drapery treatment
could fearlessly sell a simpler fabric blind or shade. These hybrids
create the soft illuminations inherent within traditional drapery
treatments without intruding on the aesthetics of the home environment.
Yet, elegant enhancements can be a welcome auxiliary to the practical
side of these hybrids.
Window shadings install with an advanced operating system that brilliantly
controls a fabric shade . . . ah . . . blind . . . ah . . . shading.
The shading products act like a blind but appear like a shade. Larger
vane sizes, new textures and room-darkening options have kept window
shadings fresh in the retailer’s mind.
Literally turning window shadings sideways created a product often
known as privacy sheers. An industrialized version of a sheer installed
on a vertical blind, privacy sheers seized interest in combining
the best practical features of a hard vertical blind with the softness
of a sheer drapery. Myriad suppliers jumped on the bandwagon to
supply variants of this product. These hybrids typically slipcover
a vertical blind with seamless sheer panels. Texture, color and
room-darkening attributes were introduced into the market.
Featuring simplified operating and distribution systems, the industrialized
Roman-style shades from the hard window covering manufacturers grew
from within the custom drapery channel. Hard window covering fabricators
have been able to exploit their channels of distribution to dabble
on the soft side. A concise range of fabric options within a simplified
operating system formed an effortless to sell and install custom
Another difficult-to-describe product, SoftView Venetian Shades,
is somewhat of a hybrid between a window shading and a two-inch
blind. SoftView is a two-inch fabric slat made rigid by inserting
petite stiffening rods into pockets on the front and back edges
of the slat. Woven of polyester, luxurious textures and opulent
colors are created. Venetian shades diffuse sunlight into soft,
natural illumination like any true fabric product; yet influence
it with the same practicality as a two-inch blind. Like window shadings,
SoftView is not a shade, nor is it a true blind.
A concern regarding durability and washability with any fabric product
is foremost in the consumer’s mind at point of purchase. These
happen to be two of SoftView’s positive features. The fabric’s
elements are polyester, PVC and fiberglass. All three are impervious
to moisture, producing a washable product. The stiffening rods create
incredible elasticity. The shade can be fabricated in continuous
widths up to 12-feet wide. Venetian shades are quite similar to
a two-inch wood blind in terms of operation, installation and cost.
FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
The overwhelming positive characteristics of “soft” hard
window coverings create demand for these categories of window coverings.
Each was created outside existing boundaries, however within a common
theme: translucent fabric. The secret of translucency is a glimpse
behind the scene, an expansion of the room by offering a hint of
what is beyond.
Shadings, privacy sheers, Venetian shades all answer common concerns
from the consumer: practicality. Traditional fabric products, such
as roller shades, pleated shades, cellular shades and custom Roman
or balloon shades are always up or down. These new products offer
more versatile functionality with the fashion of higher quality
As these categories continue to mature, new colors, textures, sizes,
motorization and hardware/operation options are sure to keep them
fresh. Tremendous resources within the window covering channels
ensure evolutionary, potentially revolutionary innovations reach
the consumer level. The consumer today has more choices than ever
before. The opportunity for the window coverings retailer is finding
those products that fulfill the consumers’ needs with the least
amount of price pressure—a profitable formula for success.
The successful trend of window shadings, privacy sheers and Venetian
shades can be attributed to their practicality . . . ah . . . fashion
. . . ah . . . the best of both worlds—fashion with function.
Craig Robinson, VP Sales at Gilmore Enterprises, Chatsworth, CA, www.gilmoreenterprises.com.
He has more than 27 years experience in the window coverings industry,
including drapery and fancy treatment manufacturing, wholesale sales
and sales management of hard window coverings, and component supplies
to the fabricator channel. He has co-authored a patent and has two
more patents pending.