Last month I detailed the powerful trend to luxury gripping America and changing the retailing landscape. To put it in even more global terms: The October 3 issue of The Wall Street Journal featured a bold headline and lengthy page-one story: “Wal-Mart Era Wanes Amid Big Shifts in Retail.” The article told how low price alone is not a prime driving formula for growth in America or even Europe and Asia. Consumers, today, want more—quality, personalization, convenience, style. No wonder the custom window coverings market is shifting. It is not just our industry that’s focused on products and engineering, the world is changing.
Once you recognize the trend to luxury, the core question becomes: How do you adapt your business to make money from it? That’s the purpose of this month’s article.
MARKETING BASICS: START WITH PRODUCTS
Selling luxury sends you back to the Four Ps of marketing every student learns in their first college marketing course:
In a nutshell, if you want to sell luxury you have to sell high-end fashion products including Roman shadings, authentic wood shutters, plus colorful fabrics and draperies. But, the real product is not just the physical item you sell, it is the ideas you give.
When you sell the upscale market—21 percent of households in the $75,000 to $150,000 median household income range—your customer wants more than products, she wants more than privacy and light control. She wants beauty for her room; emotional satisfaction; recognition and approval from friends. She wants to be perceived as a woman of good taste and a quality homemaker. That is where education and professionalism come in. Your ability to give ideas will determine your income.
PRICING POLICY—UPSCALE IS HIGH VALUE
Price is the second P. Products have value, but ideas have value, too. Design has value; emotional satisfaction has value. Your prices do not need to be the lowest in the market when you deliver added value to discriminating homeowners.
If you give estimates on commodity products the customer selects herself, your prices better be competitive and appealing. But, if you solve problems with guided suggestions so you decide the products and she goes along with your ideas, then your prices can be much more—sometimes double and greater!
YOU MUST SELL IN-HOME
Place is the third P in marketing. Will you sell in a store or sell in the home? If you want to maximize customer benefits—and your size of sale—you must sell in the home. Sure, use your store to generate appointments, but close the sale in the home. Think of half your rent as being advertising. Include it in your marketing budget.
Once you define your place to sell as being in the home, it gives purpose to your store and helps organize employees and functions.
When you sell upscale, word-of-mouth is important. Relationships are important. Building trust is critical. Remember the customer is buying you, not just your products.
Service, professionalism and reliability are more important than cheapest price to the upscale customer. That means your advertising will be different. It will feature smiling faces of nice people offering personal service, not just an inanimate store name. Store demonstrations to meet and greet customers are valuable. But, most of all, neighborhood marketing is essential. Remember, only one of four homeowners can afford luxury custom window fashions. You do not want to waste your advertising dollars in mass media creating awareness with the broad market. You want to rifle-shot your target market to only those that can afford your products.
EDUCATION IS THE KEY
Of all the four Ps the most important is the first one: the product you sell. But, you must recognize the product your customer wants is not just the tangible item you order from a supplier. The real product value is your knowledge as a professional.
Your customer wants to buy a fashionable window treatment to make her room look good. That is the true product she wants to buy. The look you propose is your key to beating any competition without lowering your price. The custom styling of her window may be worth more to the customer than the tangible product itself.
YOU MUST LEARN DRAPERIES
If you want to sell to the luxury market, you must sell draperies. It’s that simple. Yes, I know that blinds specialists don’t like draperies. You think it is too complicated to measure, order and install. You don’t like the idea that you have to choose colors and patterns and talk a decorator’s language you aren’t comfortable with. But, if you don’t sell draperies, you can never penetrate the upscale, luxury market.
The good news is, you can learn draperies. In fact, it is easier than you think. I liken it to learning a computer. Probably you didn’t take formal computer training. You just learned it while you used it. Draperies can be the same. Learn a few basics, try it a few times. Take a little risk. Even if you make a mistake, it is a skill that can bring you better income down the road.
Where to begin? Start with a good supplier. Make a strategic alliance with a drapery specialist. Possibly take an online course—consider WCU Online. To keep it simple, use charts for ordering. You do not need to know about calculating yardage, fullness, pattern repeats and all that. It is important if you fabricate draperies. It is not important to sell draperies.
There are many good suppliers with charting systems—Carol, Wesco, Kasmir and Lafayette are only examples that have national distribution. What you do need to learn is a little about color and styling. It is easier than you think. Just look into it and you will see.
Remember, when you sell the luxury market, the product is not just the tangible item used to cover the windows. It is your expert knowledge about style and appearance. It is the understanding that your customer wants emotional satisfaction and acceptance by her peer group. It means that your education can be your best competitive advantage. Want to know more? Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be glad to send you a list of places you can learn and ideas to make the transition from blinds to draperies.
Take the first step today. Talk to a drapery supplier. Order a few samples. Place an order for a simple upholstered cornice or valance. Start easy, learn steadily, and soon you will be selling the upscale, luxury market you want. After all, that is where the money is.
This article is based on Steven C. Bursten’s actual experience with sales and financial information working with hundreds of window coverings businesses. Whether you are a sole manager who aspires to higher sales, or you manage 50 window fashion decorators in a multi-million dollar business, this series will help you manage sales better and increase your profitability. Bursten is the retired founder of Decorating Den Interiors and author of a how-to book on new business start up, “Bootstrap Entrepreneur,” and is a leading expert in window coverings marketing, sales systems and sales management through his company, custEmers.com. Questions and comments welcome: email@example.com or call (888) 333-8981.