Many aspects of the custom window coverings industry may be on hold right now, but important segments of it have remained steady. One of those segments is custom shutters. With the right sales approach, product and supplier relationship retailers can find a growth market.
Draperies & Window Coverings asked key suppliers in the industry for their views on the state of the custom shutter market today and what dealers should do now to position themselves as leaders once markets begin to strengthen. Here is their advice.
Vice President,General Manager
Hunter Douglas Custom Shutter Division
Shutters are one of the original window coverings—the most classic of all treatments. They will continue to increase in popularity as consumers seek quality products that are an investment over the long term. As we know, shutters add to the appreciation and resale value of a home and provide architectural detail in addition to boasting high R-values and excellent UV protection.
In today’s marketplace, consumers are carefully considering all of their purchases, looking for dependable brands backed by warranty. It is therefore imperative that you as the retailer select a shutter manufacturer with a range of quality products and an established brand presence and reputation that consumers know and trust. Advertising and promoting that brand establish and sustain consumer preferences for both the brand and you as the retailer.
Shutters should be presented to customers as the value proposition that they are. Stress the style, construction, performance and investment inherent in quality shutters, those that are built to stand the test of time. At Hunter Douglas, we have enjoyed a solid sales performance from our recently expanded Heritance® hardwood shutter line—now offered in 100 colors with custom color matching as well—and our Palm Beach™ polysatin shutters, NewStyle® hybrid shutters and Bridgeway™ Specialty Shapes. Selling quality product and strengthening your partnership with a trusted manufacturer is the best way to navigate the challenging economic landscape.
BETTER SERVE CORE MARKETS
Ta Chen International, Inc.
With the housing market near its bottom and customer confidence at an all-time low, residential shutter sales are down. Most of our dealers are down around 30 percent vs. 2006-07, but as a manufacturer, Sunland Shutters’ sales are flat year-over-year. Sunland Shutters has been able to achieve above-average industry sales performance despite a change in our corporate strategy to limit our expansion into new markets during this downturn and, instead, we chose to refocus our resources to better service our core markets. This shift in strategy has allowed Sunland to gain market share in our core markets by improving our service quality and product consistency. Our parent company’s financial stability has also made Sunland Shutters stand out as a quality supplier and long term partner that can help our dealers grow in an uncertain market.
There are a lot of shutter retailers in the market that are selling on price only, their sales are down and continue to look for lower price alternatives to keep above water. These retailers are one mistake from going out of business. Under the weaker market conditions, there continues to be record numbers of dealers closing their doors.
Successful Sunland Shutters’ dealers are very aggressive with advertising in both direct and print, but some dealers are reporting the most value from local yard signs placed throughout the communities. Many have doubled their advertising expenditures over the last year just to maintain the sales volume of the previous year.
Our most successful dealers have already reduced staff and cut costs while turning to higher-end products like shutters, motorized shades and custom draperies to maintain their sales dollar levels. They have also leveraged their experience in their local market to get more commercial business. All in all, the consumers with the money that can afford the higher end items are the ones that are still spending in this underachieving market.
To appeal to the commercial and higher end consumer, dealers must focus on service. Dealers must sell service and differentiate themselves in the market place. Design recommendations, flexible hours and a professional presentation are keys to making the sale at a better margin. Successful dealers are dusting off their rolodex and calling the developers and builders that are still out in the local markets and presenting them with real design alternatives like shutters and shade motorization.
In this market, either you work a lot harder and create your own success or you fail.
STRONG GROWTH CATEGORY
Director of Sales
Warren Steven Window Fashions
Although the market has been challenging this year, Warren Steven Window Fashions’ dealers have seen a 30 percent growth in Hunter Douglas® Custom Shutter sales this year—making the Custom Shutter Collection the strongest category for growth this year.
Shutter sales have remained steady, which is a good sign in this economy. Shutters are often considered the epitome of custom window treatments, which scares some dealers. It may be due to the price point or a comfort factor, but if they are authorized to sell the Hunter Douglas Custom Shutter Collection they won’t miss out on the opportunity to recommend and benefit from the profitability of a shutter sale.
Warren Steven offers Shutter Authorization courses at our office in Minneapolis and out on the road in conjunction with Hunter Douglas’ WebEx Dealer training seminars.
By earning the authorization, dealers also learn which benefits to point out to customers; whether it’s the investment in their home, the ease of cleaning and operation or the beauty of the product.
If a dealer still has any doubts, Warren Steven is always willing to help along the way. With the help of our measure and installation team serving dealers in the Twin Cities Metro Area and Shutter Specialists for all our authorized dealers via telephone, we’re sure to see more of the sales benefits that derive from shutters in the future.