D&WC: Please give a detailed description of your company and its history.
Richard Hendrick: My wife, Valerie, and I started The Gilded Goose in 1984. Valerie had a previous career in merchandising in a large department store, and I had a background in bank marketing. Our business is one that allows for low overhead expenses that would make Sam Walton envious. Warehouse space is rented on a short-term basis as needed to accommodate seasonal fluctuations or large initial orders.
All manufacturing and packaging are jobbed out on a piece rate basis.
D&WC: What window coverings products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
Hendrick: The very first product was a small, wooden heart pushpin that was made to utilize scrap wood from the craft business.
Our best craft customer also was the owner of a curtain shop and offered to show our product at the Boston Curtain & Drapery Show. The orders started to pour in. In no time at all, we went from hand cutting wooden hearts one at a time to out-sourcing them in quantities of 5,000 to 10,000 pieces per order.
The next products introduced were painted wooden tiebacks and hand-painted custom window cornices. This product mix thrived through the '80s and into the early '90s. Then there was a dramatic shift in the market.
We quickly rebuilt our product line with decorative pushpins and tiebacks in die cast metal, glass acrylic, pottery and hydrastone, all of which are made in the United States from suppliers located no more than one hour from our warehouse/distribution center.
We no longer manufacture cornices, and wooden tiebacks now account for less than five percent of our business. We now have more than 450 items in our modular drapery tieback line that cuts the spectrum from traditional middle market tastes to high-end, hand-pressed lead crystal.
D&WC: What is your approximate sales volume? What was it after your first year in business?
Hendrick: Our drapery hardware sales volume the first year of business was approximately $10,000. Our primary source of income at that time was from the craft business. This year we are targeting $1 million in wholesale hardware sales.
D&WC: Is your business computerized?
Hendrick: Our business is computerized with a 486 computer and a DOS billing system. This $60 program is far superior to any Windows program currently available. It takes very little "horsepower" to push numbers around, and you don't make money "playing office with computers." In other words, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."
We do not have a Web site due to the fact 90 percent of our sales are from major retailers, mom and pop curtain and drapery stores and workrooms. Additionally, we feel we are in a highly visual industry that requires a good color catalog at the very least. We urge even those customers who do not stock our product to carry a small sampling of tiebacks for visual demonstration of our finish and quality.
D&WC: Who are your customers? What parts of the country do you service?
Hendrick: Our customers are located throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. Our presence is greatest on the East Coast.
With the exception of a few sales reps, we are the sales force and like it that way because it keeps us close to our customers. They know us by first name and tell us exactly what they like, what they don't like and what their needs are. Nothing gets lost in translation up the chain of command and, more importantly, no oneóbut no oneócares more about our business and our customer than we do.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
Hendrick: Since we began our business the availability of alternative decorative hardware has exploded. We ship orders received by noon the same day the order is received. This kind of turnaround is almost mandatory because today's retailers want to minimize their inventory.
Today's suppliers are asked to share more of the inventory risks. Our success with just-in-time inventory is due to our close physical proximity to our suppliers and our nearly weekly visit to the manufacturing facilities. These weekly visits help foster good personal relationships between production and sales, which are critical to our mutual success. The sales and manufacturing relationship is truly a co-dependent relationship. Knowing day to day where the bottlenecks and manufacturing problems are allow us to achieve just-in-time inventory delivery while maintaining strict quality control.
While all of our products are produced the low-tech, old-fashion way, the manufacturing process is still fraught with the potential for defects. As one of our suppliers reminds us, "If it can be put together backwards, it will be."
For a niche supplier like ourselves, product quality is critical because there are no second chances.
D&WC: Where do you see yourself and your company five years from now?
Hendrick: During the next five years, we see nothing but continued growth for a number of reasons. First, our bread and butter is in our traditional time-tested line of drapery tiebacks. Our past success has been building on this line by offering new and various finishes, or making a successful push pin design into a tieback, or offering an existing design in an alternative medium such as metal to glass, glass to metal, metal to resin.
While our primary sources will always be located in the United States, there are some items that we feel we might import to remain price competitive. Looking forward, we feel a blend of domestic production with foreign outsourcing of commodity components will give us the best of both worlds.
We see continued growth due to our proprietary designs, strict quality control, at-once shipping and offering value products at a competitive price.
D&WC: What best describes your niche in the marketplace?
Hendrick: Our market niche comprises three distinct segments. First, the national chains, which carry a limited number of proven SKUs. Second, the mom and pops that carry a larger number of SKUs and specialize in customer service. Last, but not least, the interior decorators and workrooms that enjoy the benefits of the depth of our product offerings and the modular aspect of our line, which allows the creative individual myriad ways to use our product.
We feel maintaining this segment diversity is key to our continued success and will allow us to successfully weather the economic ups and downs.
D&WC: What advice would you give to other window coverings professionals?
Hendrick: Know your market and stay focused on what you do best. Growing a new business takes dedication and time.
Customer service is paramount. Customer service is our research and development. Our ability to help customers with special applications is just as important as the feedback we get regarding specific needs which we then use to expand or improve our product line.
In a wholesale business, just-in-time inventory and minimal overhead are major factors in profitability.
Be prepared for rapid and dramatic changes in the market you serve. In today's highly competitive market, everyone is looking for the next great idea or design. Fashion in window treatments is a market of planned obsolescence. Colors change, finishes change, styles change.
As the big retailers get bigger, look for the niche void. The major retailers put every product to the turn-per-square-foot test and for no other reason will reallocate that space to a different higher-turn product. Look for the different alternatives to distinguish yourself from the competition. This also allows you to avoid competing solely on price. If your customer can't find the drapery hardware item in one of the Big Box stores, they will buy it from you no matter what the cost if it's the right accent they need for the desired finished look. Be daring, daring to be different!
Decorative Window Accessories
A division of the Gilded Goose
37 Browning St.
Weymouth, MA 02188
Fax: (781) 337-2518