Cutting Through the Layers
tell us a little about yourself. What is your background
and experience? In what area does your expertise lie, i.e., marketing,
Jeff Hohler: Prior to Joining Levolor Kirsch, I spent a number
of years in various sales and marketing related roles at Black & Decker
and The Stanley Works. My experience includes direct selling, product
marketing, channel marketing, sales management and OEM business
management. I have led the integration of an acquisition and the
streamlining of many operations.
My sales experience includes direct sales to all of the major retailers as well
as responsibility for sales to independent dealers. This experience has prepared
me to lead this company through the transformation that we are now going through.
D&WC: Since assuming the position of president, what areas of the
have received your primary attention? Why?
Hohler: Our business is very complex. As a result of many acquisitions as well
as line extensions and new product releases, our business grew into layers upon
layers of brand, product and operations complexity. This complexity made it very
difficult for us to service our customers.
Over the last year, I’ve worked to steer Levolor Kirsch to become world
class in terms of customer service, service level, on-time delivery and quality.
Becoming world class requires focus and I have turned my attention to focusing
the business on those very important elements rather than on trying to be all
things to all people.
As we become world class in our core products and in servicing our customers,
we will look to grow the business through new products.
D&WC: What do you perceive as Levolor Kirsch’s strengths in
Hohler: Levolor Kirsch has a long heritage as a market leader in blinds and shades
and drapery hardware. Our brand name and our industry-leading products provide
a strong foundation to build upon.
We continue to lead the market with premium user-demanded features like our BackStacker™ feature
on vertical blinds, our Riviera metal blinds that set the industry standard,
and Kirsch drapery hardware that is also industry leading with our WCMA first-prize
The Clodagh Collection (See Market Report, page 28), which illustrates our continued
commitment to industry-leading new products.
D&WC: What are your goals for Levolor Kirsch Window Fashions? What
market segments or product categories do you see as the most important in the
years? In the next 10 years? Why?
Hohler: Our goal, quite simply, is to return Levolor Kirsch to the legacy of
our heritage. We were built as the industry leaders in this category and we fully
intend to return to that position as we refocus our business on becoming world
We are focusing first on drapery hardware and then on the core categories in
blinds and shades. We will focus on wood blinds, cellular shades, metal blinds,
vertical blinds, woven woods and Perceptions soft vertical blinds. In addition,
our market-leading stock/SIS products will continue to be a major focus.
D&WC: What roles will independent fabricators and retailers play in Levolor
Kirsch’s future plans?
Hohler: Our independent fabricator and independent retailer business is a very
important part of our strategy. We have focused on growing that business through
our Kirsch brand. Our fabricators are even stronger now as we are asking them
to support the commercial markets on a regional basis. The addition of the contract
business will provide a strong avenue for growth for our fabricators.
Additionally, we very actively work to strengthen our relationships with all
of our independent dealers whether we service them directly or through a fabricator
partner. We are very interested in making certain that we are servicing them
D&WC: At which markets is Levolor Kirsch aiming and which distribution
will likely play the key role?
Hohler: We have positioned our Kirsch brand for the designer that typically buys
through independent retail. Our Kirsch branded products have many unique features
and finishes designed to be sold with the assistance of a designer. In addition,
all of our Kirsch sampling was created to give the designer flexibility with
Our Levolor brand is designed for the broader market that is serviced through
our large retail partners. The product sampling is designed to be easy to use
in a large store environment and our products are intended to appeal to a much
D&WC: Levolor Kirsch is a division of the much larger Newell Rubbermaid.
What advantages and disadvantages does this have?
Hohler: Being part of a large corporation allows us to collaborate with all other
divisions. We learn about industry trends through related home décor businesses.
There are some opportunities to leverage our sales force that may call on many
different channels. We are able to attract high-caliber talent through the strength
of Newell Rubbermaid. We run very autonomously as a division, so it is really
the best of both worlds. No real disadvantages come to mind.
D&WC: There is a lot of speculation regarding Levolor Kirsch’s
business moves. How do you address these comments?
Hohler: There are a lot of rumors and speculation about what our real motives
are for making the changes to the business that we have recently gone through.
We needed to streamline and strengthen our business and become focused on being
world class in window coverings and hardware.
I think if you look at what we have done it is very consistent with our message.
I would like to put all of the other rumors to bed!