Draperies & Window Coverings tapped the industry’s leading manufacturers and suppliers and found sales increases of 20 percent and more in 2005. Other commonalities: Product innovations make shutters more versatile and installation easier, consumers are willing to pay more for quality they can see and value they understand, and styles and options expand the market for shutters. Perhaps the most important theme seen here is that 2006 looks promising, too.
Here are their replies:
CONSUMERS KNOW, SPEND MORE
At Sunburst Shutters, we have seen an increasing demand for shutters across the country. In fact, our stores report an estimated 20 percent growth in sales in the past year over 2004.
The single biggest factor driving this growth is product quality. Consumers are becoming more informed about shutters and what makes a superior (as well as an inferior) shutter product. They have become discriminating and won’t settle for low-grade materials or substandard workmanship just to save a few hundred dollars.
Consumer education of quality materials and workmanship is driving shutter sales. Companies that can only sell shutters based on price will definitely lose out to companies with quality shutters.
Homeowners realize that shutters add lasting value to their homes, and they will pay a premium for a top-quality product that will truly last forever. High quality, low maintenance and a look that complements any décor are paramount to the consumer’s buying decision. Shutters aren’t just for the high-income families any more. It’s not that prices have dropped, but that customer priorities have changed—they are willing to spend more for top quality.
We have also noticed a growing interest in buying “green” products—materials that don’t destroy our environment. When customers learn that our signature Polywood® shutters are made from a recyclable wood substitute, they have been even more eager to buy.
In order to meet this growing demand, window treatment companies must include a high-quality shutter in their future product mix.
QUALITY, SELECTION INTERRELATED
US Polymers Inc.
ShutterSmart’s business is strong, with year-on-year growth of more than 28 percent.
We find that price, turnaround time, quality and selection all influence the shutter buying decision. As competition gets heavy, price is becoming important. Naturally, we intend to remain highly competitive. Turnaround time is another factor. We’ve reduced ours lead times to seven days.
Quality and selection are interrelated. Selection is important for dealers, but many lower quality products are flooding the market and confusing the homeowner with wood imitations using materials we consider inferior such as fiberboard (MDF). They tend to have poor surfaces and are very heavy, yet fragile.
At ShutterSmart, we keep expanding our offerings but we prefer to stay true to our reputation for quality. We’ve improved our award-winning vinyl-clad wood shutter and introduced a painted and stained wood shutter line. Our wood lines are helping dealers close sales but our true winner is the new ShutterSmart vinyl-clad wood line.
We use solid vinyl cladding over hard poplar wood, producing the most durable shutter combination available today. Our newest design hides all the endcaps and tones down the sheen of the vinyl, making it look identical to wood but with the durability of rigid vinyl. This combination can’t be beat and dealers love our improvements.
CONSUMERS PAY MORE FOR ADDED FEATURES
Executive Vice President
Gulf Coast Window Covering
The demand for vinyl, composite and wood shutters continues to grow and is up approximately 25 percent from 2004. Today’s savvy consumers continue to invest in their homes and demand products that provide a comfort level for their homes.
Price, quality or selection? All of the above! Consumers continue to trend toward a branded, made in the U.S.A. shutter. While price may sometimes be a key factor in the decision-making process, they are willing to pay more for differentiation and the added features a shutter may offer including quality construction, quick turnaround times, decorative frame options, operating configurations and systems, specialty shapes, unique finishes, a strong warranty and retailer/installer professionalism.
The custom shutter collection from Hunter Douglas Window Fashions makes it easier than ever for consumers to find shutters that match their tastes and budgets. Three collections, Heritance® Hardwood Shutters, Palm Beach™ Custom Shutters and new NewStyle™ Hybrid Shutters, each comes with unique and patented features, made in the U.S.A. quality craftsmanship, quick production times and a lifetime limited warranty.
The newest collection, NewStyle Hybrid Shutters, is part of a new class of home furnishings known as affordable luxury. NewStyle shutters combine the great style of wood with the strength, stability and straightness of advanced modern day materials at an economical price point. In addition, the Express NewStyle Program offers the same quality and beauty as NewStyle but with a simplified selection and even faster manufacturing times.
CONSUMERS WANT OPTIONS
Custom Shutter Division Brand Manager
There has been significant demand and growth in all areas of our shutter business over the past year. We have filled Journeyman and ExpoSM training classes and there has been a marked increase in Web site hits where consumers are looking for dealers who sell shutters. We find that arches, French door cutouts and other specialty offerings are particularly strong.
Price and selection all affect the buying decision but more than anything we find that consumers want quality and value for their money. They like to cover all the window shapes and have options, but they need a brand name to back up their investment. Many consumers and dealers also want their products faster now and are not willing to wait the traditional six to eight weeks.
We are also finding that to meet market demand, shutters are becoming more versatile in material. Launched this fall, our NewStyle™ shutters are made of a hybrid material that is priced 35 percent less than our Heritance® hardwood shutter. The award-winning TruView™ rear tilt option also gives a whole new dimension to shutters by removing the tilt bar from the front to blend perfectly in the back. Heritance hardwood shutters offer the ever-popular warmth of real wood, Palm Beach™ shutters are the best alternative for humid environments and NewStyle for those price-sensitive consumers.
NOTHING IS OFF LIMITS
Lafayette Interior Fashions
The demand for custom shutters has definitely seen an increase in recent years. The popularity of faux wood shutters has enabled consumers to use them in areas that may have been “off limits” before. Innovations in shutter materials allow faux wood to stand up to heat and humidity where real wood could not. Consumers are also more interested in home renovation with up-scale products than ever before. Shutters by Lafayette Interior Fashions are able to answer these demands.
The average shutter consumer is looking for a high-quality product with an array of stylish finishes and practical options. Another key to enjoying shutters lies in great service and installation. Installation by a Lafayette professional will ensure the shutters a perfect fit and with complicated upgrades like motorization, a professional will offer the necessary expertise.
Essentially, shutters are “furniture for the window” and are permanent additions to the home, therefore, increasing its value. Shutters provide great light and privacy control, require little maintenance and are versatile in shape, color and texture. Shutters allow the room’s décor to change around them, as they work with any style or taste.
MARKET EXPANDING IN EVERY DIRECTION
Business Unit Manager
Vinylbilt Shutter Systems
The demand for shutters has certainly grown over the past year. This is evident by the influx of shutter products that has entered the marketplace. The market is expanding in every direction as shutters appeal to more consumers, fit more applications and are embraced by more designers than ever before.
Quality and selection are the driving forces behind most consumers’ purchasing decisions. Homeowners always want the latest trend; but more importantly, they want a quality product that will fit their individual styles and needs. Shutters are an investment and consumers want to feel confident that this investment will improve the overall appearance and value of their homes for years to come. Vinylbilt’s Polyresin 3® design is guaranteed to provide beauty, strength and durability by ensuring that the shutter will not warp, chip, peel, crack or fade.
Consumers are also responding to a more extensive shutter selection. The development of fresh colors, new frame styles, larger louver sizes and unique design options, such as Vinylbilt’s Clearview option, has increased the versatility of shutters.
Dealers and designers have also played a key role in the marketing of shutters. Product enhancements, greater profitability and valuable training programs have made dealers and designers more motivated to sell shutters. As quality, selection and product knowledge continue to improve; the shutter market will maintain healthy growth.
SHUTTERS MOVE TO MAINSTREAM
Shutters have indeed moved beyond traditional Sunbelt markets and into the mainstream of taste. Fueling this growing popularity is the search by consumers and decorators for ways to express individual style in their choices of window treatments. They are moving away from monolithic fashion dogma and embracing a wider range of window treatment options. The quality, diversity and uniqueness of shutters today enable consumers to make a definitive, individualistic design statement in any room in the house.
Another driver behind the shutter explosion is the advent of advanced composite technology, as represented by the LaPlaya® Shutters. These shutters are engineered with MikronWood™ XTR, a durable, solid-core composite, plus a specially hardened PVC cap stock. This technology makes them exceptionally strong, light and stiff, with high resistance to moisture, heat and UV rays.
They also keep their beautiful appearance for years with minimal maintenance. This easy maintenance factor enables LaPlaya Shutters to conform easily to modern lifestyles that can be on one hand casual and carefree, or on the other, hurried and time-pressed.
All together, these characteristics make LaPlaya Shutters extremely versatile, able to retain their beauty and performance in environments as varied as elegant living rooms, moisture-prone kitchens and baths, and even the garage. Evidently, the broader the range of suitable applications, the more expansive is the market for this window treatment.
Just as important is the ease of fabrication built into LaPlaya Shutters. Because they are fabricator-friendly, it is easier to bring them into a greater variety of markets at attractively low prices while remaining profitable. They are thus seen as an affordable alternative for a wider demographic range of consumers.
Finally, shutters today are now available in a wider range of decorative styles and colors than ever before, and thus become attractive to more designers in their perpetual search for elegance, fashion and value.
QUALITY BECOMES NO. 1
Shutter Product Manager
Comfortex Window Fashions
Demand continues to grow rapidly as shutters gain popularity in regions where demand has historically been minimal. Most notably the Northeast and Midwest.
Price is always the customer’s initial concern; however, once the consumer is educated on the value of quality workmanship and various features they better understand what they are paying for, and then quality becomes No. 1.
In order of importance at the time of sale:
• Quality (Because shutters are so expensive, consumers must feel they are getting what they are paying for.)
New application-specific attachment methods that cater to architecture in various regions of the country are an important innovation making shutters more versatile and marketable, as are new frames (face mount) and methods that make installation easier. Our units come ready for quick easy installation (magnets, hinges, etc. come pre-attached)
A recognized brand name—one known for quality—makes dealers more comfortable selling the product, and lifetime warranties make the consumer more comfortable.
CONSUMERS MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS
The demand for shutters has increased every year since 1995, which was the year we began to fabricate the Sonesta Shutter. This year will be the strongest sales year we have ever had at Vista Products and 2006 looks promising.
The price of shutters will always be a factor, but by combining quality, service, production time and education along with competitive pricing seems to reflect that today’s customer wants to make an informed decision on which company they will purchase from. At Vista Products we have an entire shutter department that is designed to service and help educate customers from start to finish.
Our hidden tilt bar feature, Cleartilt, has risen in popularity over the last few years. This feature provides an unobstructed view, cleaner lines and a more modern look to a classic product. Our seamless louvers have now eliminated all caps to louver lines and provide that wood look on the overall product.
The vinyl Sonesta Shutter has many marketable and versatile features such as being completely waterproof and totally fire retardant. This allows our shutters to be placed in areas never thought possible. This also means safety and piece of mind for our customers, the owner of a commercial establishment, or the residential homeowner.
Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Demand for shutters has absolutely grown from just last year! We have seen double-digit sales increases for the last four years running with no signs of a slow-down. We feel that industry-wide increases in shutter sales are due to shutters being viewed as the only window covering that results in home value appreciation. Consumers are looking for high-quality products, professional service, selection and value in their shutter investments. More often than not, their search leads them to Norman Shutters because of our unique product quality attributes, which include quarter-sawn louvers, mortise-and-tenon joinery, Prescription Wood Conditioning™, engineered stiles and our labor-intensive hand finishing process. Trade and consumer customers recognize the matchless quality, durability and long-term value inherent in a Norman Shutters investment.
When it comes to shutters price, quality and selection are all important. Shutters are considered a long-term investment that will be part of the home for years to come. So customers want to ensure that the shutters they select will add value far into the future. At Norman Shutters, we offer shutters at more price levels, with numerous features and levels of customization. This provides more choices in price, quality and selection from which homeowners can make their important shutter purchasing decision.