Draperies & Window Coverings asked many of the industry’s top executives to share their thoughts, expertise and advice for supporting a successful business and to tell us which marketing strategies will be the most successful for 2002 and beyond. Here are their responses.
DO RIGHT BY YOUR CUSTOMERS
Robert and Vaughn Rowley
Do things that set your business apart from your competitors. Offer things they do not. This will bring repeat business.
Before doing anything for your customer, be sure you and your customers have an understanding of exactly what they want. No surprises, as they can be costly for you. Remember, customers think they are always right. If they are not happy with something you did, you will need to change it as quickly as possible.
Word of mouth is the best advertisement.
Learn as much as you can. Some of the tricks of the trade you learn while doing one treatment can be used when making something else.
Learn to make your work “perfect” by doing the best you can.
Be prepared to work more than 9 to 5.
In our industry, quality will set both small and large companies apart during 2002. Quality has sold ADO’s product above similar products for more than 20 years. ADO’s products come with a written five-year guarantee, and its company policy is to maintain a less than one percent average in returns including canceled orders. The written guarantee ADO offers elevates consumer confidence in an already great product, which in turn increases total sales volume.
Custom service also will set companies apart in 2002. Offering person-to-person service on a consistent basis is a significant consumer confidence booster. When a consumer feels he or she is important enough to be allowed personal contact with a company representative, a loyal partnership is more likely to develop and last. Repeat business is instinctive with consumers who feel a company genuinely values them.
Lastly, being on the cutting edge of product development will ensure the future success of any business. Design oriented businesses should always study the market including trends in style, color and texture. ADO recently added Sherry Howard as head of its product development department. In order to forecast the direction ADO needs to take to stay ahead of its competition, Howard is ceaselessly studying the market and observing trends in fashion including color, texture and design. She then utilizes the information to develop products and design fabrics that set the trend rather than follow the trend.
ADO meets the new year with anticipation backed by the security of our unparalleled commitment to excellence in quality and service.
A PLAN FOR 2002
Hunter Douglas Window Fashions
At a time when we are faced with the slowest growth our economy has experienced in more a decade and when Americans are still recovering from the national tragedies of September 11, now more than ever, all businesses need to have a plan on how to reach out and attract customers.
In a move that now seems prophetic, we decided in August 2001 to accelerate the introduction of our 2002 marketing programs into December 2001. Having this plan in place has allowed us to train our fill-line fabricators on how to implement the many new advertising, merchandising, promotional and incentive programs we have developed for their dealers. As I write this, Hunter Douglas fabricators are in the process of working with more than 10,000 of their best customers to develop their own business plans for the first six months of 2002.
The centerpiece of all this is our “Silhouette® window shadings. A Celebration of Style” program intended to commemorate the 10 years of excellence in style, functionality and profitability that this premiere product has brought to the industry.
In summary, in an increasingly competitive business environment, dealers with a plan who know where they’re headed are more likely to succeed.
BTX Window Automation, Inc.
Even the best business plan will get nowhere without motivation!
The essential element for motivation is the ability to visualize an attainable goal. This has been difficult for many in the window coverings industry lately as volume has been shrinking, competition increasing and prices deteriorating. Remarkably, however, times are still good in the motorization end of the market.
The trend toward increased automation is a natural evolution whose time has come. This drives the demand for automation of window coverings. What not so long ago was a luxury reserved for the very rich is now penetrating the middle-income markets. It is easy to visualize the impact and opportunity technology has on the way we live and how control of window coverings will be an ever-growing part of this.
It is up to the window coverings specialists to take advantage of this development. Motorization will open entirely new horizons for sales and profits. It upgrades the business without decreasing the volume market for standard manual products. The time has come to include motorization as an essential component of your business plan for 2002.
The steps to maximize your profits have to be carefully planned. They should include: Selecting the product that best fits your business; determining to what extent you want to be involved in the installation, or aligning yourself with the right installation partners; and carefully choosing your supplier. Keep in mind that product quality, technical support and information are at least as important as price because ultimately they will determine your profitability.
ADJUST AND PREVAIL
Kensington Window Expressions
Although there is still some consumer hesitance in anticipation of where the economy is headed, we at Kensington Window Expressions remain confident that the nation and our industry will adjust to the recent changes and prevail with a new resilience as we move into 2002.
Targeted exclusively to independent retailers and design professionals and available through a network of licensed independent fabricators, Kensington Window Expressions has enjoyed overwhelming success in 2001. The Kensington message of a streamlined, yet comprehensive custom window covering offering is supported by convenient, affordable sampling with an artwork theme. Coupled with an easy-to-use, good/better/best pricing strategy, Kensington is right for the times.
We at Kensington as well as our fabricator partners and exclusive dealer base anticipate the same success in 2002 as the economy continues on the road to recovery. While we are actively monitoring consumer spending with a focus on effective planning for this “new economy,” we are planning a full advertising campaign and an enhanced product offering in the months ahead.
This year will be an exciting one for Kensington Window Expressions. We look forward to promoting the Kensington opportunity with the same commitment and conviction with which we began.
NOT ROCKET SCIENCE
Comfortex Window Fashions
More than ever, the success of your business will be based on strategies that focus on servicing the customer. This means to Comfortex that we need to supply existing and new innovative products at the right level of quality, at the right place, the right time and at the right cost. In the past years, we at Comfortex have spent considerable time and money to better understand the needs of our customers. Through customer surveys, trade shows, customer meetings, sales force sessions and formal advisory councils, we have reviewed every aspect of the business to learn where we can improve and innovate. This information has enabled us to improve service, develop new product innovation that has earned seven WCMA awards in the past two years, and grow at a rate significantly faster than the industry.
We anticipate that 2002 will be a very good year at Comfortex. We will increasingly spend time and money to help our customers expand the number of customers they serve and increase the average sale per customers. The success of 2002 will not be based on rocket science or a revolutionary new program, but instead on the ongoing detailed execution of our daily business. Through the execution of these plans, combined with the product innovation that Comfortex is known for, we will service our customers and expand their businesses.
NEW PRODUCTS AHEAD
CACO, Inc. Window Fashions
CACO will approach the year 2002 with the introduction of four new products for retail and commercial applications.
We plan on launching two new alternative wood programs in keeping with the wood trend of 2001. We haven’t seen a decline in real wood blinds, but PVC and wood composites definitely will be the growth leaders this year.
We are starting to see a movement towards nostalgic types of products such as woven woods and roller shades. These products should continue to grow well past 2002 as designers are looking for novel motifs to incorporate into their designs.
As more companies realize the potential of contract, 2002 should see more players involved in this vastly underrated market. We have developed our commercial programs to be more dealer-friendly. Companies will strive to make doing business easier as programs become more complicated.
RESULTS, NOT EXCUSES
FUA Window Coverings
The answer is right there within the question. Every supplier, dealer and designer should look ahead.
I once heard a salesman say that he had a big family to feed and could not go home and make any excuses. His sons and daughters depended on him to provide for them, regardless of economic crisis, slowdown, etc.
We all should be like carriage horses. They wear blinders so things happening on the sidelines do not distract them. They concentrate all their energy in moving forward.
The bottom line is this: there are those who make excuses, and there are those who deliver results.
Regarding actual strategies, some people may think fewer and better customers is a good and financially healthy way to go. It also is true that you can achieve more sales volume with selected customers rather than lots of fair ones, but in a depressed market we should all grow in quality and quantity.
How do you reach new customers? Maybe whatever it is you are doing now has not reached them yet. Have you ever noticed that if you walk down a familiar street instead of drive by it, you notice things that you never have before? Like an old house that is ready to fall apart, or an empty lease space that does not have a sign, or a nice house for a potential customer.
You might have all the nice neighborhoods on your mailing list or know the best retailers in your area, but there are a lot of unknown customers in what you may think is a completely controlled market. In fact, there are individuals and business types that do not fit your current prospect criteria that would gladly buy from you. Usually we are all in a repetitive and rush mode, so take the time to walk your market instead of driving by it.
Focusing on existing customers is also very important. Some things that should never change no matter the current economic status are quality, service and customer satisfaction. We should always be working on improving our customer service, to be problem solvers for our customers. Our priority should be meeting customer’s needs. If we focus on this instead of making money, profit will surely follow. They will notice your priority.
Be bold—innovative—go around the recession. If we all evade it while moving forward, it will eventually be behind us.
BULLISH ON 2002
It is now official: we are in a recession and have been since March 2001. I am sure that this is not a surprise to many of us in the window coverings industry. We all have noticed the downturn in the economy and its negative effects in consumer confidence throughout 2001. However, there are significant positive signs that the economy will improve in 2002: strong real estate sales; an increase in the average price of new and existing houses nationwide to $220,000; record purchases of zero-interest new cars; and recent improvements in the stock market.
We’re bullish about 2002 and expect the demand for window coverings to be strong on higher priced wood and fabric treatments. We anticipate our line of patented privacy wood products, especially the 2 1/2-inch Shutteresue, to have double-digit growth to account for 50 percent of wood blinds sales.
We believe retailers will be prudent about running their businesses and will concentrate on selling high-margin, unique products rather than low-margin commodity products.