This month we feature the second in our planned series of exclusive interviews with the top people in the window coverings industry from the supplier’s side. They are leaders of the corporations responsible for the products you distribute, fabricate, sell and install. With everything to gain or lose with the future of this industry, these companies have done their research and have made their plans accordingly.
Our intent is to discover and report back what these key people believe is the
current state of the industry, what problems they see ahead and how these problems
can be overcome—both from an overall industry standpoint and from the perspective
of their individual companies.
Already some common themes can be seen. For one, there seems to be plenty of
opportunity for growth and success. Earlier this year, Marv Hopkins, president
and CEO of Hunter Douglas, Inc., told us, “As longs as American consumers
continue to buy new homes and renovate their old, the industry will have almost
unlimited opportunities to grow and improve and to do so profitably.” (See
D&WC, March 2003, page 28.)
This month, Ron Zabel, president of Springs Window Fashions Division, takes that
a step further (see page 22). “We actually think that there is a somewhat
pent-up demand,” he says. “I don’t think [we’ve seen]
the total impact of all of the housing starts and housing transactions and interest
rates—[even] as interest rates start pushing a little higher now.”
Both men also agree that one of the biggest obstacles the industry faces is pricing
and the constant pressure to lower prices at retail. “We know from our
own and outside research that price is not the most important factor [for the
consumer] and it’s not second or third, either. The aesthetic appearance
and functionality of the product, the strength and quality of the brand and the
trust in and competence of the dealer are each more important,” Hopkins
said. Says Zabel, “It’s important that everyone in the industry realize
that we’re building custom products to satisfy specific consumer needs.
Consumers expect it—they expect to pay and they will pay for the service.”
As we continue with this series of interviews, we’re likely to hear these
themes repeated as well as gain insights into where this industry is headed and
how we all can get there successfully.