What are the industry pricing guidelines? Nowhere do we have such documents cast in stone. That is as it should be, because the only guidelines you need are what will be fair to your customers and profitable for you.
If any of you are familiar with the industry products I have created, you will know that the consistent undertone in them is that no two businesses work the same way. I want to quickly add that I am speaking of business methodology and not communication. The Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA) has now developed industry standards that will facilitate communication, which the industry has desperately needed. But even its Workroom Quality Standards are bare bones requirements as there are multitudinous ways to fabricate anything and still end up with a beautiful treatment.
The following are what I have learned over the years from my own experience. I encourage you to use them as guidelines and change them or add to them as you need to for your business:
1. Have a minimum or maximum price: Some items are going to take just as long to do in a small size as they would in a larger size. I researched large workrooms and discovered that they normally charged soft shades beginning with nine or 10 square feet. It takes just as long to do a smaller shade and requires almost the same amount of notions as do the minimum.
Use this same idea for the various units of pricing, i.e., running feet, widths, yards, etc. I also discovered that there needed to be a maximum length on top treatments (I chose 18 inches) and panels. Panel length may be the length that you can table accurately in one step. In general, I found four running feet to be a good minimum for top treatments or railroaded panels.
2. Have different ranges of lengths: Even though I set 18 inches as the maximum length for a top treatment, I then added the range of 18 to 26 inches for extra-long valances. For cascades, I used the price ranges of “Up to 24 inches,” “25 to 65 inches,” and “65 to 100 inches.”
3. Always round up!: Whenever you are dividing a number to arrive at the number of units, always round the decimals or fractions up. It doesn’t matter if you are working with widths, square feet or calculating an estimate for a client, you should always round up. Depending on what you are doing, it doesn’t necessarily mean you round up to the next whole number. This is especially true when calculating estimates for retail clients.
You probably know the marketing tip that you always price an item a few pennies less than a whole number, e.g. $19.95 or $19.99, but have you heard of the value of using the magic number 7? Marketing surveys have proven that using the number 7 at the end of the price makes more sales. Try ending your estimates with a seven, e.g. $1,099. 97 or $1,100.77, and see what happens.
4. Halves as wholes: Many workrooms question the validity of charging for four widths when doing a pair of draperies that are three widths, i.e. 1 1/2 widths per panel. It takes almost as much time to do that half width as it would to do a whole. In wider panels, that may not be quite the case, but it’s too time consuming and confusing to charge differently for the same treatment.
The majority of the industry does charge a half width as a whole width. Look at that extra half width as your cushion on that job that took you longer than expected to complete. Many areas still are not making good money on pinch pleats, so this could be a good way to help that situation.
5. Difficult fabric up-charge: We all know that velvet and casements, to name just two, are very difficult fabrics to fabricate. Therefore, they, and any other fabric that you know is difficult, must demand a higher price. When a customer brings you fabric that appears suspicious to you, warn your customer upfront that you may have to up-charge if the fabric is difficult to work with.
The best policy is to require your clients to give you at least a yard of new untried fabric ahead of time for you to determine if an up-charge is necessary and, if so, what it will be. How many of you wish you had this policy in effect the first time you dealt with the “crinkle” sheer? I even had one workroom tell me that they up-charge to fabricate antique satin because it ravels so much.
6. Expensive fabric: If you are asked to fabricate fabric that wholesales for a $100, and much more in many cases, you definitely need to up-charge to cover your liability. No insurance company will insure you for miscutting fabric or for underestimating fabric. I once miscut $100/yard-fabric. Thank goodness, it could be fixed. You may not be so lucky.
7. Pricing by the hour: There are situations in which charging by the hour only makes sense.
Alterations can never be quoted accurately, especially if you have not seen the work first. Rework, i.e. making drapery panels into swags and cascades, is another situation that can never be calculated accurately upfront.
I also charged by the hour for “alternative fabrication.” I used this often because a couple of my decorators insisted on trying to save fabric. One even cut and pinned together a frame for a pillow from very small scraps of fabric. Because it was not cut straight with accurate angles it took much more time to determine what size could be made, which was smaller of course, and then get the OK from the decorator.
8. Consultations by the hour: I made this a separate item because so many of you give away too much time helping your designers and decorators do their designs or estimates or helping your retail customers. Many workrooms solve this problem by giving those designers a higher price list to compensate for their time. I chose an hourly fee to stop one designer from asking me to do estimates for truly unusual things and then we never saw the work. It wasn’t that she took it elsewhere, she just “couldn't bring herself” to sell such high-priced labor!
Incidentally, she is also the one for whom I was fabricating when I miscut the $100/yard fabric!
DO YOURSELF A FAVOR
You might be leery of using some of these charges because you are afraid of how your clients will react. If you have retail clients, they should never be shown a break down of their proposal because, as you see, the labor depends upon a combination of the fabric chosen, the treatment style and the yardage. Choosing different fabric could change the yardage and the labor. If your clients are designers and decorators, educate them that they are paying for your time and expertise, not draperies.
Price fairly for you and your customers. Then you have double insurance—one for your customer and one for a profitable and enjoyable future for yourself.
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 26-year veteran of the drapery workroom industry. Having owned drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine, she is now president of Workroom Concepts, a consulting firm offering educational resources to the industry on its Web site (www.workroomconcepts.com). Her experience in the window covering arena has contributed to her success as a business consultant. A professional speaker and writer, she has authored several industry products including Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications and Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.