Draperies & Window Coverings asked some of the top shutter suppliers what their advice would be for dealers wanting to add a shutter line, and for those wanting to increase shutter sales this year. Here’s what they said:
YOU CAN’T AFFORD DISSATISFIED CUSTOMERS
Woodfold Marco Mfg., Inc.
Forest Grove, OR
The dealer needs to be aware that sales of custom shutters can be quite complex—that to ensure a successful sale they need to have a company that not only manufactures a quality product, but has a dedicated, knowledgeable and friendly customer service department. The dealer also has to be able to provide expert in-house or sub-contract installation service. I’ve seen top-quality products ruined by poor installation.
The dealer also has to determine whether to sell a low-cost product, which typically results in lower dollar sales per order and less profit; or to focus on quality and service, thereby increasing profitability. You can’t afford a dissatisfied customer and lots of callbacks.
Remember the old adage: The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price has been forgotten.
Increased sales are the result of effective advertising, excellent referrals and a strong presence in the marketplace.
OFFER THE RIGHT PRODUCT, THE RIGHT SERVICE
Las Vegas, NV
When making the decision to add shutters to your product line, you must confirm that you have the internal resources and product to make you successful. There are many details involved with measuring and installing shutters that can generate profit if they go right, or cost you money if they go wrong. Are you confident that you have good, knowledgeable people who can easily learn how to measure and install shutters? Employees with shutter experience are helpful.
Just as critical as your people are the shutters you sell. Don’t sell second-rate products or you’ll pay for it with problems after the sale. As shutters continue to grow in popularity, expect consumers to become more savvy and knowledgeable about shutters. Most customers who can afford shutters want something that will last forever.
Finally, pick the right wholesale company. Make sure you partner with a company that has a good reputation in the market and good quality products, offers marketing assistance and offers good service.
To increase shutter sales, make sure you have the right product that customers want to buy, the right service that customers deem trustworthy, and the right marketing. If you don’t advertise, you can’t expect to grow your business.
Controlling pricing is another factor in increasing revenues. Too often, shutter companies play the discount game and end up loosing money. Hold your price. We’ve seen many shutter companies go out of business because they discounted their product so low that they couldn’t make any money. If you get caught up in the discount game, you will loose.
Additionally, you may be able to expand your business by hiring regional sales representatives in neighboring cities. Satellite offices can provide added sales efforts without investing too much capital.
UNDERSTAND YOUR TARGET MARKET
Group Product Manager—Wood Springs Window Fashions Div.
Dealers can maximize their profits by adding Graber Traditions™ Shutters to their product offerings. Dealers must understand their target market for shutters: the style-conscious client who is looking for unique solutions, expert advice and expert service. They care about their homes’ look and are willing to pay for the right window treatment. The dealer must provide expert assistance and a reliable, qualified installer to create the fit and finish this discerning client is looking for.
It’s important to understand that shutters add value to a home and satisfy both an aesthetic and functional need. Shutters are an investment that can be included as part of a homeowner’s mortgage, enabling them to pay off their purchase over a period of time. Consumers balance function and value by using wood shutters in the public areas (living and dining rooms), while putting synthetic shutters in private areas (bed and bathrooms).
Graber Traditions shutters are molded, finished and fabricated in Springs Window Fashions facilities. Each step is controlled—from green lumber purchasing through fabrication. We offer the only national Custom Color Match program for wood shutters, exceptional delivery times (wood or synthetic shutters in just 10 to15 business days), a national installation network and dedicated customer service representatives.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Gulf Coast Window Covering
Successful dealers realize that not all shutters are created equal. Before choosing a company from which to purchase shutters from they properly research all of the options available to them and find out how long the company has been in business. They also determine things such as: Are they really a to-the-trade company or do they sell direct to the consumer, thus in effect competing with their dealers? Do they have noticeable features and benefits that can command a profitable sale or are they just looking for the cheapest shutter available to offer to their clientele? What type of turnaround does the manufacturer offer its dealers so their sale dollars are not tied up for weeks on end?
Warranties are also important, but they are only as strong as the company backing them. It does the consumer (and the dealer) no good if a company is not around when it comes time to service the shutters.
We see successful dealers increasing their sales in shutters by really working on what we call the drivers of success: dealers who are not afraid to show a quality product and let it stand on its own merits. Consistent advertising helps bring in the customers and gets the phone ringing. Training on the products provides the knowledge necessary to present and sell shutters confidently. Properly displaying shutters allows the consumer who normally cannot envision a product shown from a paint swatch to see what the product will look like and how it will operate in the home.
Dealers who watch for promotions on products and participate in them when they become available put themselves at an advantage over competitors who may not be participating in these same promotions. Lastly, by starting at the top with a product like shutters, dealers will naturally sell the higher-end products and provide for themselves a more profitable mix of products going through their doors.
OFFER MORE AND BETTER CHOICES
Glen Oak Lumber & Milling
Dealers who want to increase sales of shutters should be aware of the full range of new alternatives in this product category. Increased interest in shutters has prompted visionary manufacturers to go well beyond commodity products and develop unique offerings that meet a wider range of consumer tastes, trends and needs. From specialty shapes with horizontal or fan louvers, to plantation shutters featuring new materials, textures and finishes, shutters can be produced with more options than ever before.
For example, designers and homeowners who want to differentiate their décors with something special now can specify plantation shutters made with solid bamboo components, which provide tropical beauty in addition to privacy and light control. For a southwestern look and feel, shutters can be made with solid basswood that is decoratively textured.
Ever-popular painted shutters can be more easily and affordably made from quality finger-jointed poplar components that insure straightness and stability. A new primer (SB43) successfully blocks bleed-through of wood minerals and colors, and resists mold. The newest PVC shutter components are a premium wood alternative for use in shutters installed throughout the home, including high-moisture areas such as kitchens and baths. They feature a solid core and premium white finish that is installation-ready or can be painted another color if desired. Strong and rigid, they are lighter-weight than components that require metal inserts.
Pioneering new products and product options like these has been the hallmark of Glen Oak Lumber & Milling for 25 years. As a leading developer and producer of better shutter components for the last four, Glen Oak is committed to offering the most complete line of shutter components and shapes available to serve the market’s growing needs.
SELL HIGH-QUALITY PRODUCTS
Norman International® Co.
Santa Fe Springs, CA
The best way to ensure profitable shutter sales is to sell premium-quality shutters, whatever the price point. Nothing impacts a dealer’s ability to close in-home sales and earn referrals more than the quality of the shutters he or she installs. High-quality shutters mean fewer callbacks, happier customers and more time to concentrate on generating new business instead of repair calls. And long after the sale, beautiful shutters stand as a testimony to the dealer’s reputation.
At Norman International Co. we feel the best shutter is the result of innovative design and handcrafting techniques, combined with meticulous control of each step in the manufacturing process. We employ distinctive construction features such as robust mortise-and-tenon joinery instead of other methods that can result in gaps and poor panel closure. We are also the only national shutter manufacturer to use 100 percent quarter-sawn louvers in our Sussex® Shutters for extreme durability. Some of our other unique methods include our Prescription Wood Conditioning™ system, reinforced engineered stiles and our multi-step hand finishing procedure.
Our original sales and sampling tools, combined with sales and installation training, help dealers set themselves apart from their competition. This critical factor supports increased sales and profitability for dealers.
UNDERSTAND THE PRODUCTS YOU SELL
St. Augustine, FL
Dealers should be aware that shutters are expanding beyond their traditional Sunbelt market boundaries. Designers and consumers are embracing shutters as versatile design elements that can express individual taste in styles ranging from traditional to contemporary to the eclectic. These factors indicate unprecedented opportunities for sales growth.
Dealers can reap substantial profits provided they understand the sharp differences among shutter designs, materials, fabrication costs and performance characteristics. ITA’s LaPlaya™ Shutters are exclusively engineered with MikronWood™ XTR, an advanced composite that outperforms wood, vinyl, foams and hybrids in strength, light weight, stiffness and durability. Their special cap stock helps resist damaging moisture, heat and UV rays.
Dealers should also consider the economics of shutter production. MikronWood-based LaPlaya Shutters are easy and economical to fabricate, requiring fewer parts and production steps, no sanding or painting, lower labor costs and less waste. This cost efficiency translates directly into greater pricing flexibility and profitability for dealers.
If dealers evaluate shutters carefully, they will recognize LaPlaya’s superior quality and value, offering all the warmth and beauty of natural wood, plus the easy maintenance and durability of the best composite technology. The profit opportunity is irresistible!
LOOK FOR LONG-TERM COMMITMENT
Long Beach, CA
With 2005 in full swing, Sunland Shutters and PolyCore see the shutter industry continuing to build momentum. Along with the increased consumer demand nationwide and likewise dealer and manufacturing requirements, there has been a steady increase in new dealer inquiries into our shutter products. Many of these dealers have never offered a plantation shutter product, or have offered them in the past, but have discontinued offering these products due to technical complications or a lack of service commitment from their supplier chain. Other dealers have also inquired realizing that there is a need to complement their shutter product lines with a quality, affordable and increased profit margin shutter.
Whether a window covering manufacturer, wholesale dealer or retailer is adding plantation shutters to his or her product line for the first time, expanding the line to include another brand or just taking on a synthetic shutter product, education, sustainable living and technical simplicity are the buzz words for 2005. Homeowners are educating themselves on synthetic and alternative composition types, designs and brand names. Look for a supplier that will offer a statement of customer education, technical support, attentive service and, equally importantly, a long-term market and product commitment on a regional and national level.
Palm Beach™ Custom Shutters
Upper Saddle River, NJ
Do your homework. For the consumer, buying shutters is an investment. This is a higher end product that is expected to be in the window 10 to 15 years and cannot be treated as a shade or blind that might be changed after four to five years. It is similar to buying furniture. So, as a dealer, you should find out what shutter products are available to you and in what materials.
Get educated on the different constructions and materials and their pros and cons and evaluate the manufacturers. Do they offer a complete range of various materials, such as vinyl and wood, and do they have the color range? Do they offer a recognized brand that offers you long-term support or do they only offer a low price? Then, get into an in-depth analysis of the products you think have the right elements for you.
You need to sell the features and benefits. If you start selling a product that does not perform, it will have a very negative impact, as the average sales numbers on shutters are high and claims will hurt your business. Selling a high-end product can be financially rewarding if done right. To do it right, go with a reliable product with comprehensive brand support and be knowledgeable about the product so that you can sell its features and benefits.
DO IT RIGHT
Business Unit Manager, Heritance® hardwood shutters
Upper Saddle River, NJ
Shutters are an incredibly hot window coverings category right now. Combining the
wood, vinyl and composite segments of the shutter industry, we estimate the shutter market at close to $1 billion in retail sales a year. Shutters are time-tested and almost perpetually in vogue, so making the investment to sell shutters is a win-win situation for dealers, but it must be done right.
Dealers need to research which programs will help them maintain and enhance their profitability in a market that is growing and seeing an abundance of low-price position products. Low-price position products mean lower margins, lower service levels and products that come and go.
Dealers should partner with a brand name that consumers know and trust to be there for a lifetime. This creates a sense of security for the consumer and for the dealer as well. After all, they’re staking their business reputations on the products they choose to sell to their customers. Dealers need to differentiate themselves so they can sell features and benefits that focus on what they can uniquely provide—such as excellent service, quality products with quick delivery, premium brand names and exceptional value. This is the platform on which dealers can most effectively increase their profit margins and compete.
The success of Heritance® hardwood shutters tells us that today more and more consumers are recognizing the value in purchasing a brand name product. This product offers a lifetime limited warranty, the shortest lead times in the industry and the training and merchandising support that our select group of authorized dealers need to succeed.