Roger Woodhour: Known to many industry veterans as General Clutch Corp., RollEase has been solely dedicated to developing proprietary window covering operating systems for the better part of the last two decades. Founded in 1978, research and development was the company's primary focus. In 1981, after dabbling in the business machine industry for a few years, General Clutch found a home for its proprietary technology in the window coverings industry.
The debut of the "RollEase" clutch system was considered revolutionary. The bi-directional wrap spring clutch technology developed in the early days remains the building block of the RollEase product line. With more than 30 patents in-house, RollEase remains the only company today solely dedicated to the design and development of window covering operating systems.
Today, RollEase (the name officially changed from General Clutch Corp. in 1995) is owned by the British firm, Gartland Whalley and Barker plc (GWB) headquartered in Halifax, England. GWB specializes in building industrial groups with complementary businesses that are often market leaders in their own niche. GWB acquired RollEase from its original founders in September 1997 and left the management team in place.
We're very unique. Every one of our systems has been designed, manufactured and patented by us. Our proprietary technology coupled with our skilled management team has led to our success. Serving well over 3,000 customers worldwide has demanded that we stay focused and driven.
D&WC: What window covering products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
Woodhour: Out of the initial clutch design in 1981 for roller shade applications, RollEase has expanded its product line to include systems for mini-blinds, pleated and cellular shades, two-inch horizontal blinds, soft shades, contract roller shades and motorization for all product categories.
Roller shade clutches for a wide variety of applications remain our core product representing a large portion of the business while the newer product categories are growing as market trends dictate. The wood blind system for example is doing extremely well both domestically and internationally. The mono-control system provides fabricators, consumers and retailers a solution for lifting wood blinds that are too heavy and too difficult to lift with a traditional cord lock. The RollEase patented clutch allows for a three-to-one mechanical advantage making wood blinds feel lighter and lift easier.
At the International Window Covering Expo in Baltimore, MD, this year, we unveiled a comprehensive line of roller shade components designed specifically for the contract market. The RollEase contract series features quality engineered components for manual and motorized shade systems including blackout, bowed window and skylight applications. With the advent and popularity of sun screen roller shade fabrics it was time for RollEase to introduce an architectural grade shade operating system with the quality and flexibility our customers need for commercial roller shade solutions.
D&WC: What is your approximate sales volume?
Woodhour: RollEase has maintained growth in excess of 20 percent a year for the past five years and forecasts that upward trend to continue in future years based on its steady introduction of new products and penetration of new market segments, both domestically and internationally.
D&WC: What are the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Woodhour:I wouldn't single out any one particular strength, however, there are three key factors that I believe have been significant to our success and growth. These strengths are our proprietary technology, our customer relationships and our management team.
Each one has played a key role and all three remain closely integrated. We have the engineering talent and technology to continue innovating. We maintain patent-protection on nearly our entire product line. We emphasize our customers' needs and requirements above all else. Lastly, we continue to build a qualified and dedicated management team that adds immediate value to the company.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
Woodhour: In three words: quality, service and commitment. All of our systems comprise quality engineered components constructed of state-of-the-art plastics. All mechanical components are thermally stabilized to eliminate any functional variability due to operational or environmental effects. Systems and components are put through rigorous life-testing before they reach the market.
In addition to our product quality other distinguishing factors include: our commitment to providing exceptional service, technical support, stock on demand and fast and cost-effective shipping. And finally, we are able to focus our resources on operating systems without distraction or diversion.
D&WC: Who are your customers?
Woodhour:Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of RollEase is that we serve all segments of the domestic and international window coverings industry. Our diverse customer base has required us to maintain a broad-based and ambitious sales and marketing plan that targets all customer groups.
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Hunter Douglas, Springs, Newell and Comfortex are a significant part of our customer base as are retailers and manufacturers such as Country Curtain, JC Penney, Rue de France, Handler Textile and Burling- ton House.
While OEMs maintain a healthy portion of our business, independent and regional fabricators are the fastest growing segment, by percentage, of our business. These fabricators are becoming more resourceful, responsive and aggressive in marketing their products. We are eager to grow our business along with theirs by offering them the solutions they need.
In addition to OEMs and fabricators, we continue to market our products and systems to workrooms, architects, interior designers and even indirectly to consumers. Our ultimate definition of success would be when the consumer creates the demand for our products at the retail level. One of our greatest challenges has been educating retailers, sales assistants and consumers about the availability, features and benefits of our operating systems.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
Woodhour:The level of sophistication in our business today versus the early '80s is dramatic. Computerization, technology and automation have affected just about every aspect of it.
Customer service has improved greatly. We offer real time inventory control, order entry, automated production and on-time shipping. Our goal is that orders are placed and leave our building within 24 hours.
Our engineering capabilities have changed dramatically since the company's inception. Today, the RollEase engineering department consists of a team of highly qualified and trained engineers who specialize in the design of plastic components. Engineering work stations consist of state-of-the-art 3-D solid design modeling systems that enable RollEase to generate prototypes within 48 hours.
What all this translates into is a swift and highly efficient design and manufacturing process. We are able to react to our customer's needs and assist them in the early stages of new product development. Technology has allowed us to shorten our design and manufacturing process, which in turn gives both our customers and ourselves a competitive advantage.
Our recently launched Web site, www.rollease.com, launched initially because everybody needs a Web site these days, has turned out to be a surprising source of leads. Averaging 15 to 20 qualified leads a week since May with very little advertising, has been a bonus. The site also accelerates our selling cycle, especially internationally because customers don't have to wait for information or specifications. Most everything our customers need is on our site.
D&WC: Where do you see yourself and your company five years from now?
Woodhour: With the rapid pace of evolution taking place in product, technology and marketing within the window coverings industry, as well as at RollEase, we see a promising future for the company.
Essentially we are targeting RollEase to increase appreciably its market share in operating systems by becoming the standard rather than the option. While cord locks maintain a large share of the market it is our aim to chip away at it. We will continue our development of new, unique, innovative and proprietary systems to operate the window coverings of the future.
RollEase is a supplier of components and, as such, I see the expansion of that role to include related operating and fabrication components that are being developed throughout the world today for use by the industry tomorrow. RollEase intends to have available to its broad customer base a wide range of operating and fabrication components that will continue to add efficiency, value and profit to their businesses.
200 Harvard Ave.
Stamford, CT 06902
fax: (203) 964-0513