Windows Peek Through; Performance Used to Push Opening Prices
July 7, 2011,
NEW YORK - Window coverings managed a slight increase for 2010, finishing at $ 2.035 billion for the year, up 1.8% from $2 billion in 2009.
While other home textiles categories are feeling the pinch and suffering under the weight of exorbitant costs of raw materials, window coverings have fared slightly better. Though still dealing with the rising costs of doing business (labor, transportation) and the rise of polyester prices, the category mostly escaped the debacle that came with increased cotton prices.
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"Window coverings are not as dependent on cotton and more on polyester so the price increases - which did happen - were not as impactful as with bedding and towels," said Dan Johnson, national sales manager, PDK/ Arley.
Despite the incremental increase in volume for the category, the economy overall and conservative shoppers have to show improvement for suppliers to feel like they are out of the woods. One specific point suppliers agree on: the systematic decreased value on products in this category. Vendors are finding it hard to put higher priced goods into the marketplace.
In determining product category sales figures as well as determining retail sales for those categories by channel of distribution, the editors and research department of Home Textiles Today used data compiled from a variety of sources, including publicly filed financial reports, vendor sales information compiled by the editors, and information provided by retailers and home fashions suppliers. The research was compiled by Dana French, director of market research.
"The number of units sold may be up, but the amount of goods at opening price points is so large, the value is down," noted Budd Goldman, ceo, Ellery Home- Styles.
"It's not necessarily that consumers wouldn't opt for a higher price option, but there isn't enough differentiation," noted Loren Sweet, vp, Brentwood Originals. "Why pay more when there's a $19.95 option that has enough bells and whistles? Until retail business gets strong - not stronger, strong - that's what you're going to see. It's going to require better housing stats."
Louis Hornick of Louis Hornick & Sons agreed, anticipating a long haul before the economy and housing starts recover, and partly blaming the way the category has "dumbed down and speced down products over the last 10 years."
For many, the answer is creating the differentiation for themselves in the form of performance products and value-add performance enhancers. "Simple solids aren't enough," said Cathy Carroll, an account executive with Regal Home Fashion.
Added Goldman: "First you want your product to be decorative - I've always said we're in the consumer products business - and if it can also be a value add, why not? The home furnishings industry has not been the most progressive, but at Ellery we want to stay on top of our game."
Ellery's performance options continue to expand through its room darkening and noise reducing Eclipse and Eclipse Kids brand, as well as offering treated window coverings to neutralize odors under the Arm & Hammer banner.
Also in the performance business is Glen Raven and its subsidiary Tri Vantage. "We're keeping step with what's happening in the marketplace and working closely with our development and marketing to deliver modern and elegant offerings," said Dan Fouratt, director, Solair Shade Solutions. The company markets Sunbrella Sheer fabrics for window coverings and Solair shades.
Louis Hornick & Sons continues to expand its Firefend brand in new styles and colors. As always, the company emphasizes the ‘Made in USA" label on its brand as a particular plus in the performance category.
At Commonwealth Home Fashions, its energy-saving and room darkening offerings using Thermologic technology have been strong sellers.
"We're having a great year so far," noted Barry Goodman, vp. "The concept of energy savings is getting even more important, and we're trying to be more creative and push the envelope in what we do."
But, he cautioned, "There is a lot of product out there with a room darkening label that isn't; and things marked extra wide that certainly aren't. There have to be standards, especially as the performance piece of the market grows."
On the fashion side for window coverings, grommets are still a huge trend. "Grommets are still big, maybe even over saturated," noted Johnson of PDK Arley. "But consumers like them more than ever. They like the ease of putting them on and the ease of opening and closing them."
Johnson reports that the company is also doing a strong curtain business. "A lot of people have gotten out of the curtain business, but those still in are doing well," he said.
Among retailers, figures for window coverings are in line with the rest of home textiles. Direct to consumer continues to show consumers more and more comfortable with shopping online; the direct channel showed a significant gain due to internet purchases both at web stores and through websites run by their brick-and-mortar counterparts. One segment that didn't do as well: off-pricers.
Many off-price chains took advantage of excess inventory and found themselves in the window business. Now they must work to stay in that business.
"This was a new category for many off-pricers," noted Carroll of Regal Home. "They are now beginning to make changes, such as testing pairs instead of offering only open stock items."
Off-price chains were down 1.2% year over year while the direct to consumer channel increased by 3.1%