Ten years ago someone said, “It’s curtains for the drapery business.” They were almost right. After years of decreasing sales and losing market share to blinds and shadings, the trend for custom draperies—finally—is reversing. This year, 2004, is the turning point for a coming multi-year cycle of strength. Two years from now when the market is clear and strong, remember, you read it first in this column in Draperies & Window Coverings magazine.
Draperies give your customer the option to personalize her windows and her home
with custom fashions impossible to equal with alternative products alone. The
result is more excitement and decorating drama as friends and neighbors ask, “Where
did you buy your beautiful window treatments?”
It’s a win-win for you and your customer. If you want to make more money,
learn how this growing trend can give you a competitive edge and larger sales.
Whether you sell draperies now, or you have been thinking about it for a while,
here is how to profit from this budding trend, before others jump on the bandwagon.
CUSTOM DRAPERY CYCLES
Custom drapery sales move in cycles and do it for different reasons. The first
broad market expansion began in the early 1960s. For the first time in world
history, the stunning elegance of costly silk became affordable thanks to man-made
fibers. For more than 10 years millions of homeowners bought custom draperies
made from 19/2 ply antique satin in over 100 colors for as little as $1.95/ yard.
The boom slowed in the 1970s as Baby Boomers opted for plants and macramé for
their trendy window coverings.
Then in the 1980s these same Boomers—now older and more affluent—returned
to traditional elegance of fabric, color and softness. The 1990s reversed the
trend again as manufacturers innovated exceptional “alternative” window
coverings, beginning with cellular shading and moving up to Hunter Douglas’ Silhouettes® and
continuing with innovations today.
For the first time, multi-million, multi-store retailers pioneered blinds and
shadings as a custom window coverings business, selling no draperies at all.
Suddenly, “alternative” products became the standard, and draperies
became the alternate.
WHY DRAPERIES NOW?
Is this a trend or a wish? How do we know the drapery boom is back? The first
alert came from a leading multi-million-dollar retailer of blinds, shades and
shutters in Virginia. He sensed the trend and told us he expected draperies to
be strong within five years. So we started asking around.
Other retailers agreed. They could feel more interest in soft products, beginning
with valances and swags over simple blinds and shadings. Then my wife, Valerie,
gave another clue. As a Chair of the Docent’s Association at the Smithsonian
Hirshhorn Museum, she is invited into homes of wealthy art collectors. This past
year she visited homes in Dallas, New York City and Washington, DC. Valerie reported
window treatments with profusions of puddled, elegant, silk draperies—not
only traditional draw draperies, but stationary panels on exquisite custom hardware.
Why is this valuable intelligence? Industry experts know the trickle-down effect
as opinion leaders go for new fashions. At first, the fashion is unique, later
it goes mass market. Then opinion leaders move on to the Next New Thing. For
years, it has been alternative window products. Now, according to Valerie, draperies
and fabric are the new direction for wealthy trend-setting homeowners.
WORKROOMS REFUSE HOLIDAY DELIVERY
Then, in October, we heard something we haven’t heard in years: leading
custom drapery workrooms closed off new orders for the holidays. Rarely have
workrooms refused business before November 15. Now, for the first time in memory,
numbers of workrooms will not guarantee delivery until January. These leading
trends tell the story: Custom draperies are cycling back. I predict a growing
trend for at least five to eight years.
The important thing is how you, as a manager, make money from this booming trend.
Remember, entrepreneurial profit originates when a visionary business owner spots
a “future that has already happened,” and then acts on his or her
belief. Are you wondering how you can be a leader and profit from this public
information? Although thousands of business owners will read this story, fewer
than five percent will do anything to make money from it. If you are among the
one in 20 who take action, you can expect growing net profits from your decision.
Whether you sell draperies now, or are just beginning to think about it, you
have a big opportunity moving forward.
HOW TO MAKE MONEY IF YOU SELL DRAPERIES NOW
If you sell custom draperies now, the action is to begin promoting them again.
If you received little response from drapery advertising in recent years, now
is the time, within your budget, to get the word out again.
Stress your experience, your great ideas and talented consultants. Play the fashion
angle. Use headlines like “Privacy and Light Control Are Great. Now It’s
Time for Beauty,” or “Turn Blah Blinds into Wonderful Windows!” When
you talk to customers, tell them the trend—repeat what you read in this
story, how wealthy opinion leaders are moving to the beauty of soft window coverings.
Stress the economic benefit: homeowners save money with beautiful window coverings
because they love the look and change less often. It costs less per year to have
the beauty she really wants.
HOW TO MAKE MONEY IF YOU DON’T SELL DRAPERIES
If you don’t sell custom draperies now, you will want to start soon. You
have a fabulous reservoir of satisfied customers you’ve already sold. They
know you and trust you, and they are buying draperies from someone else right
If you don’t believe it, call 10 customers you sold blinds or shadings
to a year ago. Chances are half of them have already bought draperies or plan
to soon. What a shame to throw away all that good will from customers who would
buy from you again, and refer you to their friends. When you sell draperies it
is no longer a one-time sale, it is business for a lifetime.
There are two proven ways to do it: Learn it yourself or affiliate with a drapery
specialist. Learning draperies yourself is a challenge if you specialize in blinds
and shadings. Still, it is being done every year by hundreds of business owners.
On the other hand, finding a drapery specialist may be a good solution. There
are thousands looking for a better income from drapery sales, they just don’t
have the customers.
If you want more information e-mail me at email@example.com for my new report: “How
to Profit from the Coming Boom in Drapery Sales.” Include your business
name and address.
BE CAUTIOUS LISTENING TO ‘EXPERTS’
As a word to the wise, be cautious about advice from drapery experts. Many designers
and sewing specialists make drapery selling difficult. It really is not. In spite
of what others tell you, you do not have to learn to calculate yardage, pattern
matching and spacing between pleats in order to quote a price. You do not have
to learn short points and long points and the difference between a cascade and
a jabot to get started. Instead, you can learn basic designs that will please
your customers 90 percent of the time.
More importantly, you do not have to make multiple trips to show fabrics and
quote prices as many window designers might do. Instead, you can use simple charts
and price in minutes. To get your draperies sewn, you can often find a drapery
workroom operated by someone trained by Cheryl Strickland’s Custom Home
Furnishings Trade School. Send her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for names
in your area. Also check with your local chapter of Window Coverings Association
of America (WCAA) at www.wcaa.org. If there is not a good workroom nearby, there
are several fabric suppliers with quality custom workrooms to help you.
YOU CAN BENEFIT FROM THE BOOM
Yes, draperies are coming back. Whether you have been selling them for years
or plan to start soon, there was never a better time. Customers want more than
privacy and light control; they want more than hard, square lines at their windows.
More and more customers are discovering softness and beauty that fabric brings
to their window. Customers who appreciate it most are those who have better homes
and more money to spend.
You can lift yourself above the rat race by featuring custom draperies and extra
service. Start now to sell a balanced mix of “hard” products and “soft” draperies.
When you do, you’ll soon find the best balance of all will be in your checkbook.
article is based on Steven C. Bursten’s actual experience with
sales and financial information working with hundreds of window coverings
businesses. Whether you are a sole manager who aspires to higher
sales, or you manage 50 window fashion decorators in a multi-million
dollar business, this series will help you manage sales better and
increase your profitability. Bursten is the retired founder of Decorating
Den Interiors and author of a how-to book on new
business start up, “Bootstrap Entrepreneur,” and is a leading expert
in window coverings marketing, sales systems and sales management through his
company, custEmers.com. Questions and comments welcome: email@example.com
or call (888) 333-8981.