D&WC: Please give a detailed
description of your company and its history.
Leonard Siegel, managing director: Based in St. Augustine, FL, ITA was founded in 1986 as a sales and marketing organization, initially concerned with launching a new collection of PVC for vertical blinds. In 1990, we expanded our focus to include a series of leading-edge products that offered fabricators more profit potential and built-in value: the Vinylbilt Shutter System. This was ITA’s first truly systematic approach to window fashions marketing, since it included complete turnkey production support. The extension of this concept has led to the third phase of ITA’s development; we now provide even more highly profitable, leading-edge window covering systems to independent fabricators around the world.
With an extensive network of designers, engineers and suppliers, we provide research and development, marketing support, private label programs and other customized sales arrangements. As a strongly customer-oriented organization from our founding, ITA does not compete with our customers by manufacturing custom finished products; we respect our customers and the work they do.
D&WC: What window coverings products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
Siegel: From a marketer of PVC for verticals in 1986, the company evolved into a developer of full production systems for vinyl shutters by 1990. In the mid-’90s, the company was expanding into textile-based window coverings, including pleated shades, single- and double-cellular shades, Meritec high-end fabrics for roller and Roman shades, and Capri textured woven shades. Around that time, we inaugurated our own Meridian Home brand, while continuing to offer private labeling opportunities.
We have also enlarged our partnerships beyond Vinylbilt to include MikronWood composite horizontal blinds and Savannah plantation-style composite slats. The most recent product rollout was a new collection of Meridian Home Decorative Hardware, including finials, rods, rings and brackets, in several stylistic motifs.
Currently, we are developing several new product concepts designed to provide independent fabricators with unparalleled profit opportunities. Several of these will be unveiled at this month’s International Window Coverings Expo in Baltimore, MD.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
Siegel: Since ITA began as a raw material and components supplier in 1986, this segment of the window coverings business has changed dramatically. At that time the industry was organized around exclusive major brands that wielded great leverage in the markets. Today, a greater percentage of the sector has shifted to innovative private label business models. This change, combined with today’s technology that connects good products and effective marketers, have made it possible for ITA to flourish.
D&WC: Where do you see yourself and your company five years from now? Are there additional areas within the industry that you would like to get involved in?
Siegel: We continue to invest heavily and carefully in new product systems that promise excellent profit opportunity for fabricators and a secure future for ITA and our partners. Several new turnkey opportunities will be launched in 2003, and others are already in development for the future.
D&WC: What best describes your niche in the marketplace?
Siegel: Today, ITA is more than simply a “raw material and components supplier” for window coverings. Rather, we define our role as that of an independent, expert provider of innovative solutions and comprehensive support to serious fabricators in key markets around the world.
Under our client-driven business model, each sales program is customized to give customers greater control over inventories, style allocations and sales channels, free from the merchandising demands and limitations imposed by large national brands.
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Siegel: One of the main factors behind our success is the industry-specific experience and knowledge of our senior managers. They are able to discern and become involved exclusively with products that demonstrate clear profit potential for ITA and our customers. They also are highly skilled at formulating and administering successful product development and sales programs.
A second factor is the respect we have for our customers and supply partners. We insist upon maintaining a high level of integrity and professional responsibility in every business transaction.
Finally, a healthy dose of innovation and prudent risk-taking have also contributed to our success.
D&WC: What trends and cycles do you see occurring in the industry? How is your business addressing them?
Siegel: On the operations side, one obvious trend is the ongoing consolidation of distribution channels by a few manufacturers. To help our customers gain greater market penetration, ITA is responding by:
1. Focusing on “value re-engineering” existing products—through innovation and improvement—to maintain sales at lower price points.
2. Establishing new product platforms in opportunistic categories as we perceive them—developing products that are not copies of anyone else’s, but that are still profitable.
On the fashion side, we expect strong growth in the shutters and composite horizontal blinds categories. These products offer consumers high-fashion appearance, decorative versatility and extremely good value. At the same time, we are seeing a return back to the “soft look” in shades and other textile-based treatments.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
Siegel: ITA is distinguished by its independence, innovation and a team philosophy—both internally and in our external relationships. As a development partner for fabricators, our job is to proactively assess the challenges facing them and to engineer workable, affordable solutions through product development and comprehensive support.
This strong focus on customer service differentiates us in an industry replete with parity products. ITA uses insight and experience to keep our customers ahead of the market. That means we must pay very close attention to what consumers are saying, how they are behaving and the product and style preferences they are making. We must then respond rapidly, working and communicating with our customers to satisfy those specific consumer demands. We have excellent people in our company who are committed to this business plan.
D&WC: Do you educate your customers?
Siegel: We educate our customers in how to sell, market and fabricate. But most important, we help them educate their customers and salespeople in how to sell and install our products. Additional support includes complete marketing plans and merchandising and sampling programs.
Our engineering and production support is a tremendous tool for fabricators. It includes turnkey startup consultation, assistance with factory layout, technical direction, software, training and production tools. Our knowledge-sharing programs will continue to receive major emphasis going forward.
24 Cathedral Pl., Ste. 400
Saint Augustine, FL 32084
fax: (904) 829-0507