D&WC: Please give a detailed description of your company and its history.
Israel "Izzy" Levy: My career in the window coverings industry began by working for LouverDrape Canada. When it folded operations in Canada in 1988, I went on to establish a locally based manufacturing business specializing in architectural window shades, skylight and solarium systems, and motorized blinds.
We were among the first Canadian manufacturers to use a curved rail to manufacture arched blinds. Before long manufacturers and designers in the Toronto area knew us as the place to come to with their challenges.
Using the knowledge gained through my experiences I patented the CSS Universal Headrail, the first specifically designed to address the motorization of all lift systems for window coverings, both hard and soft. This headrail system is being used in the United States and Canada by numerous fabricators to produce their motorized products.
Armed with this new system, and recognizing the incredible growth potential of the motorized market, I established Concord Shading Systems Inc. Our mission is to provide window coverings professionals and fabricators across North America with superior products.
The plant is located in Concord, Ontario, just outside of Toronto, Canada's largest city. While I started with a 1,000-square-foot unit, the company has gone through several moves and expansions and is set again to expand in response to additions to our production capabilities.
Concord Shading Systems' commitment to fair pay and a positive work environment keeps staff turnover well below the industry standard. This means that the training and knowledge of experience stays with the company.
Today Concord Shading Systems is fast becoming known in North America as a leader in motorization with the ability to successfully tackle the most challenging windows. We have photo archives of jobs done to cover just about every size, shape or angle of window. A full 85 percent of business is derived from some facet of motorization, with the balance being manual specialty blind work.
D&WC: Who are your customers? What parts of the country do you service?
Levy: The present consumer base consists of 45 percent distribution through retailers and design professionals, 35 percent conversion for other manufacturers and 20 percent wholesale of the CSS Universal Headrail to other fabricators for their own production.
Concord Shading Systems has a strong and well established presence in the southern Ontario market. The company manufactures its CSS Universal Headrail system in many areas of Canada and the United States. Concord also has designers and retailers selling the products throughout North America.
D&WC: Is your business computerized?
Levy: Concord has an established Web presence, and an expansion for our Web site is planned for this month. While keeping current on the automation within the order processing area of the business, the nature of the company's product demands well-trained staff manually assessing, interpreting and producing the highly individualized products.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
Levy: Up to the early 1990s, the motorization option for window coverings was still in the domain of the elite. Talking with designers and retailers often brought the same response as questioning the general public. "Ridiculous," "unnecessary," "it will never work, customers just won't pay for that kind of excess" were pretty typical answers.
Customer expectations have changed and refined a lot in the last 10 years. There is the ever-present influence of the Baby Boomers, many with mortgages paid and kids grown, who now are turning their discriminating eyes to the home environment. Young professionals and families, with life becoming more stressful and frantic, are putting a higher value on the quality of their down time and embrace products to simplify their environment.
People now are willing to pay for the convenience that motorization offers: to operate a blind 20 feet up without the use of pulleys or poles, to lift an entire bank of blinds with the flip of a switch, to have the blinds raise and lower by timer or climate control.
While few people have reached the echelons of a Bill Gates and his reportedly space age, visitor tracking, electronically controlled home, the industry is seeing the beginning of the trend to home automation this represents. There are many people who want their blinds to open and close on schedule. People who want to know that, should a strong wind come up unexpectedly when no one is home, their $3,000 awning will be safely retracted. People who love the view, but want a sun sensor to eliminate sun damage to carpets and furnishings. These are some of the examples of how the new technology in window coverings is expanding customers' options.
There is also a new standard in home construction and renovation with many homes being built with unique windows such as soaring triangular, arch and A-frame windows, skylights and solariums. The industry has had to adapt and innovate both motorized and manual products and applications to cover these challenging windows without destroying the drama they display.
D&WC: What best describes your niche in the marketplace?
Levy: Designers, decorators, retailers and architects come to Concord Shading knowing we will offer a high-quality, reliable solution for their clients' needs. We offers suggestions, give wiring or installation advice, and helps customers make the right choices.
While offering a full range of finished products for retail suppliers, many clients use our conversion program, sending us their product for motorization or specialty conversion.
Small manufacturers like to know they can give their clients motorization on an as-needed basis by sending their goods for conversion. Those manufacturers wishing to enter the motorization market on a more consistent level like the versatility of our Universal Headrail System, and stock an inventory for their own use.
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Levy: We find that a focus on quality, flexibility and willingness to adapt to clients' wishes on every level has been a key factor in our growth and success and represents one of Concord's greatest strengths. While there are many large companies offering motorization, they cannot and do not offer the detail and flexibility necessary. At Concord we approach every job as a unique challenge and search for its unique solution.
To nervous window covering professionals approaching motorization for the first time, we advise a relaxed but cautious approach. Many people still are scared by new technology, but the truth is that motorized window coverings are far from rocket science. Work with a knowledgeable company willing to offer good information and support.
The key to success will be detail. Size, shape and angle are joined by control options, power source and application weight. The biggest difficulty usually becomes finding an electrician that believes you know what you are talking about.
Concord shading systems Inc.
30 Pennsylvania Ave., Unit 5
Concord, Ontario, Canada L4K 4A5
Fax: (905) 660-0971