Huge volumes, but short time frames and tight margins . . . is the commercial/contact market right for you? Draperies & Window Coverings asked several leading industry suppliers for their thoughts on what dealers should know before considering entering this market. As a rule, the ability to cover the investment necessary to supply big orders and a strong relationship with a product manufacturer are essential. Here are their responses:
QUALITY PRODUCTS STILL ESSENTIAL
The commercial market can be very rewarding. As a rule, the bidding is highly competitive and the margins are lower, but the volumes are large.
The most popular treatments chosen for commercial buildings, hospitals and government contracts are roller shade systems. Draperies are still popular for the hospitality market. The size of the contracts makes warranty exposure significant. On top of this, window coverings in the commercial environment are more prone to abuse, but whatever the requirement may be-shades, blinds or draperies-it is essential to offer quality products.
The main pitfall for those entering the commercial/contract market is the financial strength required to cover the large investments needed to supply big orders in short time-frames. It is also important to have the technical expertise to properly read plans and interpret specifications so as to ensure that bids are complete and no costly omissions occur.
Having good working relationships with your choice vendors is essential. In addition to ensuring timely delivery and handling supply volume, the right vendors can help you with the specifications, documentation, and technical implementation of a project.
Window Fashions, Inc.
Is the contract market right for you? If you are selling residential, this market may be too specialized for many. Things to be considered are as follows:
* Some installations, for example, may require specialized equipment for high jobs using lift equipment or being installed in concrete.
* You need to understand plans and blueprints.
* You need to be able to meet deadlines and many installations are required to be done outside of normal business hours; evenings and weekend installations are very common.
The big pit falls are mistakes in measuring or not meeting deadlines. These can be a financial disaster. Make sure that you can carry the cost of materials and installation, in some instances up to 120 days.
The product lines that are best suited for contract are aluminum horizontals, solar shades, 3 1/2-inch PVC verticals followed by two-inch wood/faux horizontals.
Most important, you want to align yourself with a good supplier who carries a brand name and understands the market to help guide you. A supplier who can turn a quote quickly, keep you updated with changes, back orders and make sure the product needed meets specifications. Be sure to inquire if they have a Web site for specifications and technical information. You need to have a supplier who can help keep you profitable in this contract market