All the Advantages
D&WC: Please give a detailed description of your company
and its history.
Larry Gardner, President: AVBCO, Inc. has been in business since
1948. AVBCO started manufacturing wood shutters in 1978 and synthetic
shutters in the early ’90s. We developed our own shutter
line in late 1990 called the PolyDesign shutter.
Since then we have built our business around a dynamic group of fabricators nationwide.
The caliber and devotion of our fabricators are the reasons for the success and
growth of the PolyDesign program. Their input and excellence has made our program
what it is today.
We are in the process of opening a new warehouse in Oxnard, CA, to provide better
service to our fabricators in the western states. The California facility will
be a copy of our current facility in that it will have painting ability, component
warehousing and panel fabrication (as back-up for our fabricators) when completed.
AVBCO offers one of the most complete shutter programs available today with software,
components and machinery manufactured in-house.
D&WC: What one product or line stands out above the rest?
Gardner: PolyDesign has several programs consisting of a dealer program, distributor
program and fabricator program. The fabricator program makes up the largest percentage
of our business.
PolyDesign offers several product lines within the different programs. The PolyDesign
Original shutter is our top-of-the-line shutter, and our Freedom Shutter is our
economy shutter. These two programs offer complete components consisting of several
choices of rail size and many framing systems. PolyDesign has the most extrusions
to choose from than any other component supplier in the market today.
D&WC: Who are your customers? What parts of the country do you service?
Gardner: Our customers range from designers in the retail field to wholesale
dealers and shutter fabricators manufacturing the PolyDesign shutter independently.
Our customers are located coast-to-coast across the United States.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first
Gardner: Wood shutters dominated for many years in the shutter industry. We have
all seen a change in the industry with the growing popularity of synthetic shutters.
There are many different types of synthetics on the market today. We believe
our synthetic to be the very best because it is solid and painted like wood,
but has none of the negative aspects of a wood shutter such as warping and peeling.
D&WC: What best describes your niche in the marketplace?
Gardner: We at PolyDesign feel we have two strong niches in the window coverings
market. One, as we have mentioned, is the variety in our shutter component program
to our fabricators. We are the only synthetic supplier that currently offers
two separate synthetic programs and soon will offer a third program.
Second, we are the only company to offer a turnkey fabrication setup. We manufacture
our own state-of-the-art line of shutter machinery as well as distribute such
things as dust collection systems and saws. This gives us a unique ability to
offer a complete shutter shop setup.
We can offer everything from mouse hole machines to saws, panel carts, assembly
tables, pressing tables and more. We stock everything down to router bits and
blades. We are the only shutter component supplier to offer a product line this
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Gardner: In the window coverings industry you have to constantly stay ahead of
the competition. If you stand still you will be left behind. AVBCO has remained
in business since 1948 by continually coming up with new ideas and changing as
the marketplace changes.
D&WC: What are your strengths in the marketplace?
Gardner: Our strength in the marketplace is the fact that our shutter program
is just that: a program. We offer a one-stop shop fully equipped with the components
for three shutters, a full line of machinery and equipment to set up a complete
fabrication plant and software to manufacture the shutter.
There is not another company that can say it offers everything a fabricator needs
to be set up to fabricate. Most of our competition just sell shutter components.
D&WC: What trends and cycles do you see occurring in the industry? How is
your business addressing them?
Gardner: The latest trend affecting the shutter industry is imported product
from China. We have seen more shutter fabricators go out of business in the last
six months than we have seen in the last three years. Some of the strains on
our industry can be attributed to the imports driving margins down.
The obvious advantage the imports have over American fabrication is the almost
non-existent labor costs as well as reduced or non-existent environmental regulations
and insurance costs. With the PolyDesign program we can offer our fabricator
a fully painted product. In the past, our labor cost for a panel framed, hinged
and magnetized averaged around $1 per square foot. With our new shop layout and
new pieces of equipment we currently are testing our numbers and they have been
reduced to less than 60-cents per square foot labor for panels and less than
80-cents per square foot for complete units, framed and magnetized.
With PolyDesign we get up to 100 square feet per day per person. With these numbers
we feel we can compete with imports. Labor-intensive products, such as wood shutters,
will find it more difficult to compete in a profitable manner in the years to
come. The wood manufacturers who are highly automated, well capitalized and well
managed will, of course, survive. Many smaller wood manufacturers will be forced
to stop fabrication due to the diminishing margins and increased competition.
Many of the smaller shops that survive will do so because they switched to synthetics.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
Gardner: PolyDesign shutter components are a solid cellular foam material. We
like to say we have all the advantages of wood shutters but none of their disadvantages.
We can make panels up to 36 inches wide, and we can make any specialty shape
such as sunbursts and eyebrow shutters.
In the search for a cheaper product we have seen our competitors try vinyl extrusions
around wood, put polymer coatings around MDF and extrude hollow shutters that
require caps. While there are some really good foam products available, we feel
there are some differences that separate our solid foam product from our competition.
Besides our shutter line being completely painted with non-yellowing acrylics,
our product line is entirely celuked. Celuka is a more costly extrusion method
that hardens the surface resulting in a more durable (ding resistant) and strong
PolyDesign Shutters Inc.
516 Jefferson Blvd.
Tarrant, AL 35127
fax: (205) 849-9045