Shutter installations continue to show double-digit increases year over year in every region of the country. As the styles, materials and price range of shutters change, so has the customer’s demand for more education about the options available. So it’s no surprise that more window coverings fabricators are looking to add shutters to their product mix, or to broaden the range of shutter options that they already offer their customers.
But addressing this growing demand in the marketplace is not as
easy as merely selecting a new vendor and offering its product.
Local market fabricators need more than components and price lists.
To be profitable in this industry, they need—and should demand—a
deeper level of support from the shutter component suppliers. They
should be looking for their suppliers to be more than just a vendor.
If you operate a successful window coverings business, then you’re
aware of the challenge: How do you get your suppliers to help you
market their products while they also help you maximize your revenues
and improve your company’s overall profits at the same time?
One way to achieve all of these things is to select suppliers who
genuinely understand your business and are willing to support you
in expanding it, instead of simply selling you product. It would
be useful, for example, if your supplier has actually been in your
shoes, selling and installing window coverings to actual homeowners,
and not just manufacturing and selling components.
In a recent survey conducted by the Thermalite Fabricators Association,
they sought to better understand the biggest frustrations fabricators
face when purchasing from shutter component suppliers around the
country. The consensus was that there are four critical characteristics
that must be present if you’re to enjoy a relationship with
a supplier that’s free of product and support nightmares:
1. You don’t need simply another product vendor.
2. Position yourself alongside leaders and innovators
3. Insist on a step-by-step system for managing your growing operation.
4. Look for turnkey marketing materials
YOU DON’T NEED SIMPLY ANOTHER
There are plenty of shutter component suppliers in this industry.
The truth is that many of them have zero experience actually selling
shutters to the end-users. They have zero experience fabricating
finished custom shutters themselves. And they have zero experience
installing shutters at the customer’s home. Most component
suppliers who claim to have such experience have typically subcontracted
out these installations. So they were never really on the front
lines—with customers—where you live and breathe each
and every day.
The question you want to ask is: Do they have experience as a local
market retailer, a fabricator, and an installer themselves? If they
do, they are in a position to help cut your learning curve down
significantly and help you generate higher profits quickly. If they’ve
“been there, done that,” they can share their own experience
with you. And they can show you evidence of success in contributing
to the growth of other window covering operations like yours.
In fact, look for a supplier who treats you not as a vendor treats
a customer, but one who considers you as a Fabricator Partner.
POSITION YOURSELF ALONGSIDE LEADERS
AND INNOVATORS IN THE INDUSTRY
Select a supplier who’s been leading the shutter industry—and
innovating with new and better products in this industry—for
years. The last thing you need is to be a guinea pig, learning lessons
the hard way from manufacturers who are just learning themselves.
Shutters have gone through a remarkable transformation in the last
few decades, with product and service options that savvy customers
are demanding to know more about. For example, wood shutters have
a tried and tested place in the market. There will always be buyers
who want nothing but wood shutters.
But the truth is, over time, wood shutters will naturally swell,
shrink and crack. Sooner or later, wood shutters will lose tension
and perform poorly. The lacquer-based paint on most wood shutters
is prone to discoloration and, of course, wood is highly flammable.
Alternatives to wood shutters have been gaining increasing market
acceptance in recent years, particularly with the introduction of
Thermalite Shutters into the market in 1988. Thermalite will never
swell, peel, crack or burn, and the water-based painted finish ensures
lifelong true color. In fact, fabricators selling and installing
Thermalite in the United States offer a warranty so strong that
it’s actually transferable to the next homeowner.
So choose a supplier that has considerable experience with its finger
on the pulse of this dynamic industry. In order to distinguish yourself
in a crowded and price-competitive marketplace, make sure the products
you represent meet the quality standards your customers will demand,
and ones that are proven to last longer than others in side-by-side
INSIST ON A STEP-BY-STEP SYSTEM TO
Let’s be frank. Most window coverings suppliers will sell
you their components, invoice you and hope that you will continue
to buy from them with the least amount of effort on their part.
It’s highly unusual for a supplier to provide you with what
you really need: A step-by-step approach for growing—and managing—your
fabricating business. Their interest typically is in selling you
components, not in teaching you how to run a profitable window coverings
So ideally, you want to look for a supplier that’s invested
the time and the resources to develop the systems, and maybe even
the proprietary software, you would need to grow your company. Their
approach would specifically insure better cash flow, more accurate
and easily managed inventory control, and a fabricating system so
precise and predictable, that you’d never have to send materials
back to them. Any system like this should also provide for the fastest
guaranteed delivery times in the industry, setting you apart from
your local competition.
An example of a proven system like this is offered by Danmer Custom
Shutters. It’s called the BEST program, which stands for Business
Expansion Support Team. It’s designed specifically to support
fabricators in increasing revenues and improving overall profitability.
At the core of the step-by-step system is a proprietary software
package called SmartShutter, which actually systematizes any window
coverings business. Producing consistently more efficient operations
and higher profits, SmartShutter features manage:
• Customer Tracking
• Job Tracking
• Scheduling (measuring and installs)
• Inventory and Purchasing
• Sales Commissions and Installer Pay
• Job Pricing
• Accounts Receivable
But make sure your support from a component supplier doesn’t
stop at software. Operational efficiency and reduced costs will
only be as valuable as your ability to sell the product and to install
it satisfactorily. Of course, your supplier will take your call
when you have a problem or question, but if they’re not in
the business of selling to the end user—or in the business
of installing shutters in the home—their support may be negligible.
Danmer’s BEST program, for example, walks you through every
step of growing a shutter business, from A to Z: Sales Training,
Installer Training, Shop Configuration, Marketing, Production, Pricing
. . . everything you need in order to increase your revenues by
up to 400 percent in as little as 18 months.
LOOK FOR TURNKEY MARKETING MATERIALS
Time and time again, the same complaint was heard from window coverings
fabricators in the survey conducted by the Thermalite Fabricators
Association: “The component suppliers in this industry are
all the same” says Bill McConnell of Classic Shutters, Inc.,
Albuquerque, NM, “. . . they all want to sell me components,
but offer very little help in the way of generating leads and closing
Of course, fabricating a quality product and providing consistently
good customer service is important. But you have to have customers
that consistently choose you over your competition to have a growing
business. Make sure that your component supplier helps you develop
marketing materials that set you apart from the competition in your
local area. These materials should include advertising templates
for yellow pages, newspapers, magazines and home show collateral
as well as Web site content, comparison charts and testimonials,
direct mail postcards, fliers, etc.
What you’re looking for is a supplier with rubber-meets-the-road
experience in developing retail marketing plans, generating and
nurturing leads and converting leads to sales. So naturally, it
would be helpful if your supplier had been growing its own retail
operation for years, and has been able to use that experience to
help grow the businesses of several fabricator partners throughout
Whose fault is it when you’re frustrated by suppliers with
a sell-at-all-cost mentality and a not-so-subtle disregard for your
individual needs in growing your window coverings business? We say
it’s the supplier’s fault. They claim to have great
products and support, but do they really deliver? You shouldn’t
have to jump through hoops for your supplier to provide you the
services and support you need to outshine your competitors in your
Danmer Custom Shutters has been designing, building and installing
custom shutters throughout California for 30 years. It also is one
of the founding members of the Thermalite Fabricators Association
and has successfully helped window coverings businesses throughout
the United States and Australia successfully add the Thermalite product
to their window coverings operations. For more information contact
Danmer at (877)738-6700 and visit www.danmer.com