In Detail: Window Treatments
October 5, 2009,
Curtains with black-out, block-out and energy-saving features are hot, suppliers agree, and after taking off a couple of years ago are still growing as a piece of business.
Ellery's Eclipse line is now in 12,000 doors, he said. The company just rolled out an Eclipse line for juvenile and infant rooms. This month, Ellery will test an infomercial to drive consumers into stores selling Eclipse. If it tests well, the company will roll it out nationwide in January, Goldman said.
"We've been at this four years now, and yes, the category has grown," he added. "Our goal is to be the voice of authority."
Arlee Home Fashions' David Frankel, president, agreed that blackout/energy-saver features "are here to stay."
The company's Thermatec line has expanded each year and currently includes lined, interlined, interwoven and coated products. Each has different energy-saving and light-blocking properties.
"This added value helps the consumer justify the expense associated with replacing the window treatments in their home by adding a real and practical benefit," said Frankel. "As these features become more expected by both consumer and retailer we are seeing the spread to all price points. Every retailer is able to offer products with these properties."
Commonwealth Home Fashions' Thermalogic line "is trending way up," said Barry Goodman, vp national accounts.
Goodman noted that the original concept of foam-backed blackouts/insulating curtains were plain and functional.
"We're bringing trendy fabrics to the forefront. Textures include faux suedes, faux silks and chenilles," he said. "We have grommets, pull tops and back tabs. It's growing as more and more offerings are coming from overseas."
The rise of off-shore capabilities was key to revivifying the category, according to Carl Goldstein, senior vp of S. Lichtenberg, who noted black-out curtains have been around since the 1960s. After production moved off-shore, it took time for manufacturers to develop foam-backed and woven black-outs of sufficient quality for the American market, he said.
"The economy played right into it," he added. "Today, energy saving [as a value-add] is No. 1 and black-out is No. 2."
But the value-add is pointless unless the fashion is right, according to Jane Raab, window covering design director at HFI.
"Black-out and energy-saving window coverings have an important role to play as an added advantage when purchasing a window treatment. However, it still remains that the customer relates to the pattern and color first, so our goal is to create stylish patterns that have a great hand and have an added bonus of being energy saving or blackout," she said. "We have moved beyond the coated backing into a softer hand with jacquard woven fabrics and the appeal to the customer has increased."
The potential for innovating in the category remains strong, said Jason Carr, co-ceo of Softline Home Fashions.
"We like to be more of a design-forward company, and we're always finding new stuff on our trips overseas," he said, adding the company now offers a black-out bamboo shade. "Black-out has evolved a lot over the years."
Of course, in the home textiles world, evolution can be swiftly followed by devolution. With price points in the mass market now starting at $9.99 for block-out constructions that diminish light rather than cutting it off completely, claims need to be scrutinized carefully. "Hanging any curtain over a window saves some energy," noted Ellery's Goldman.
Most of the prominent suppliers in the category are able to back up their assertions with testing documentation.
"You get what you pay for," said Commonwealth's Goodman.
Standard retails on true black-out, most suppliers agreed, run $39.99 and $49.99 on up.