Draperies & Window Coverings asked several industry leaders, "What consumer trends will have the most important impact on the window coverings and interior fashion industry in the year ahead?" Here are their repsonses:
We are excited by the outlook for the year ahead and the growing trend that made 1996 such a success for ADO. We call it casual elegance. It may have begun when business people decided to dress casually on Fridays. The Friday mood is expressed in the easy fit and preppy cut of sportswear. It differs from athletic wear, for a subtle touch of elegance is evident in the muted colors and the soft drapeability of classic easy-care fabrics.
Casual elegance in interiors means fewer sculptured and contrived window treatments, fewer stiff formal fabrics and more color freedom. Orders are booming for our new lighter-weight Decors and for our sheerer sheers, especially those with soft metallic accents. Today's fabrics are super pliable, never bunchy. They can be tossed casually across a wood pole or shirred lavishly to veil and soften light while giving visual shelter and privacy to the casually elegant humans inside.
Even hard window coverings are being softened with products such as ADOwrap -- where the vanes of vertical blinds are softly wrapped with seamless fabrics. In any event, casual elegance is the direction to look toward in 1997.
Better Answers for Consumers
On-Site Drapery Cleaning & More
Hayden Lake, ID
Consumers have always asked window specialists how they can keep their newly installed window coverings clean and new. Up until now the answers have been very unsatisfactory -- either vacuum them or, if they are removable, take them to the dry cleaner.
We all know that neither solution is optimum. Vacuuming only removes surface dirt and in-plant dry cleaning often results in damaged or shrunken draperies.
Fortunately there is now an effective, fast and safe process for cleaning draperies, fabric window shadings and literally any other window treatment right in the customer's home or office. This on-site equipment uses a dry cleaning method that can be guaranteed against damage and shrinkage -- a huge advantage over traditional in-plant dry cleaning and infinitely more effective than vacuuming.
As consumers become more savvy and learn of this new cleaning method, they will be looking for the people who can supply the service. Why should expensive window coverings be replaced just because they are dirty or because the consumer is afraid to remove them or take them to the dry cleaner?
Window covering specialists who offer this service will be in big demand and will discover that there actually is more profit in the maintenance of window treatments than in their creation and installation. An added bonus is that, when it does come time to order new window treatments, their customers will think of them first.
A Total Texture Story
director of advertising and communications
Hunter Douglas Window Fashions
Upper Saddle River, NJ
First and foremost, consumers today yearn for comfort and a more casual lifestyle, which is reflected in the home of the late 1990s. Decorating now isn't about status or impressing others. It is about comfort and satisfying oneself -- creating a comfortable environment in which to entertain, work and live. People increasingly long for a cozy retreat from the rigors of a tough world and are seeking innovative ways to be good to themselves and feel good in their homes.
We see this expressed in a yearning for the tactile. That's why Hunter Douglas created innovative new textured fabric vanes for its Silhouette® window shadings. Silhouette Toujours[TM], a linen weave, and Silhouette Naturelle[TM], a crinkly weave, bring a subtle textural dimension to these window coverings products. Even classic products such as aluminum blinds are wearing a plush new finish called SoftSuede[TM]
To improve upon the Roman shade of old, Hunter Douglas created Vignette[TM] window shadings with sleek lines, easy operation and new seersucker and linen-weave fabrics that appeal to the more casual approach to design and living in the home. Combined with new decorative options for Country Woods blinds, it's a total texture story.
The Time-pressed Family
senior vice president of sales and marketing
Springs Window Fashions Division
Although there still are 24 hours in a day, families are feeling more and more pressed by lifestyle demands. Because there is never enough time to manage everyday necessities, consumers are interested in design sources that are convenient and efficient. Interest has skyrocketed in cable television and Internet shopping. Shop-at-home presentations perfect that concept by bringing actual samples directly into the home. Although new technology such as CD-ROM catalogs are helpful, people still need to review removable sample decks for color and texture in their home's natural environment. Window covering professionals can minimize the consumer's stress and confusion by preparing customized presentations that unify the home with a consistent style -- something that is easily overlooked by busy families.
Another fundamental aspect of time-pressed families is a strong interest in remodeling. Lifestyle changes, such as people working and exercising more at home, are shaping the future of remodeling. Space must be used efficiently and designed with flexibility in mind. Growth in consumer remodeling also is popular because in many cases it makes good financial sense. The National Association of Home Builders Remodelers' Council reports the average rate of return on a minor kitchen remodel is 105 percent.
Lastly, time-pressed families want information that is quick, easy and on their terms. Window coverings professionals should consider links to local real estate sites on the World Wide Web to help new home buyers discover their services. Or consider purchasing cable television air time at the end of a local real estate show.
So go ahead and get creative, showcase your expertise in design, measuring and installation. Time-pressed families will appreciate the value and convenience you add to their lifestyles.
Cyberspace Impacts Business
BTX Window Automation, Inc.
The ongoing bombardment of cyberspace news and messages could well have a massive impact on your business. Not only in the way you manage using new communications technology, but also how and to whom you sell. Even more important, in the long run, are the products you will be selling. The human ability to change and accept new lifestyles and new conveniences is tremendous. Within three years after the Berlin Wall crumbled, more than 60 percent of East German households had VCRs with Western movies. Fax machines, mobile telephones and the Internet are impressive examples of quick change.
Window coverings are a traditional industry in which we have had relatively few technological advances. The control of natural light is the orphan in modern architecture. All this may well change as technology becomes available and the home and office environment catches up with current technology standards.
Audio and video systems lead the way in these technological advances, with home automation and artificial light control following closely. It is plausible that the feeble start in window automation will rapidly gain momentum as architects, designers and the informed consumer catch the technology and comfort wave. Automated systems for practically all window coverings products now are available from easy-to-install single units to completely integrated home automation and building management controlled macro systems. In dealing with a technological product in a sophisticated consumer market, it is important to ALIGN with the right supplier to position your business for this growth market and be ready for the wave!
Colors, Safety, Variety
Comfortex is focusing its resources to address three specific consumer trends that we believe will be important issues in 1997. The first is a growing consumer demand for a wider range of neutral colors in alternative window coverings, especially in the beige and buttery cream families. In anticipation that this trend will continue to grow, Comfortex is expanding its entire cellular and pleated shade line to include a wide range of neutrals and pale colors. Additionally, we are adding a number of new tone-on-tone patterns that will add a note of life and interest to any neutral background.
The second trend we see with consumers is a greater awareness of the safety aspects associated with window coverings products. In greater numbers consumers are beginning to seek out products that will provide enhanced levels of safety and security from child accidents. Comfortex has been developing a number of safety features for its expanding line of products, and we plan to offer consumers a wide range of safety options that will not detract, but rather enhance fashion and design features.
The third consumer trend is toward more product innovation and variety. Consumers are becoming more educated and are not only demanding quality and value, but also variety, ingenuity and fashion creativity. Innovation always has been a hallmark of Comfortex. In 1997, however, we plan to add more new products and product options to our marketing basket than ever before. Additionally, we expect to address the growing demand for differentiation and personal expression through selection and choices of a wide variety of products that can provide both function and style in new and unique ways.