Vendors look to take kitchen tiers to next level

Gary Evans, Marvin Lazaro, December 3, 2001

The next hot trend in windows is not a particular color or construction, but rather kitchen tiers (or novelty tiers, as many are now calling them), a category which has been around for years and is suddenly enjoying a renaissance among manufacturers.

Many manufacturers have seen accelerated growth in the kitchen tier segment over the last several months. The growth can be attributed to two chief factors: consumers who look to redecorate in the least expensive way generally start with windows; and kitchen tiers expanding beyond the kitchen.

According to Carl Goldstein, senior vp for the New York-based S. Lichtenberg & Co., the category has historically done well but suffered when the window topper business took center stage roughly a decade ago. Now that the demand for toppers has dropped, tiers have risen to prominence.

"I would say that, at the mass market level, the novelty tier curtain business probably represents 25 percent of the soft window coverings business," Goldstein said. "Retailers are revisiting the area and devoting the space they used to give to toppers back to novelty tiers."

Goldstein said Lichtenberg is putting a lot of emphasis into this aspect of its business, including unveiling eight new tier constructions this past market as opposed to the usual one or two for market.

"That part of the business was being grossly neglected, not just by us but by everybody," he said. "There's tremendous value available to customers now because of the much more labor-intensified products."

Wendy Keryk, president of the windows division of New York-based Richloom Home Fashions, said tiers "aren't cutesy kitchen looks anymore." As such, Richloom introduced eight new tiers also, several which offer unique fabrications that go beyond the ever-popular polyester/cotton construction and venture into better fabrics and constructions such as jacquards.

"They're more sophisticated now," Keryk said, adding that tiers are a perfect supplemental business to panels because they may be coordinated with the looks offered in that segment.

For Arley Corp. and Stone-Cline Home Fashions, both also based here, tiers have always been a large part of their respective businesses, and both have seen more interest from retailers.

"Some retailers are picking up on that product line where in the past they had a very limited assortment in that category," said Jerry Pittman, executive vp of Arley. Pittman went on to say that many retailers are using the broad selection of product of the now-defunct Bradlees and Ward's as merchandising models.

"Customers want other prints and patterns that can go into other areas of the home," said Denise Stoughton, director of product design and development for Stone-Cline, which debuted five new tiers this fall. "So we've diversified the category with voile and attached flowers and a lot more of the novelty-type items."

According to all four, the popular retail price point for tiers continues to hover around the $9.99 mark, with some tiers ranging upward due to more embellished designs. Although it may seem like a small-ticket purchase, Goldstein said many consumers look for swag and valances to complement their tier selection, thus driving up the overall sale.

Although tiers are appearing in other rooms, such as dens, family rooms and home offices, Pittman believes kitchen-oriented designs such as lighthouses, farm scenes, birdhouses, scrolling flowers and fruits remain the driving forces behind the category.

"Today, you can make them more fashionable thanks to embellishments," Goldstein added, "and just by themselves they almost give consumers a reason to change their curtains."

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