Black Outs and Energy Savers Still Top Windows

Jill Rowen, March 18, 2011

NEW YORK - Panels with energy saving attributes and room darkening construction are still a strong trend in windows, vendors report. That is one part of a window market that is making function a top priority and that has suppliers differentiating themselves with "basics with an edge," as Angela Boswell, vp, product development Ellery Homestyles reported. That "edge" for suppliers includes everything from grommet details and embroidery to light-fastness and fire retardant fabric.
     "We're still seeing a lot of interest in grommet details and we're still building on it," said Carl Goldstein, vice chairman, S. Lichtenberg. The company is also playing in the blackout marketplace with insulated curtains marketed as energy savers. According to Goldstein, the company has responded to increased raw material prices with tweaked construction on some items. Cotton Duck fabric - a staple for casual window treatments - is becoming more expensive as cotton prices continue to rise and the company is introducing new fabrications in polyester that mimic the look closely.
     Barry Goodman, vp, national accounts, Commonwealth Home Fashions says the company is also marketing details such as grommets along with an expanded line of indoor/outdoor offerings. "We're adding tropical looks and other prints to the line," he said. The company is also offering a print line that features images of famous cities which they anticipate will do well. Like many in home textiles, Goodman is seeing its internet business as "the fastest growing part of the business." He added a caveat: "you have to do it right," he noted. "Those that are buying key words and marketing themselves are going to be successful."
     Prints are also as expanding trend for Louis Hornick and Co., which is adding prints to its basic line of Firefend offerings, a flame retardant window covering. The Firefend line is made in the United States, which Louis Hornick, chairman and ceo, reports is one of its differentiators. "We still do business overseas, but it's great to have a complex product like Firefend made here, close by where we can really stay on top of quality," he said. One surprise trend according to Hornick: a brisk tier business, which he says has shown "dramatic increase."
     Ellery will continue to grow its Eclipse room darkening/ energy saving brand, but has taken its blackout offerings a step further with a partnership with The National Sleep Foundation (NSF). The company is launching Sound Asleep, designed to darken a room effectively - one of the tenants of better sleep purported by NSF. The new line includes eight color choices available with both a traditional and transitional valence. "We wanted to give consumers a choice," said Boswell. Ellery will also introduce Curtain Fresh, which features Arm N Hammer odor neutralizing ingredients. According to Boswell, other "basics with an edge" trends include grommets and piecing details.
     Beacon Looms is one company taking its room darkening brand to new heights by expanding its kids line. Light Catcher was introduced two seasons ago and is geared specifically for the baby market. According to Sung Oh, director product development and design, the brand has gotten "good response and good placements with key accounts."
     The adult brand from Beacon - Perfect Darkness - includes triple weave constructions that block light and linings with blackout interlinings. "The collection looks very rich," according to Oh.
     For more general trends, Oh believes colors such as green will be back in olive and hunter green shades. "It's been a while since those colors have been staples, I think their time has come again," she noted. Oh also projects rose shades as a romantic coloring and a continuing use of textures to continue to be important in the market.
     No surprise that all the vendors named "value" as a priority in window and curtain product lines. According to Goodman at Commonwealth, "You can't get away completely from using [high priced] cotton and polyester, you just have to work at creating a good product."
Oh agreed. "There is a lot less cotton now due to pricing, but some of the polyesters in the marketplace don't look the way old polyester fabrics did," she said.
"It's still tough out there," said Goldstein, "But 2011 is going to be much better than 2010."

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