Customers are demanding more. As international fashion trends and styles circle the globe at the speed of digital data, even greater demand is created. What does this mean for window coverings professionals? Opportunity. There’s an excellent future ahead for those who stand apart with truly custom, individualized solutions to a multiplicity of consumer needs.
In this exclusive Q & A with Draperies & Window Coverings,
Robert Döhlemann, vice president of döfix No Sew Inc.,
says to satisfy this demand window coverings decorators and workrooms
must design and fabricate individual solutions for each client’s
specific—and often seemingly contradictory—needs. His
job, and that of döfix, is to make that task easier.
D&WC: What is, in your opinion,
the current state of the window coverings industry and why?
Robert Döhlemann: Overall
our industry is in a healthy state with an excellent future. As
we all know, low interest rates have taken new home sales to a peak
level. There is a huge potential for window coverings, and not just
in new homes but also in existing ones. There are hundreds of thousands
of windows that need to be covered! The trend in new home sales
is definitely toward larger, more expensive homes. In 2003, the
largest share of new homes sold was in the price range between $300,000
and $500,000 compared to $125,000 to $150,000 just two years earlier.
These are exquisite homes that need exquisite window coverings!
Even though these are important indicators, I personally do not
emphasize them or rely on them too much because success requires
more than national statistics.
Several factors are fundamental for the individual success of a
window coverings professional. Customer satisfaction is needed to
build an outstanding reputation; excellent delivery, quality products
and the ability to run a business efficiently are just a few of
In my opinion, one of the most important keys to success is the
capability of designing and fabricating individual solutions for
a client’s specific needs. True custom window treatments are
not just a choice of fabrics, shapes, colors and textures. They
must incorporate the client’s unique personality while meeting
specific requirements such as privacy, insulation, functionality
or light control. The multiplicity of supplies, linings, decorative
hardware and components available to window coverings professionals
today offers possibilities for unlimited design solutions.
In today's market custom window treatments, if sold with the right
approach, are more profitable than ever.
D&WC: What factors do you see are
driving the industry?
Döhlemann: Technology and
demand are the two biggest factors driving the industry. The continuous
development of new products and the modification of existing products
create new designs and fashion trends. Window covering trends nowadays
are changing at a much faster rate than ever before. International
trade shows, global advertising over the Internet and intercontinental
travel allow fashion trends to spread quickly all over the world
creating demand at the consumer level.
Sometimes new technologies can also create the need for changes
in window coverings. Good examples are home theaters, big screen
televisions and multi-media entertainment centers. Light-blocking
shades or draperies become a necessity to create the one-of-a-kind
Another aspect to look at is constantly rising energy costs. With
utility prices skyrocketing, new window treatments that provide
excellent insulation will quickly pay for themselves in energy savings.
D&WC: What do you see as döfix
No Sew’s role in the window coverings industry? How did it
achieve this role?
Döhlemann: döfix No
Sew USA was founded in 1985 and has grown to become the number one
supplier of iron-on products and accessories to drapery workrooms.
We specialize in providing products that enable window coverings
professionals to create custom solutions efficiently. Our iron-on
products do not just enhance window treatments by eliminating tension
and puckering caused by sewing, but also streamline the production
process. Driven by constant demand and our continuous passion to
develop specialty solutions, the initial line of iron-on interfacings
and iron-on shade and pleating tapes has rapidly expanded.
Now, almost 20 years later, our product range has grown to include
PVC and aluminum tracks, drapery hardware, reflective aluminum and
light-blocking blackout linings, installation products, grommets
and tools. We also carry our own line of professional workroom ironing
and pressing equipment.
It is very important to us that we maintain a high level of quality.
Our philosophy is to manufacture every product that we sell ourselves.
Keeping the entire production process in-house, under our control,
we don’t depend on suppliers and therefore ensure that everything
that we sell meets our standards. Oftentimes the production process
starts with the development and construction of our own, custom
Being a multinational supplier with facilities and distribution
points all over the world, we have the capability to keep our fingers
on the pulse of the markets, recognizing new fashion trends early
and developing them further. Unlike oversized corporations, we have
the flexibility to react immediately to new trends that we see and
to rapidly develop products that accompany those trends.
Many ideas for new products are born by simply analyzing our customers’
challenges and needs. We are constantly researching to find solutions
to make their work uncomplicated and quicker and to allow them to
utilize their creativity to the greatest extent.
D&WC: What trends or styles
do you see developing in the window coverings industry? How is your
company prepared to accommodate these changes?
Döhlemann: The trend in
design is clearly toward transparency. In Europe this trend is already
prevalent and has been developing for several years. Now, we can
see a constantly growing demand for transparent fabrics here in
the United States.
The view out the windows is oftentimes a significant factor when
purchasing a home. Homeowners do not want to block their view with
heavy window coverings, but are also looking for privacy and energy
efficiency. Even though this sounds contradictory it can easily
be achieved with a combination of shades. For example, a slim, room-darkening,
insulating roller shade can be closed for privacy when installed
behind a transparent window treatment design.
To make this easier for decorators to accomplish, at döfix
we have developed an extensive line of transparent shade tapes and
transparent buckrams as well as a variety of production aids to
work especially with transparent fabrics. This line of products,
named “K” tapes, has an extremely light iron-on coating
that slightly adheres to thin fabrics without bleeding through.
This unique technique keeps fabrics from puckering, slipping and
shifting when being sewn. The adhesive and the interfacings stabilize
flimsy, stretchy fabrics, which is especially important for sliding
panels, which need to be perfectly square.
Our line of aluminum coated reflective linings, light blocking linings
and our cordless shade system are only a few choices that can be
used to design transparent window treatments that still offer maximum
privacy and energy efficiency.
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved
in your personal growth as well as the success and growth of your
Döhlemann: Bottom line,
it is a strong union within our family. Many people cannot believe
that it is possible to manage a business successfully while sharing
responsibilities between a father and four sons. Our strength is
the communication between us. With backgrounds in various fields
including tool and die making, chemistry, textiles, engineering,
business and finance we have the perfect resources and experience
to develop new products and strategies.
Each of us brings in skills and knowledge from a different point
of view—productivity, profitability, practicality and sales—all
with the same target: producing products that enhance window treatments
and increase our customers’ efficiency.
Being a family, there is no need for competitiveness between us
allowing us to keep our minds focused on our work. We follow the
motto that our father taught us more than 25 years ago: Avoiding
the undoable and recognizing the doable means planning success and
D&WC: Who are or have been some
of your greatest influences in business, or in the industry?
Döhlemann: Countless people and experiences influence
each of us—some more, some less. The greatest influences to
me were, undoubtedly, my father Günter and my wife Silvia.
Among many principles, my father has taught me to always keep an
open mind and to listen to other people’s opinions. He would
tell me, “Even when you absolutely do not agree, at least listen
to everything they have to say, evaluate their thoughts and then
make your own decision.”
My wife, Silvia, supports me— especially in tough times—and
gives me strength when I need it. She has sacrificed a good portion
of her life to make döfix No Sew what it is today. Discussing
strategies, planning meetings and conventions, educating customers
at seminars, streamlining our administration and, probably most
important, keeping me on the ground when occasionally needed.
D&WC: What are your personal
goals and passions?
Döhlemann: To keep döfix
No Sew growing at the same steady degree as we have been in the
past 19 years. Keeping our existing customers satisfied, developing
many new, innovative products and to expand our customer base.