Everyone who is in retailing knows how brutally competitive it has become. Add to that equation the reality associated with the custom window covering category:
• Product line complexity
• Consumer confusion
• High price points
• Required value added services
Clearly, we are participating in a very demanding and unique business.
So what strategies should we consider to ensure we continue to enjoy
profitable success in 2006? The hardest thing to do is to change
what we do. Why tamper with a formula that has been delivering years
of success? The old adage “Don’t fix a wheel that is
not broken” is often the norm. Although that may be a true
statement for a wheel, it is not a true statement for a business.
Businesses don’t break down in one day. It happens over a
prolonged period of time almost invisibly. History has shown that
strong businesses have failed because they did not keep pace with
the competitive world.
Make no mistake about it; we are all competing for the consumers’
disposable income. By definition we compete against retailers who
sell electronics, clothing, travel and landscaping as much as we
compete amongst ourselves. The question is, Has your business kept
pace with those other businesses that are fighting for a piece of
that consumer’s wallet?
AN HONEST CHECKUP
Sometimes we are too close to our own business to evaluate it objectively.
I would suggest you start 2006 by giving your company an honest
I would encourage you to take a long hard look in the mirror and
evaluate your business proposition.
1. Is it time to give your store a real make-over? Consider replacing
all sample blinds that are more than two years old. Consider broadening
the number of product categories you display. (Consumers will never
buy a product that they don’t know exists!)
Do not display products with standard controls because consumers
already know that pulling a cord will raise a blind. Consider displaying
unique operating systems like Hunter Douglas UltraGlide®, LiteRise®
and PowerGlide® control options.
But don’t stop there: consider changing the store layout using
totally new display systems, add lighting, a new floor and improve
your outdoor signage.
2. Have you leveraged the power of your satisfied and loyal customers?
To do so, you need an updated database of your past customers. If
you already have a list, start making it work harder for you. The
effort will keep you and your business from blending into the vast
3. Do you have a formal 2006 business plan? Now is the time to sit
down and create it. It does not need to be complicated. Start by
documenting what it will cost you to run your business in 2006.
Then determine how much business you need to write to cover your
expenses. Create monthly sales expectations for next year using
2005 as a base. How many customers do you need to sell to each month?
What is your targeted dollar transaction amount per order?
Review your profit margins by product category. Review the marketing
plans you ran in 2005, which worked, which failed, why? Plan the
work and work the plan.
4. Strengthen your weakest links. Analyze the current skill set
of every salesperson and installer on your team. Identify the areas
that need improvement and arrange to provide them with the support
that is necessary to raise the service levels associated with your
At the end of the day, it is your service package that separates
your business from the other businesses selling similar products
in your market.
Take the steps now to better control your own destiny and make 2006
the best ever.
Joe Jankoski is corporate vice president of merchandising for
Hunter Douglas, Upper Saddle River, NJ. He has 32 years in the window
covering industry, the past 17 with Hunter Douglas.