D&WC: Shutters are seen as a high-value window treatment. Why is that?
Paul Shih, Senior Vice President: For
centuries, shutters have been prized as fine window furniture and
the sign of a homeowner’s style and sophistication. With today’s
intense focus on the home, many consumers are discovering the numerous
benefits of shutters: style versatility, increased energy efficiency,
appeal to buyers and home value appreciation. But like any home
investment, only shutters of exceptional quality will provide long-term
value and increase appreciation.
Some shutter manufacturers take shortcuts that sacrifice quality
and result in substandard products that won’t add value to
a home. Their products can suffer from limited manufacturing skill
levels, deficient investment in machinery and haphazard outsourcing
of critical processes.
At Norman International Co. we feel the best shutters are created
through meticulous control of each step in their creation, from
raw materials sourcing through manufacturing.
D&WC: What are your strengths
in the marketplace?
Shih: Our strengths are based on quality,
product selection and value pricing. We feel that focusing on these
areas results in meaningful benefits for dealers such as increased
sales, higher profitability and more consumer referrals.
Quality is at the top of our list. Look closely at any Norman Shutters’
product and you will see a lustrous finish, tight joints and straight
louvers. We spend a lot of time showing distributors and dealers
what to look for in a well-constructed shutter and how to sell that
quality to the homeowner. Dealers who can credibly differentiate
themselves earn the trust of their customers and close more sales.
Product assortment is important to us. We know that consumers have
a variety of needs and budgets. On the same day, one sales call
may be to a consumer who requires handcrafted basswood, 50 colors
from which to choose, and specialty shapes available in our Sussex®
Shutters. Another sales call might be to a budget-minded consumer
who appreciates the durability and wood character of our Woodlore®
Shutters. And if affordable wood is a necessity, the dealer can
present Normandy® Shutters, our streamlined hardwood product.
We are very proud of our product collection and continuously develop
new solutions to satisfy market requirements. This allows dealers
to source through one trusted manufacturer without compromising
homeowners’ varied needs.
Price is an essential element in our value proposition. Our efficiencies
and streamlined processes permit us to offer outstanding products
that are value-priced. We do not price our products at unrealistic
levels to compensate for things that do not benefit our distributors
and their dealers. Nor do we participate in price competitions that
erode industry margins at the expense of quality and business stability.
We feel our products are priced at competitive and sustainable levels
that result in profitable margins for dealers and excellent value
D&WC: What are some of the key
factors involved in your growth and success?
Shih: We draw from our organization’s
30-plus years of experience in window coverings manufacturing. The
parent company of Norman International is the largest volume manufacturer
of window coverings worldwide. As a result, Norman International
products are manufactured with many unique features that make them
the most lasting and beautiful window furniture being crafted today.
For example, among the distinctive construction elements that are
signature attributes of Sussex Shutters are hand-selected quarter-sawn
basswood louvers, reinforced engineered stiles, Prescription Wood
Conditioning™, mortise-and-tenon joinery, and a multi-step
hand-finishing system. Some of these processes are enduring traditions
of furniture craftsmanship, while others are Norman International
innovations designed to improve the long-term performance and appearance
of our shutters.
Let me add that the finest heirloom furniture is made with quarter-sawn
wood to ensure generations of durability, and so are all Sussex
Shutter louvers. In quarter-sawing, the wood is harvested in a way
that makes it less susceptible to cupping, twisting, and warping.
Though craftsmen recognize that prized quarter-sawn wood results
in a superior shutter product, flat-sawn wood is widely substituted
because it is much more plentiful and inexpensive. And even though
quarter-sawn wood is costly, Sussex Shutters are price competitively
with other premium hardwood shutters.
D&WC: What are the unique processes
you used in manufacturing shutters?
Shih: Experienced shutter professionals
say that shutter stability is their primary concern. To accomplish
this, each part of the shutter must resist twisting, bowing, cupping
and all other forms of instability inherent to natural wood. Compounding
the challenge is the fact that many shutters require pieces of wood
that must span over six feet.
At Norman International we are the only shutter manufacturer to
compensate for wood’s tendency to deform, in this application,
by using reinforced engineered wood stiles. We employ a costly and
time-consuming procedure that bonds multiple layers of wood together
with pressure, heat and a proprietary chemical formulation. This
imparts an intense level of durability to the cores of our stiles
and results in a robust support system for our shutter panels.
Our Prescription Wood Conditioning technique increases shutter stability
by reducing post-installation shrinking and swelling of our hardwood
shutters. Originating in our R&D labs, our wood conditioning
specialists determine the humidity conditions of each customer’s
home location. The wood for the shutter order is dried to conditions
emulating those of the final installation location. Drying to the
proper environmental conditions ensures that shutters will close
tightly, without gaps, and the result is a more solid and beautiful
shutter for years to come.
D&WC: What are other important
factors in shutter construction?
Shih: Shutters are heavy. The joints
must keep the rails from pulling away from the stiles. A joint that
is designed for lightweight applications may become unstable over
time. At Norman International, we recognize that the shear and racking
forces endured by shutters dictate the use of mortise-and-tenon
Traditionally used in demanding furniture and building construction,
mortise-and-tenon joints are designed to withstand decades of shear
and racking stress that are typical in door and panel construction.
D&WC: How does your finishing
technique distinguish you from competitors?
Shih: The secret to our handsome and
durable wood shutter finish really isn’t a secret at all. It
takes multiple sequences of sanding with progressively finer sandpaper
to open the pores of the wood for coating and smooth the surfaces.
Each layer is coated with thin layers of high-quality stain or paint.
This labor-intensive process is the only way to achieve the translucent,
deep finish of our hardwood shutters.
Some manufacturers rely on semi-custom, pre-painted components.
They may have a “cut-down” or “stock” program
to reduce delivery times. These shutters are partially pre-fabricated,
many times from outsourced components, and fit together prior to
installation. Consequently, short cuts like touch-up paint and imprecise
joinery result in compromised shutter quality.
D&WC: How would you describe
your business approach to the market?
Shih: Our focus on quality, product
range and value pricing increases dealer profitability and referrals.
All Norman Shutters are backed by our lifetime-limited warranty
on materials and workmanship. We feel our approach is strong and
results in long-term growth and success for distributors, their
dealers, and us.
Norman International® Co.
12301 Hawkins Street
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
fax: (866) 228-3689