Plan of Attack
As the new year begins, all of us in the window coverings industry will be faced with the continuation of a softening economy brought about by a downturn in the new housing market. The impact of this began late last summer, particularly in high growth markets like California, Las Vegas and Florida, and we expect it to influence consumer attitudes and spending through at least the middle of 2007.
With that being said, there are still millions of American families who will cover windows in their homes during 2007 and retailers who are aggressive and who cater to what those consumers need and want, not just what theyíd like to sell them, will benefit the most.
Here are a couple of suggestions:
1. When business slows down, thatís the time for retailers to reach out to customers, not to cut back. Even if you donít have the money to spend to advertise traditionally, you can reach out by mailing to and/or calling former customers to suggest you are offering free upgrades, consultations and/or installation to valued customers.
2. The start of the new year is a perfect time to contact local organization i.e. PTOs, church groups, local real estate firms, mortgage brokers, or companies to offer to do a seminar on decorating or to provide special time bound savings offers to their customers or employees.
3. Maximize every sale by understanding what each consumerís needs are and then offering them the highest quality product with upgraded lifting systems in order to provide the best long-term value, convenience and beauty. Remember that the cost for the very best product is just pennies more per day over the productsí lifetime.
4. When people say that they canít make a window coverings purchase, itís not because they donít want to buy new window coverings, itís because you havenít helped them to understand how they can afford it. Every retailer should be offering the convenience of a free 12-month financing offer, which doesnít require qualified consumers to make a down payment or any monthly payments for a year and, at four percent or less, costs you far less than any product discount you might offer.
For more ideas and help in making a plan of attack for 2007 please feel free to contact your Hunter Douglas fabricator sales or customer relationship representative for assistance. Our one caution for all dealers is not to wait until no one is calling or coming into your store to get started. Many of our suggestions will take time to think through, organize and execute so there is no better time to get started than now.
As it relates to what product categories seem to be on an upward trend, we look to roman shades of all types to be the fastest-growing category during 2007, with woven woods, shutters and panel track systems continuing to grow quickly as well.
Donít make the mistake of falling in love with trends though because, in our industry, what may be ďoldĒ for dealers is brand new to consumers who havenít been in the market for custom window coverings ever or for at least five to 10 years.
Make sure you invite consumers to come into your store, if you have one, because a ďpicture is worth a thousand words.Ē If you donít have a store, make sure you draw a consumer out about all their needs and concerns when you visit their home and make sure you bring a copy of our Hunter Douglas Designing Windows book to refer to and leave behind with them.
In summary, there isnít any reason why you canít enjoy an increase in business during an economic slowdown. You just need to get started with a plan and work harder and smarter than ever before. Good luck in 2007 and let us know how Hunter Douglas can help you.
Jim Mathews is Vice President of Corporate Marketing for Hunter Douglas, Upper Saddle River, NJ. For more information, contact your full-line Hunter Douglas fabricator or visit www.dealers.hunterdouglas.com.