Hunter Douglas, Upper Saddle River, NJ, pulled out all the stops in organizing and presenting an unprecedented event that brought together 3,000 Hunter Douglas aligned retail dealers from around the world, fabricators, select marketing partners, company management and product brand teams all under one roof at the same time.
The Hunter Douglas International Alliance Conference was held July 25 to 27 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver after many months of planning. It was a first-ever event for the company and featured inspirational company-lead sessions on innovation and a host of new product introductions; renowned speakers covering technology trends, retail trends and color trends; and a 92,000-square-foot exhibition space displaying the full line of Hunter Douglas products including many scheduled for fall 2007 introductions and tabletop displays from service providers. Draperies & Window Coverings magazine attended the conference as an industry service provider. In all, more than 4,000 people were in attendance.
“This was an industry first. Never before has Hunter Douglas or any other window covering company brought together such a large and extraordinary gathering of retail dealer talent to learn and grow together,” said Marv Hopkins, Hunter Douglas president and CEO. “The breadth of new products displayed—some of the most promising and significant we’ve introduced in many years—as well as the exceptional marketing and merchandising programs and other business-building tools presented was unprecedented. The celebrated speakers also provided many stimulating ideas for business and for life.”
The conference officially opened with a presentation entitled “Innovation,” hosted by Jeff Janke, vice president, retail alliance programs. The morning’s presentation included an official welcome by The Honorable John W. Hickenlooper, mayor of Denver, and an address from Hopkins about how innovation defines Hunter Douglas as a company. The bulk of the day’s program was led by Joe Jankoski, vice president, corporate merchandising, who was joined onstage by several brand managers to review the many upgrades and new features that have been engineered into product lines.
On Thursday afternoon General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) gave the conference keynote address, sharing his insights on leadership and his vision for tomorrow. Powell is a polished, entertaining and inspirational speaker who often reminded those in attendance of the things that are right in America and implored his audience not to let America’s greatness fade.
As the conference began to conclude Friday afternoon Jim Mathews, vice president corporate marketing, spoke with attendees on the goal of ensuring every customer has a satisfying experience shopping, working and living with Hunter Douglas dealers and products. The session was titled, “Together A New Opportunity.”
Other conference speakers included Daniel Burrus, referred to by The New York Times as one of America’s top three business gurus, who talked about how retailers can prepare for trends that are a reality, not a passing fad, such as the predominance of technology is today’s world and the convergence of four generations in the workforce. In an exclusive, one-on-one interview, Burrus explained that knowledge increases in value when it is shared. “When I share an idea with you and you share an idea with me, we both are smarter,” he said. To illustrate this point, he said to imagine a dark room. A single candle will not shed much light, but if it is used to light another candle, then those candles each light other candles and so on, the room is soon brightly illuminated.
Michelle Lamb, leading design expert and senior editor of The Trend Curve™ newsletter, explained how design trends have increasingly shorter life spans and how fashion and home now influence each other, rather than home following fashion. She highlighted upcoming design and color trends, explaining how neutrals are becoming increasingly important along with eco-influenced décor. She called it Eco-Chic, saying it is a huge movement that isn’t going away.
George Whalin, president and CEO of Retail Management Consultants, discussed the future of retail and provided easily implemented ideas to help dealers keep their businesses ahead of the curve and better serve tomorrow’s customers. He said retail winners build strong customer relationships, create dynamic retail environments and leverage expertise and knowledge.
A key element to the entire conference was the Hunter Douglas product line, and in particular the introduction of several new products scheduled for fall release—more new products introduced at one time than ever in its history, the company states.
The exhibit hall featured large, room-size booths displaying the company’s entire line of products. An array of marketing, merchandising and education programs also was showcased. Taking top billing was the new Pirouette® window shadings—a new concept that incorporates some of the most successful functions from other lines. With fabric vanes and a sheer backing Pirouette looks and operates somewhat like Silhouette®, but the fabric vanes can create a soft outward fold much like a Roman shade and can be raised or lowered this way. The top and bottom of each vane can shift closer together to allow light to filter through the sheer fabric, or can be closed into a flattened position for complete light control and privacy.
Other product highlights included the national launch of the Skyline™ gliding window panels engineered to require only a two-channel headrail; the introduction of Platinum Technology, which combines infrared and radio frequency motorization control for battery-powered and hard-wired window treatments; top-down/bottom-up design for Vignette® Modern Roman Shades; new consumer Web site features to view products in room-settings; and new, larger vane sizes for products in several lines along with new sampling.