Bruce Stewart: In 1989 I bought wood shutters for a newly built home in Canada, and I was shocked at their price and how long it took to get them installed. While admiring the shutters one evening it occurred to me that they could be made of some other material that could quite substantially lower the price and possibly improve the delivery times. At the time I was running a real estate development and construction business and thought an interesting sideline might be the shutter business because I strongly believed the product had great potential and the market was still quite young.
At that point I contacted my father who had a background in injection molding and tool and die manufacturing. He in turn introduced me to a plastics engineer and after our initial meeting it was decided the product should be manufactured from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Within days a company was formed to develop the first custom interior vinyl shutter.
The development stage began and designs were tried and many different versions of the shutter came to life. Among our concerns were strength, appearance and ease to assemble and install. The first shutter that was constructed looked nothing like its current descendent.
While developing the shutter it became evident that there was more than just a price advantage to using PVC versus wood. Many other attributes surfaced such as the product's resistance to scratches, chips, peeling or fading. It would never require repainting and was totally moisture resistant. The potential for this product was extremely exciting.
Once the design was completed, the issue became who was going to manufacture the componentry. Extrusion molders, injection molders and hardware manufacturers had to be found who had the technology to help pioneer this product. After extensive investigation, suppliers were found and the company began producing shutters. The first shutter was introduced in the spring of 1990.
My knowledge of the window coverings industry was limited. I believed it would be best to start at the top, so I approached the largest fabricator of window coverings in the world, Hunter Douglas Window Fashions. I flew to Upper Saddle River, NJ, and met with Jerry Fuchs, then president of Hunter Douglas. Within days an agreement had been reached for Hunter Douglas to market the vinyl shutter exclusively in the United States.
Business grew well over the next few years, but never as fast as I believed it should. Problems with marketing, administration and installation continued to haunt the program. In 1995, I negotiated the purchase of the shutter division of Hunter Douglas and prepared to launch what is today Seven Day Shutters.
It was determined that a successful shutter company needs to be locally owned, fabricated and administered, so the Seven Day Shutters program was developed and launched. Seven Day would find the best possible candidate in some 35 pre-defined territories and train them to fabricate, administer and install Seven Day Shutters. Fourteen months later, 17 fabricator territories have been set up and there are three waiting to be trained. The success of the program has been phenomenal.
The current Seven Day Shutters incorporates the lessons learned from eight years of fabricating and installing vinyl shutters. Totally hidden assembly screws, reliable friction control devices, virtually unbreakable tilt bar construction and interchangeable frame cap designs are just a few of the new developments.
We have completed our first year in business with sales of $725,000, and our budgeted sales for this year is $2 million.
We currently maintain our management offices here in Canada. Our warehouse facility is in Boardman, OH, where we do our extrusions, and our sales office is in Sacramento, CA.
D&WC: How many salespeople do you employ? What parts of the country do you service?
Stewart:Dave Harrison, vice president of marketing and sales, and myself handle all new sales with Julie Wright and her assistant handling orders.
We service all of North America and are now pursuing leads internationally.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
Stewart: To be different from the competition we focus on being our customers' partner and sell our products by helping them sell theirs. We remain sensitive to their needs and give superior follow-up support in regard to ongoing training, installation and sales seminars.
All of our customers talk to us daily in regard to both their failures and successes. We will continue to encourage this type of relationship as we move forward. Their success is the key to ours.
D&WC: Where do you see yourself and your company five years from now? Are there additional areas within the industry that you would like to get involved in?
Stewart: The immediate future for Seven Day Shutters is to continue to roll out our program throughout North America and to focus on supporting our existing fabricators in various ways such as national advertising and dealer and fabricator promotions. We also have an ongoing commitment to wholesale and retail trade shows to help our fabricators maximize their own potential within their exclusive territories.
Over the next year Seven Day Shutters will invest some $500,000 in new higher-volume tooling to handle the growth of our program. The following year, 1998, will see Seven Day pursue international opportunities and a possible expansion of product lines to assist our fabricators in the growth of their businesses as well.
We will continue to be a small service- and fabricator-oriented company no matter where sales volume takes us. We do not want to be the biggest shutter company in the industry, just the best. We will continue to focus our efforts on supporting our fabricators. How do we help grow their sales and make them more profitable? Once we have filled the remaining fabricator positions currently available all of our efforts will be placed on marketing our fabricators' businesses.
While we are currently considering the addition of two new product lines, we will continue to focus on our existing single product.
D&WC: What advice would you give to other window coverings professionals?
Stewart: The only advice I would give other companies similar to ours is to grow at a manageable pace and recognize what got you to where you are and preserve that throughout your growth.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
Stewart: Since we began this business in 1989 the only things that have changed are consumer acceptance of the product through knowledge and the development of competition.
In the past eight years, the industry has grown to add a number of competitors in the vinyl shutter industry. The market continues to grow as consumer awareness and acceptance increases daily. This is in addition to the overall growth of the shutter industry as a whole.
Seven Day Shutters, Inc. 89 Dunlop St., East, Ste. 103
Barrie, Ontario, Canada L4M 1A7
Fax: (705) 725-1922
Manufacturer and distributor of components used in the fabrication of custom indoor vinyl shutters.