Two words about competition: It’s good. There’s little
need to remind anyone how competitive this industry is—it’s
highly fragmented with multiple source streams available to dealers
all up and down the spectrum from high-margin/low-volume to mass-market
commodity. But it may be time to review why competition is good.
Basically, it’s the tide that raises all boats.
The subject of competition comes up quite a bit these days when
discussing shutters, a special focus of this month’s issue
(see “The List,” page 10; “Shutter Outlook 2004,”
page 44; and Product Showcase: “Wood & Faux Wood Treatments,
Shutters,” page 50). As more suppliers enter the market offering
a wide range of products, the competition for this estimated $500-million-a-year
segment just keeps building. Really heating things up is the matter
As with everything else, there are two sides to the subject of imports:
There are the former skeptics who are convinced of the quality,
choices and speed of delivery of overseas product and enjoy opening
shutters to a wider market. And then there are those who question
everything from labor practices to serviceability and the effects
of imported product on domestic prices and customer expectations.
But most often we hear the U.S. shutter industry compared to the
automotive industry of a few decades past. Imported cars gained
a large portion of the market by offering high-quality models at
highly competitive prices. It took a while, and there were re-tooling
pains to suffer through, but the result was that today we have a
stronger U.S. auto industry making better cars at affordable prices.
There is a host of American shutter manufacturers responding in
a similar fashion. They are working hard to produce the highest
quality product delivered in the shortest period of time, to increase
productivity and reduce costs, to increase value and reduce price
The thing to remember about a low-cost advantage one producer may
have over the others is that eventually that advantage will disappear.
Someone will always come around offering a lower price. Meanwhile,
it is the superior product that will always stand out over the competition,
and as technology and design and engineering innovation work to
create better products more efficiently, the better-made product
will take the lead. The rest comes down to sales, installation and