Then we thought, "Why not? Why can't a professional interior designer learn the exterior trade?" You can and by doing so increase business and profits. Here is how and why.
You are called to a customer's home for any of a few different reasons: a referral, a response to a yellow pages advertisement, an Internet inquiry, return work, etc. You go to the house with the intention to sell the owners something. Sell them draperies, vertical blinds, mini-blinds, wood blinds, shutters, etc. Now you also have the option of selling an exterior window covering. There is no reason why you should walk out the door without some kind of window treatment order -- on the inside or the outside.
"Very often, we'll get an awning lead from one of our awning advertisements, either yellow pages or newspaper, and end up selling draperies or blinds instead!" says Sylvia Faras, part owner of Century Interiors, the San Jose, CA, company mentioned above. "With the thousands of dollars our clientele is spending on expensive draperies and carpets, a window canopy sometimes is our only alternative to protect them from fading," she says.
Not only will window canopies help with the sun, but with rain. With the ominous El Nino rain predictions this year, many high-priced wood doors, window frames and flooring may be ruined without the protection of some sort of exterior window covering.
Measuring, Selling and Installing
Interior decorating professionals have been measuring windows for years -- inside to inside, outside to outside, molding to molding. These are the same tactics used in measuring for window canopies with only a few hindrances -- exterior lighting and top clearances are the main obstacles to look for.
With the proper sales tools, you don't have to be a professional awning dealer -- or hire one -- to be successful at selling awnings. Most of the time, if you have sold customers interior products and they were pleased with the outcome, they will trust your know-how on an exterior application if the situation arises.
Most residential installations can be handled by the same person who is doing your installations now. Usually, the only difference is the sizes of the screw used to mount each hanger and the fact that the stepladder may have to be exchanged for one of the six-foot variety. The lightweight nature of the new styles of aluminum-framed fabric window canopies make most installations a one- or two-person job. When installing the heavier retractable patio cover models, two to four people per crew may be necessary for lifting.
The other option is to find an awning installer. In most cases, installers can be found through the classified advertisements in local newspapers and can be hired at a per-job rate. Product and Price
Unlike the window canopies of old, the new high-tech awnings of the present not only have curb appeal from afar, but are a pleasure to look at from the inside. With a uniform powder-coated finish on all parts and extrusions, the consumer won't look out the window at the rusting, chipping frame of the past. And with the hundreds of choices in fabric styles and colors, interior decorators will be very familiar with the process of choosing a covering. Whether it is chosen to match or contrast with wood trim, stucco color, existing draperies or blinds, the retailer will have the exciting challenge of finding the proper look.
The price per unit on the retractable window canopies vary with size and shape, so the costs are very similar compared to what the consumer would be spending on the inside of the house. Remember, this new style of window canopy is not the thrown together, ugly duckling the consumer is used to seeing or buying. "Many times, when a customer of mine is weighing out what they can get in window canopies compared to interior coverings, they're shocked to see they're getting more for their dollar when choosing exterior treatments," says Marc Linkjendal, Ivan's Blinds and More, Palm Desert, CA.
Take the opportunity to add to your business with a product that will make it grow. Energy savings, cost-effectiveness, quality manufacturing and beautiful styling are all advantages of offering your own line of exterior retractable window canopies and patio covers.
Michael Chiovare is sales manager for Elegant Awnings, El Monte, CA.