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Window Coverings Sailing Along at Anna's Linens

Heath E. Combs, James Mammarella -- Home Textiles Today, May 7, 2007

The window coverings category is not exactly considered a red-hot segment of home textiles these days — but the sunshine of curtain-derived revenues is drenching the balance sheet for at least one feisty retailer: Anna's Linens.

"Window treatments is our single most important category," Anna's Linens president and ceo Alan Gladstone told HTT. "We have it targeted for growth, in both sales and earnings — and we had a record year in sales and earnings last year."

Gladstone said the window department at the 246-store home textiles specialty chain "is running bigger increases than companywide — so we're taking more market share."

He added that Anna's, now in its 20th year of business, is crossing the $100 million retail threshold in window treatments.

The successful trend at Anna's is running counter to the general industry, which HTT research shows contracted by 3.8% in 2005 and was down another 3.0% last year.

One reason is the space and inventory commitment required by a retailer.

"Window treatments is a department that is very unique," Gladstone said. "A lady buys six panels at a time; our inventory is so high in that area."

And perhaps even more vital, he pointed out: "It requires much more service. You have to be more on top of sales trends and in-stocks. Having associates that give advice — explaining why the customer will need four pieces instead of two for that window — and showing which drapery hardware they'll need for the one they select."

The window panels in Anna's, he noted, "are all out on display, full length, ironed."

Fortunately, the company is seeing some upward price trends for all its pains. The range of prices for panels is $9.99 to $24.99 (and $5 to $15 for kitchen curtains), but even as the industry at large wails about downward pressure on margins, Gladstone said, there is new action in somewhat better goods.

"The $19.99 panel is a very important part of the business for us," he said, adding, "Blackout is our fastest-growing category in panels; we are in an aggressive expansion in blackout." And such lined goods are likely to carry higher price tags.

Another way to maintain margins, he asserted: "Every style we sell is exclusive."

The best news Anna's Linens has for suppliers is that Gladstone is committed to working with them, remarking, "We do some direct sourcing. But we really source in conjunction with our vendor partners — it is very important we use the best styling in our industry."

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