Time For A Comeback
By Wanda Jankowski
| Sheer Shadings
Comfortex offers the Shangri-La® Sheer Horizontal Window Shadings.
| Best Kept Secret
The Horizons Natural Woven Shade from B&W Window Fashions includes its patent-pending Cordless ONE Controls™ that allows the shade to be operated by a simple pull-ring hidden behind the shade’s hem. No dangerous dangling cords or chains.
Alternative window covering, motorization and decorative hardware suppliers analyze upswings in business as well as detail product directions for 2012
As window professionals gear up to attend the International Window Coverings Expo (IWCE) Vision 12 in Chicago, IL, Apr. 24 to 26, 2012, at McCormick Place, it’s an appropriate time to assess the state of the window coverings category, including a look at new products debuting from show exhibitors and beyond.
The first burning question is: How’s business? Virtually every supplier contacted reports an upswing in 2012.
Tom Perkowitz, director of marketing, B&W Window Fashions says, “There is no doubt that the economy is slowly coming back. You hear about it every day in the news and most people are starting to feel it in their personal lives. At B&W Window Fashions, we are both feeling the comeback in the window fashions industry and hearing about it from our dealers.”
“Business is picking up,” agrees ITA’s Len Siegel. “Shutters and Roman shades are up as well as pleated and roller shades. It may be because we have the right products, but we seem to be outperforming our competition.”
Siegel also notes that products are moving because the company works with builders who specify ITA products into their projects, and they are starting to build homes again.
During the first months of 2012, Somfy experienced an increase in sales over the same time period in the previous year, according to Tracy Christmann, marketing manager at Somfy Systems Inc. “This can be attributed,” she says, “to new product launches, partnerships and an improving economy.”
BTX Window Automation reports a “healthy improvement” in its automated window coverings system business in 2011 over 2010, in both residential and hospitality markets.
Contributing to the company’s continuing upward growth in 2012, according to marketing coordinator, Ben Woodall, is the support system in place at BTX. “The high degree of customization we offer, such as our curved systems and highly customized control systems, plays a major role,” he explains. “We expect solid growth in 2012 and beyond, and a strong showing for our Solar Powered Systems based on our advanced technology.”
John Fitzgerald, executive vice-president, Comfortex, cites several reasons for his company’s 2012 growth, which is topping 2011’s rate. “First, the overall economy and the stock market have demonstrated a slight rebound,” Fitzgerald says. “Second, Comfortex’s Persona Cellular, Roman and Roller programs that were introduced in 2011 have generated significant incremental sales.”
BTX Solar Powered Window Covering Systems offer significant savings for renovation projects with the virtual elimination of the need for grid wiring. An important prerequisite for solar-powered
systems is a close analysis of the sun exposure on site to insure the appropriate balance between energy collection and operating requirements.
Sunil Patel, ceo, Orion Ornamental Iron has seen an increase in requests for manual and motorized traversing rods. “Our Designers’ Choice iron and wood traversing, which automatically includes heavy duty hardware with or without rings, has been very popular,” notes Patel. “We are also seeing increased interest in some of our contemporary lines, such as the Bohemia Crystal.”
“We had modest growth in 2011,” says Martha Beck, president, Fleuron Enterprises, dba The Finial Company & Paris Texas Hardware. “Improvement in the lead times and service levels of our custom business were key factors.”
The relatively new kid on the drapery hardware and trims block, Classical Elements, founded in 2004 by Stuart and Leyla Gans, reports a strong demand for high-end trimmings in 2012, along with rising popularity of jacquard tapes.
| Lutron Cellular Shades
Lutron Electronics introduces Serena, low-cost, battery-powered, remote controlled, cellular shades that are available in 50 colors and three styles of fabrics that offer different levels of light filtering: Single Cell Light Filtering, Double Cell Light Filtering and Single Cell Blackout. Serena cellular shades feature patent-pending Triathlon™ power technology, which extends the battery life up to three years. Using standard D batteries, Serena can be installed quickly and easily without any damage to the walls.
| Select Certified
Phifer Incorporated has attained GREENGUARD Select certification for its SheerWeave interior sun control fabrics—the only window coverings manufacturer to do so. The Select certification designates emissions performance based on modeling to specific indoor environments where product will be used, such as commercial, healthcare, education and residential applications. SheerWeave helps reduce solar heat and glare through windows, lowering energy costs, and helps prevent the fading of interior furnishings while maintaining outward visibility. SheerWeave is available in a variety of weaves and colors across 33 collections, including polyester and fiberglass yarns.
| Beautiful Blues
World Wide Fabric Inc. offers an array of fabrics in varied textures and colors for weddings, parties, and other special events, including these patterns shown (top to bottom): Peroni, Utopia, Lucca, Ballard, Chase, Lalaine and Jane.
Though Hunter Douglas’ 2011 was slightly improved over the previous year, with first quarter 2012 sales up slightly over last year’s first quarter, Jim Mathews, senior executive vice-president of marketing, Hunter Douglas, strikes a cautionary note. “There is no consistency in sales growth and it clearly mirrors whatever state of mind our consumers are in based on ever-changing economic, political and world events,” he says. “At the present time, we don’t anticipate that will change much until after the elections are over, if then.”
New Products & Directions
As for what’s on tap in 2012, here are details on where some of the key companies in alternative window coverings, motorization and decorative hardware are headed:
Comfortex: “In 2012, our main objective is to develop proprietary and targeted collections for key Comfortex Dealer partners and consumer targets,” says Fitzgerald. “The term we use at Comfortex is ‘Collectioneering’. Whether the programs are inspired by licensed products, celebrities, designers, national brands or the unique needs of our customers, we can quickly develop products that cannot be offered by competition. This is especially true for cellular, pleated, Roman, roller and panel track shades. This is a long-term and exciting growth opportunity.”
ITA: According to Siegel, the company is debuting a cordless lift system for its Roman shades, adding more decorative fabrics to its Roman and roller shade lines, and introducing a line of real wood shutters.
BTX: Company marketing coordinator, Ben Woodall, relates that though the company’s Solar Powered Systems factored into 2011 sales success, he says, “We expect this to be a more significant contributor in 2012 and beyond as the concept gains awareness.”
Somfy: “In 2012, Somfy will continue to emphasize motorization for interior window coverings with a special focus on energy savings, including motor solutions that are solar powered and the new TaHomA® home automation system,” says Christmann.
Hunter Douglas: According to Mathews, “We continue to aggressively introduce new line extensions in new sampling vehicles, will once again increase our consumer advertising spending in 2012, and continue to offer consumers select product rebates to encourage more immediate spending.”
Hunter Douglas recently introduced the Art of Window Dressing consumer and dealer iPad apps. “Our new apps provide the opportunity for a consumer (or dealer) to take a picture of his or her window and then cover that window with any one of more than 4,300 of our products/fabrics/colors to determine which ones would be just right for that window,” says Mathews. “The dealer version combines that feature with the ability to quote the job onsite once measurements are taken using a pricing configurator.”
Among an array of other introductions is Palm Beach™ polysatin shutters with the advanced DuraLux™ finish that combine the look of a painted shutter with the performance of polysatin. New design options include the classic z-frame to coordinate with popular trim and molding, and a decorative sill cover to cover projecting marble or wood window sills.
Orion Ornamental Iron: “We are quite excited to say that soon we will be introducing Design Art, a very extensive, moderately priced new wood and resin line,” says Patel.
Design Art features original designs, including finials with matching holdbacks, wood rods and the company’s unique Inlay Design rods, offered with either manual or motorized traversing. The line also includes crystal finials and rod-enders, decorative brackets and rings.
“Our artists hand-paint everything for Design Art here at Orion, and all items will be available in 58 finishes, plus custom colors,” says Patel.
B&W: Innovation and growth is the company’s 2012 goal, according to Perkowitz. “It started with our patent-pending Cordless ONE Controls™ that are available on every Roman shade from B&W. Cordless ONE Controls™ are different than any other cordless system on the market. It looks better, operates better and installs better.”
He relates that the B&W exhibit at IWCE Vision 12 will include 26 full-size displays, each featuring something new.
The Finial Co./Paris Texas: “We will continue to focus on our decorative motorization initiative for The Finial Company and Paris Texas Hardware collections,” states Beck, “and introduce a new Finial Company catalog in September 2012 highlighting new designs and finishes with a big focus on the customization options available throughout the entire collection.”
For many window covering leaders, it looks as if light may be coming through the proverbial economic window. Perhaps it’s time for a “comeback” at last.
• B&W Window Fashions, 800-858-2352, horizonshades.com
• BTX Window Automation, 800-422-8839, btxinc.com
• Classical Elements, 919-865-8089, classicalelements.com
• Hunter Douglas, 800-436-7366, hunterdouglas.com
• ITA, 800-843-4151, itainc.net
• IWCE Vision 12, 508-743-8513, wf-vision.com
• Lutron Electronics, 800-446-1503, lutron.com, serenashades.com
• Orion Ornamental Iron, Inc., 877-476-6278, ironartbyorion.com
• Phifer Inc., 205-345-2120, phifer.com
• Somfy Systems, Inc., 609-395-1300, somfysystems.com
• The Finial Company, 214-678-0805, thefinialcompany.com
• World Wide Fabric Inc., 323-263-1111