Window View - August 2013

Mid-Year Reality Check
By Wanda Jankowski

Hunter Douglas Solera™ Soft Shades flow over the window in a cascade of soft pleats that filter light. The cellular shape allows for increased energy efficiency and the color continues inside each cell, giving shades added depth.
Somfy Systems The WireFree™ Solar Pack harnesses renewable solar energy to power WireFree™ motorized window coverings powered by Somfy. This maintenance-free option is a “green” alternative to power WireFree™ motorized window coverings by eliminating the need to replace and dispose of batteries. It can be used in a variety of window types facing north, south, east or west in both high sun or limited sun areas. The low-profile solar panel is discreet and easy to conceal.
Orion Ornamental The 3D Drapery Hardware positions the finial in front of the rod. Starting outside of brackets, iron U-bends extend from the rod ends and curve around to place the finials in front. Finials can be manually adjusted to be above or below the rod via set screws. Nearly all of Orion’s finials are available for use with its 3D system. Rods are 1-inch diameter in either round hollow smooth or hammered styles.
Lutron Electronics The Coulisse Collection includes more than 700 types of high-fashion fabrics and materials for roller shades, honeycomb shades, innovative pleated fabrics and a variety of materials for Venetian blinds (shown).
Alhambra Hardware Company Inc. The Curtains Up Collection includes clear acrylic finials that offer the look of crystal in Pineapple (shown) and Ball designs. The Pineapple fits both 1-inch and 1.5-inch rods.
Comfortex Window Fashions The Shangri-La® Sheer Shadings in black aura is paired with the Highlights Cornice Valance in PERSONA Structure texture in tiki brown.
Lafayette Interior Fashions Manh Truc woven shades, made with sustainable natural materials, accommodate custom contoured windows. Lafayette Roman shades include its patented TLC™ child-safe lifting system that houses the cords.

Leading suppliers in alternative window treatments, decorative hardware and motorization weigh in on how business is faring and what is selling best.

Overall, suppliers in the alternative window, motorization and decorative hardware sectors see business climbing in 2013 for a variety of reasons.

Due to improvements in the housing sector and job market, and low interest rates, consumers are beginning to make investments in their homes, according to Joe Jankoski, vice-president of merchandising, Hunter Douglas. “We are finding consumers are seeking out quality products that will improve their lives,” he adds.

“Business is good,” according to Hersel Saeidy, president, World Wide Fabric. “The housing market is picking up, and homeowners are purchasing fabrics and home accessories for their houses again.”
Though Sunil Patel, ceo, Orion Ornamental Inc., sees new home sales as still lagging, he notes, “There is a silver lining in improved performance in the stock market, resulting in higher spending.”

Comfortex Window Fashions’ growth in 2013 is due to a range of internal factors as well. “Overall, our products, service, quality and new product innovation are making a difference in key product categories,” says John C. Fitzgerald, executive vice-president, Comfortex Window Fashions.

Bernard Snitman, general manager, Alhambra Hardware Company Inc., notes, “Today the biggest issue for our business is where to place new investment in order to take advantage of a recovering marketplace.”
Though the residential sector is showing improvement, Steve Wright, president, Forest Drapery Hardware, explains that the hospitality sector still has not recovered from the effects of the recession.

What Is Selling Best?

It is a reality of the retail world that some products and categories sell better than others. The suppliers contacted share insights into what areas are experiencing the most growth.

“We’re seeing strong interest in our newest products, like our remote controlled, battery-powered Serena shade, which is ideal for retrofit applications,” says Ed Blaire, vice-president and general manager, Lutron Electronics. “The fact that more homes are being remodeled than built makes this a perfect addition to any existing or new home. It doesn’t require any wiring, and can be self-installed in about 20 minutes.”

“We’re seeing an increased demand for many of our products directly related to energy savings, such as our sun and temperature sensors, that automatically adjust window coverings based on the user’s preference, as well as our solar-powered motor option,” says Deirdre Brower, product marketing manager, Somfy Systems. “The sensors automate the operation of their motorized window coverings to maximize the benefits that they offer, such as protecting furnishings from damaging UV rays as well as maintaining a comfortable interior space.

“Our solar-powered motor option is also very popular because it offers a ‘green’ and maintenance-free option to power motorized window coverings and is also backed by Somfy’s five-year warranty,” says Brower.
At Hunter Douglas, the PowerRise® with Platinum™ Technology that eliminates the need to manually control Hunter Douglas window coverings is a bestseller.

Comfortex’ Fitzgerald notes “continued strong growth in roller shades, cellular shades and window shadings products. Overall, programs that provide our key customers with differentiation are performing the best.”

“Motorization continues to be a growing segment in the drapery hardware business,” says Orion’s Patel.
Both Forest’s Wright and Alhambra’s Snitman cite contemporary design as the front-running style in decorative hardware. For Forest Drapery Hardware, decorative metal hardware in modern styles is selling well.
Snitman adds, “The more modern the look, the more popular. This has come about, in part, due to the proliferation of urban condos in many markets.”

In fabrics, Saeidy from World Wide says, “People love the casual look, and the eco-friendly linen look.”

Insights Into Innovation

“We feel that most innovation will be driven by design and technology,” says Somfy’s Brower. “Our customers and consumers are continually looking for intelligent window covering motorization products that are also easy to use.”

“As people continue to be more energy-conscious, I think we will see manufacturers using more sustainable fabrics and materials as well as introducing new technologies and products that will be more accessible to the mass market, which is consistent with what’s going on in the home automation market. Products and services that were once reserved for the wealthy are now being introduced at significantly lower price points,” says Lutron’s Blaire.

Fitzgerald believes innovation is essential to business success. “Our dealers and their customers are demanding products that are highly reliable, and delivered quickly at a great value,” he explains. “This requires sophisticated logistics and internet technologies, a proven supply chain and flexible manufacturing technologies.”

Snitman states, “We are still in the curtain hanging business so the changes can’t be too dramatic and still be in the same business. It is often more a demand of fashion than technology that drives change in this business.”
Down the road, Saeidy believes that innovations in machinery will produce more durable materials at a fraction of the cost of current fabrics.

“Product innovation requires accelerated training efforts to insure our retail partners and their installers can optimize the new opportunities to increase sales and profits,” says Hunter Douglas’ Jankoski.

Regardless of where the innovation comes from, Orion’s Patel notes, “Product innovation is also important for companies to stand out in a crowded market.”

Whatever is on the horizon, it is clear that window-covering suppliers are poised to build on the successes they’ve already created as the economy slowly recovers.


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