Will it last? Our experts think so. We asked key players in shutter manufacturing and fabrication for their thoughts on why the market is so hot right now, and what the future holds. From their responses, the next five years will be exciting, indeed.
Executive Vice President
Comfortex Window Fashion
The growth in the shutter market is being driven by both an abundance of fabricator supply and by demand from consumers seeking quality and lasting value. Based on one report, there are more than 1,000 shutter fabricators in the United States. The population growth and affluence in traditional shutter regions such as the Southeast and Southwest also is fueling the growth in the shutter market.
Perhaps the fastest growing segment is the engineered wood segment. The trend toward engineered wood shutters is similar to the trend that has occurred in our industry in faux wood blinds over the past five years. Consumers have become more educated about the benefits of faux wood products in categories such as flooring, decks and other household fixtures. The growth in the engineered wood shutter category is also being driven by fabricators who are realizing the profit benefits from easier fabrication and fewer environmental issues associated with painting.
The growth in engineered wood shutters is expected to continue for at least five years as the product offerings in the marketplace improve and consumer acceptance grows. Given these trends, Comfortex has enjoyed strong demand for the recently introduced Woodwinds engineered wood shutter.
VERSATILITY DRIVES THE MARKET
Joyce M Ryan
Shutter Sales Manager
The growth rate of the shutter market is ever increasing among today’s homeowners as they rediscover the natural beauty and flexibility offered by shutters to enhance any décor.
Consumer awareness of adding value and sophistication to their homes has helped shutters become a first-rate choice. As windows become larger because of their energy efficiency homeowners can choose shutters to control lighting with larger blade louvers and expose more view.
Versatility in styles, colors and wood species drives the marketplace. It is important to meet unique specifications for all architectural needs. Customer satisfaction needs to be taken to a new level of dedication with quality, value and exceptional customer service. Wood is still the natural selection because of the feeling of warmth it can create, and it is a renewable energy source. Vinyl products are becoming popular as another option.
Mastercraft Industries takes pride in its 55 years of shutter experience and even with a sluggish economy we plan to go forward with a full line of products to meet the needs of the future. We see only an upward climb of the ever-timeless shutter industry. Our factory is striving to handle larger capacities more efficiently.
COMFORT, STYLE, TASTE
The growth in the shutter industry can be attributed to a number of important factors. The first being, as I wrote about in last year’s editorial (see D&WC, November 2001, page 30), a wider availability in dealing with regional wholesalers who honor the relationship as a partnership. Dealers have found a comfort level in professional, knowledgeable and loyal vendors. Knowing that the company that you will be placing your high-end custom made shutters order with has the capabilities, as well as the care, to properly examine your orders so they are made the correct way, with quality and a timely fashion is extremely important.
The second factor that I believe to be increasing the popularity of shutters is the clean and classic look of fine craftsmanship on your clients’ windows and in their homes. It’s a window treatment that is manufactured to the exact color that your client would like (rather than choosing from a limited color selector), to the exact style they would like (different choices of rails, stiles, louvers, tilting mechanisms, frames, installation methods, etc.), and to the exact specifications of their windows (circles, octagons, hexagons, trapezoids, eyebrows, French doors, and even perfect squares).
Last, but not least, a wood shutter conveys affluence, warmth and good taste at a very affordable price. Why would your clients want anything else when they can get everything that they ever wanted in a treatment at a price that fits their budgets?
Aveno Window Fashions, Inc.
Interest in shutters is increasing because shutters are becoming more and more affordable for homeowners—especially alternative models like Aveno’s Thermowood™ foam PVC shutter. Although shutters present some initial investment, they are ultimately worth the value in reduced heating and air-conditioning costs due to their insulating construction. Additionally, since shutters are fixed window coverings, they can actually increase the resale value of a home.
Woodcrest® wood shutters and Thermowood™ foam PVC shutters are custom-made with the care, attention to detail and artistry that has become the hallmark of Aveno Window Fashions, Inc. One of the reasons that the American shutter market remains strong is that companies based in the United States carry the shutter production experience proven to yield higher quality, more durable window coverings for the buyer.
The growth in the shutters market will prove to be long lasting and continuously steady, as long as manufacturers are persistent in providing innovations that make shutters more versatile. At Aveno we can already observe a noticeable trend in unique shutter applications such as triple bypass track systems, skylight systems and two-toned shutters that offer a stained wood finish to compliment interior décor while facing a painted finish to the outside in order to meet neighborhood requirements. Looking toward the future, Aveno’s research and development team is focusing on revolutionizing both shutter form and shutter function to meet the growing needs of modern consumers.
RETAILERS’ NEEDS WILL CONTROL DISTRIBUTION
Vice President, Sales
We see the demand for all types of shutters driven by the manufacturers. As price pressures escalate within their existing product categories, manufacturers are looking for areas of greater profitability. Shutters have been a category fulfilled by local craftsmen. The “new” manufacturers have a vested interest in removing the fear of selling shutters to their distribution channels spawning a new wave of shutter salespeople.
New technologies have made shutters more affordable. Ever since the introduction of custom-made vinyl in the early ’90s, traditional manufacturers have been trying to bridge the gap between their time-consuming, laborious processes and the economical speedy techniques of vinyl. Today, shutters can be made of all types of wood, engineered wood, vinyl or a combination of these in an effort to combat an erosion of profit and market share.
We see new technologies evolving to allow new competitive advantages. For the traditional and emerging shutter manufacturers, our pre-finished basswood will speed up wood shutter manufacturing to eliminate the time and economic advantages vinyl has exploited. Fabricators will be able to compete with Asian pricing; however, they will do that with the distinct advantages of service and rapid delivery times.
Consistency of product, service and swift delivery are elements that have never converged on the wood shutter industry. Our pre-finished, domestic basswood produces all three. Smaller shop space, fast production, less labor and improved cash flow are the result.
We view the next five or so years as a phenomenal growth period for the shutter category. It appears that retailers everywhere are more comfortable selling shutters versus collecting a referral commission from the local shop. With retailers controlling the distribution channel, a sorting out of technologies for what is considered the best resource and a demand for the best service, quality and price will result.
AUTOMATED MACHINERY INCREASES PROFITABILITY
G&L Technologies Inc.
The shutter manufacturing industry is very competitive. Staying ahead of the competition in the marketplace is a key factor for successful growth and profitability. By increasing manufacturing efficiency and marketable product quality you will assure your company maintains its profitability.
Manufacturers are faced with new competition, rising material and labor costs and price conscious consumers, not to mention an uncertain economy. Investing in manufacturing automation is a strategic step that will have a positive long-term impact on your bottom line profits. Automation will improve both your efficiency and product quality. Delivering a higher quality product to the consumer at a competitive price combined with a quick delivery time is the formula for successful sales.
THE SUBTLE PSYCHOLOGY OFSHUTTERS
The Shutter Mill, Inc.
The phenomenal growth in the market for shutters derives from a more subtle psychology than vanity.
The origin of the louvered shutter is not precisely known, but hinged window coverings have been architecturally present for many generations. Primitive examples exist in the antiquities of many European and Latin cultures. Therefore, to simply call shutters a tradition produces an exaggerated understatement. Today, there is a subliminal yearning for traditions that hearken to mind and heart the simplicity and relative tranquility of past times. Shutters are one of those traditional icons that never weary in provoking nostalgia.
While today’s decorative shutters are more suited to shutting out light than achieving security, this feature may serve a second subliminally deep-seated desire to shut out the sights and sounds of the cacophonies that identify modern societies. Shutters do this both functionally and symbolically. Thus, the reason for continuing fantastic growth in the market for shutters of all kinds!
The market has been and will continue to be headed toward the shutters of maximum traditional value: louvered, wooden, custom shutters of high quality. It’s a market that defies quantification.
How long will this growth last? As long as people value tradition and seek solitude and security in their castles. That’s how long shutters have been, and will be, in demand.
MODERATE TO SIGNIFICANT GROWTH
Gulf Coast Window Covering
Even with the softer economy, shutter sales should continue to grow in 2003. With any upscale product such as shutters, the higher-end consumer will still have the dollars to suggest this type of purchase.
The classic look of shutters in 2 1/2- and 3 1/2-inch louvers is stronger than ever. Wood shutters will remain strong and competitive in the Southwest with vinyl shutters, such as the Palm Beach by Hunter Douglas, continuing to increase in market share.
Overall, the forecast is to see moderate growth in vinyl shutter sales during 2003 and significant growth with the new Heritance Hardwood Shutter by Hunter Douglas.