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Cataloger sees future in windows

Andrea Lillo -- Home Textiles Today, December 15, 2003

After its successful entry into rugs almost three years ago, catalog and Internet retailer Shades of Light will start the new year by adding windows to its on-line assortment.

Targeting high-end customers, as it does with its rug and lighting lines, Curtains On Call will offer a dozen designs, including formal traditional, casual, traditional, contemporary and whimsical. The assortment will include silk from India, taffeta from Belgium and damasks from Italy, as well as sheers.

Breaking into the window category was a natural for the company, said Ashton Harrison, founder and owner, as all of its lines appeal to the same type of customer, making the best use of its mailings. However, each will be presented separately within the Web site and catalogs, in order to "seem like a leader in the field."

Harrison, a former vp with This End Up Furniture Company, opened Shades of Light as a lighting store in 1986, and then started a catalog of the same name in 1995. Rugs Underfoot joined the mix in the catalog in 2001, and now window is becoming the next target.

The company mails 4 million catalogs a year, though many of those are repeats, and its core house file is 192,000 households, Harrison said.

"We do a lot of prospecting," he explained.

Harrison considers Horchow, Home Decorators and Pottery Barn among its competitors.

"In the catalog business, you need to add more categories in order to grow," said Paige Ward, president of the Rugs Underfoot and Curtains On Call divisions.

The categories were selected because in a lot of cases the products were already in the lighting photographs and customers would call to inquire about buying them.

Unlike rugs or lighting, the curtain section will be more informative, as customers "needed more of a primer," Harrison said, on such items as how the product was constructed, what is the difference between good silk and cheap silk, and the different types of pleats.

A set of two 84-inch panels will range from $200 to $700, Harrison said.

She added that the company will also focus on novel products not readily available. Last year, it was successful with outdoor lighting and rugs, and the new window introductions will include outdoor curtains constructed from umbrella fabric.

On Jan. 4, Curtains On Call will launch on-line at www.curtainsoncall.com, and then is scheduled to become incorporated into Shades Of Light's April catalog, where it will initially fill five to six pages within the rug section.

Rugs Underfoot started the same way, but the initial on-line response was so great that the rugs were put into a separate section in the catalog sooner than expected.

The company's rug business has been very strong — up 120 percent over last year, said Ward, double the 60 percent increase in catalog pages devoted to the category.

In the January book, Rugs Underfoot will total 24 pages.

Currently, Ward visits the New York Home Textiles Show, the Atlanta Rug Show, High Point and Showtime for new product.

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