Blinds & Shades
Blinds & Shades
NAICS: 33-7920 Blind and Shade Manufacturing
SIC: 2591 Blinds and Window Coverings
NAICS-Based Product Codes: 33-79202, 33-79204 and 33-79208
Blinds and shades are used to cover windows. They are part of the window coverings industry, which is part of the broader home textiles and home furnishings industry. The trade journal Home Textiles Today, a leading print and Web publication, discusses window coverings in terms of whether they are soft or hard. Soft coverings encompass drapes and curtains. Traditional drapes are used in living rooms and bedrooms, designed to match the furniture or bedding. They are usually floor-length, extending from near the ceiling to the floor and are made of heavy, lush fabric that was pleated, tuck-pointed, gathered, and/or layered. Curtains are used in less formal rooms as well. In kitchens they are often short, lace or net panels. Industry observers reported that soft window coverings are losing market share to hard coverings for windows in the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century.
Blinds and shades are considered hard window coverings. Even if they feature soft, billowing Roman shades or soft, honeycombed slats, they are referred to as hard because they are operational. Blinds are multi-part, slatted panels, typically horizontal, operated by a string and pulley system contained in a headrail that lifts slats up from the bottom of the window to reveal the view. Some modern shades are designed to affix to the bottom of the window frame and roll up instead of the more traditional top-to-bottom format. Vertical, slatted blinds operate from side to side. Shades are distinguished from blinds in that they are simpler—generally one panel that may be billowy or flat and is pulled up or rolls up from the top. Blinds and shades are functional products designed to filter light and provide privacy. While privacy is valued, many people also desire a view. Blinds and shades allow both, since they are easy to open fully, partially, or close completely.
The desire to cover a window or enhance a view is nothing new. Thousands of years ago Egyptians living along the Nile River wove wetland reeds together for use as both floor and window coverings. The Chinese used bamboo for similar purposes. In Renaissance Europe, wooden shutters covered the outside of windows. Later, in Colonial America, wooden shutters were installed inside. Everything old is new again and natural blinds from wood, grass, and bamboo are growing market share. Desire for natural materials emerged in direct relation to the decades-long reign of aluminum mini-blinds.
Aluminum, slatted mini-blinds gained market share slowly but steadily after they were invented in the late 1940s by Hunter Douglas, a Dutch group with roots in the United States. Hunter Douglas developed the technology and equipment to cast and fabricate aluminum and it first used the new material in blinds. Aluminum is a lightweight metallic element that is silvery white when uncoated. Aluminum is mined from the bauxite ore that makes up approximately 7 percent of the Earth's crust, and is most commonly used for soft drink cans. The new lightweight metal product became universally known as the mini-blind since its slats were narrower than one inch. Prior to the introduction of mini-blinds by Hunter Douglas, blinds were commonly known as Venetian, a name derived from European-style exterior slatted wooden shutters that were adjustable.
Mini-blinds grew in popularity until they represented approximately 70 to 80 percent of the U.S. hard window covering market in the early 1980s. Many manufacturers entered the market and made mini-blinds available in a vast array of colors because aluminum holds color coatings well. Mini-blinds were popular due in large part to the inherent qualities of aluminum. It is strong yet lightweight, flexible yet resistant to warping, durable yet low maintenance. Special anti-static finishes helped keep the narrow slats reasonably dust-free. Even though they were a relatively recent product introduction, mini-blinds soon took on an aura of timelessness. Since they were not constructed of fabric, fabric patterns and choices no longer dated a home interior.
As the market grew, manufacturers made blinds and shades ever more multifunctional. The 1970s and 1980s were a period of increased concern over energy efficiency. Besides the obvious dual function of providing privacy while enhancing views, blinds and shades were designed to insulate against hot and cold and thus contribute to a home's overall energy efficiency. In 1985 Hunter Douglas developed its Duette Honeycomb shade. Instead of flat slats, it featured three dimensional honeycomb slats. The six-sided fabric slats had advanced insulating properties due to pockets of air trapped within the honeycomb structure. The Hunter Douglas honeycomb design was copied by other makers. For instance, Levolor markets a similar product as a cellular shade. Energy efficiency is just one of the many functions of blinds and shades.
Another function built into blinds and shades involves highly specified light control. Fabrics developed to meet this need range from room-darkening to opaque to sheer. Highly specialized solar fabrics were developed that block the ultraviolet rays that damage home textiles and home furnishings. Cellular blinds and solar shades were not improvements over wood, which offers the best sun protection because it acts as a total sunblock. Such ever expanding functionality caught the attention of The International Designers Society of America. It honored shade makers seven times since 1991 with its industrial design excellence award. The 1991 award honored Levolor for yet another function: sound control. Levolor St. Tropez Blinds were recognized for a design that included rubber endcaps and a rubber bottom rail bumper to stop the irritating sound of a mini-blind clacking in the breeze.
While within the industry, window coverings are often separated into hard and soft segments, in practice consumers combine both components. Many blinds and shades are accessorized with a fabric top treatment to soften the hard edges of a window frame. In practice, a consumer can choose from many types of blinds. According to The British Blind & Shutter Association, there are eight major types of blinds. Typically blinds are assumed to be horizontal slats unless specifically stipulated to consist of vertical slats.
American manufacturers tend to categorize blinds and shades as mini-blinds, wood blinds, faux wood blinds, roller shades, solar or sheer shades, Roman or pleated shades, woven natural product shades, cellular shades, and vertical blinds. Award winning designs blurred the line between categories of blinds and shades as they combined aesthetics and function.
The International Designers Society of America awards demonstrate this blurring, at which Hunter Douglas especially excels. Hunter Douglas dominated The International Designers Society of America awards, winning four of only seven awarded to blind and shade makers since 1991. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, The International Designers Society of America represents the 1965 merger of several organizations with roots in the late 1930s such as American Designers Institute, Industrial Designers Education Association, and Society of Industrial Designers.
After Hunter Douglas earned its initial recognition for design excellence in 1993 for its Silhouette window shades, it again won for its Luminette Privacy Sheers in 1998. Luminette has 3.5 inch vertical rigid flat fabric slats that rotate for varying degrees of light control. When closed the rigid fabric slats block 99 percent of ultraviolet rays, yet when open they stack discretely. Luminette combines the advantages of vertical blinds with elements of drapes, proving vertical blinds are not just for patio doors anymore. The fabric is 100 percent polyester for durability and easy maintenance (i.e., vacuuming).
The Hunter Douglas Duette UltraGlide honeycomb shade was honored for its slick operating system in 2001; no matter how high it is raised, the cord remains at the same safe distance from the floor, keeping it out of the reach of children and pets and maintaining a clean, uncluttered look. The Hunter Douglas Trio Convertible Shade was honored in 2004 for its energy-efficient, highly insulating cellular construction that offers clear views, complete privacy, and a high level of UV protection. Trio Convertible Shades use three-dimensional 1.14 inch hex-agonally-shaped, fabric slats that compress and expand to let in more or less light. Each slat can open and close individually, filling up with air or flattening out to let light in. Fully flattened fabric vanes allow a perfect view without raising the blind. Fully expanded fabric vanes completely block the view while letting in light.
Blinds and shades perform many functions yet must also be aesthetically pleasing. Innovations in the market effectively trained customers to expect—even demand—more functionality in blinds and shades. The effect is a steadily growing market.
The U.S. blind and shade industry is a mature market. Figure 25 shows nine years worth of industry shipments ranging from a low of $2.4 billion in 1997 to a high of $3.0 billion in 2005, for an overall increase over the period of 23 percent. The industry shipment data for both 1997 and 2002 were derived from the U.S. Bureau of the Census Economic Census. For all the other years, non-census years, data were gathered from the Census Bureau's 2005 Annual Survey of Manufactures.
The production of blinds and shades experienced uneven growth over the period, slowing during periods of general economic slowdown and increasing again as the economy rebounded. The market for blinds and shades tends to follow, with a slight delay, the market for new construction—both residential and commercial—and this market was strong through the period presented in Figure 25. Declines occurred in the building sector during late 2005, 2006, and 2007 which will likely be reflected in the shipment data for blinds and shades in these years once those figures are available.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Window Covering Safety Council jointly estimate that roughly 85 million window blinds are sold each year. The U.S. Census Bureau reports in "Blind and Shade Manufacturing: 2002," that American factories shipped $2.8 billion worth of blinds, shades, and parts in 2002, up 17 percent from $2.4 billion in 1997. The main Census Bureau product categories are: (1) window shades plus accessories and rollers, (2) Venetian blinds including components and parts, (3) blinds including natural bamboo, rattan, reed, and wood, plus curtain and drapery hardware, and (4) other.
Shipments of products in the first category (window shades plus accessories and rollers) were up 36 percent between 1997 and 2002, growing from $370 to $513 million. Venetian blinds including components and parts were down 13 percent from $1.1 billion to $982 million. Blinds including natural bamboo, rattan, reed, and wood, plus curtain and drapery hardware were up 56 percent from $494 million to $772. The other catch-all category also grew 20 percent.
Of the three categories in the blinds and shades sector, only one experienced declining manufacturers' shipments during the 1997 to 2002 period—Venetian blinds. The fastest growing category of blinds and shades was the one including products made with natural materials such as bamboo, rattan, reed, and wood as well as curtain and drapery hardware. Curtain and drapery hardware is sometimes referred to as the suspension sector. The simplest suspension system favors poles. For years, drapery hardware was designed to stay hidden. Hardware can be manufactured from lightweight aluminum, heavyweight cast iron, steel, bronze, brass, and wood, and is meant to be on display. Attention is drawn to the ends of the suspension poles with finials. Amber glass knobs and raffia interwoven with brass threads are the types of finials recommended by HGTV.
The International Trade Administration tracks U.S. exports of blinds and shades. It compiles tariff and trade data from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission. In 2006 U.S. exports of blinds and shades totaled $46 million. Canada and Mexico were the main source of these exports. As Figure 26 shows, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Korea, and Australia were among the top recipients of U.S. exports of blinds and shades.
According to Market Share Reporter 2007, leading U.S. manufacturers were Newell Rubbermaid with 21 percent of the market and Springs Window Fashions with 18 percent of the market. On the global scale, Hunter Douglas stands out as the leading maker of window coverings.
The Hunter Douglas Group
With its world headquarters in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Hunter Douglas had worldwide sales of $2.6 billion and about 20,000 employees in 2006. It is the world's largest manufacturer of window coverings, which accounted for 87 percent of its 2001 revenue. In North America, Hunter Douglas had sales of $1.2 billion and 8,900 employees in 2006. Hunter Douglas donated custom window coverings for more than 5,000 new Habitat for Humanity homes built during 2006.
With roots going back to Düsseldorf, Germany in 1919, the forerunner to Hunter Douglas was established in the Netherlands in 1933 as a machine tool operation. In 1940 it moved to the United States as Douglas Machinery Co. In 1946 Douglas Machinery Co. established a joint venture with Joe Hunter, who developed technology and equipment for the continuous casting and fabrication of aluminum. This led to the production of lightweight aluminum slats for Venetian blinds. Hunter Douglas was formed. Hunter Douglas aluminum blinds led the American market. It also led the business model for distribution of blinds and shades. Hunter Douglas developed a network of more than 1,000 North American independent fabricators. In 1956 and 1976, respectively, the U.S. business was sold and reacquired. In 2001 Hunter Douglas moved to its newly renovated 230,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Cumberland, Maryland, and took 500 plus employees with it after it outgrew its facility in Frostburg, Maryland.
All companies say they innovate. Hunter Douglas actually does. In 2006, for the 11th consecutive year, Hunter Douglas swept the annual Window Coverings Manufacturers Association competition. It won 20 out of 34 total awards. It introduced a record number of new products, including Duette Architella, yet another proprietary honeycomb shade design with even higher energy efficiency combined with superior aesthetics.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Newell Rubbermaid had 2003 global sales of $7 billion and 33,000 employees worldwide. Newell Rubbermaid products are organized into four segments: office products, tools & hardware, home & family, and cleaning, organization & decor. It owns Sharpe, Paper Mate, Parker, Waterman, Rubbermaid, Calphalon, Graco, and others. In 1993 Rubbermaid acquired Levolor Kirsch Window Fashions. Headquartered in High Point, North Carolina, Levolor was founded in 1914 and its name was for a while synonymous with one inch mini-blinds. Le-volor makes blinds and shades in aluminum, wood, and woven wood products in styles it calls Roman, cellular, wood, natural, vertical, soft vertical, roller, panel track, and metal. Levolor also sells decorative drapery hardware. Its High Point headquarters include a 50,000-square-foot office and a 193,000-square-foot plant. Employing approximately 2,300 associates, Levolor Kirsch Window Fashions' other locations include: Athens, Georgia; Garden Grove and Westminster, California; Rockaway, New Jersey; Salt Lake City, Utah; South Holland, Illinois; and Mexico. Levolor closed its plant in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, in 2002, and in 2003 closed its factory in Ogden, Utah. Levolor moved its operations to Mexico resulting in a significant loss of jobs in the United States. Newell Rubbermaid, which owns Levolor and Kirsch, plans to close one-third of its 80 U.S. factories by 2008, resulting in a loss of approximately 5,000 U.S. jobs.
In June 2007 Levolor Window Fashions announced a new cordless Roman Shades collection. The exclusive patent pending cordless lift system can be operated either top down or bottom up. Cordless shades eliminate dangling lift cords, which are hazardous to children and pets, and provide a clean, uninterrupted window silhouette.
Springs Window Fashions
Headquartered in Middleton, Wisconsin, Springs Window Fashions has two customer service locations in Pennsylvania (Montgomery and Williamsport) and a centrally located distribution center in Groveport, Ohio. Four manufacturing plants are in Grayling, Michigan, Reno, Nevada, and Reynosa and Tijuana, Mexico. Springs Window Fashions manufactures blinds, shades, and drapery hardware under three separate brands acquired over a 15 year period: Bali (acquired in 1989), Graber (acquired in 1979 for $38.5 million), and Nanik (acquired in 1995), and for private label accounts. Each addresses a particular segment of the market.
Bali started in 1906 as Carey-McFall, producing blinds for automobiles and railroad cars. In the 1960s it introduced the Bali custom mini-blind. The custom—or more appropriately, the cut-to-fit—blind is its focus. Bali targets the do-it-yourself customer. It sells cellular shades; faux, wood blinds; vinyl and aluminum horizontal blinds; and natural shades from materials like bamboo, sisal, grass, jute, and even straw. It touts the classic roller shade as a retro window treatment; Roman shades with a soft appearance; and solar shades that filter light to reduce glare and damaging UV rays. Bali's Web site provides information so customers can select the right custom-made (cut-to-fit) window treatment.
Graber blinds are sold only by professional dealers and decorators. Graber began in 1939 with the invention of a special bracket to hold drapery panels over Venetian blinds. Initially focused on drapery hardware, by the late 1960s, Graber added pleated shades and verticals to its line. Graber developed patented designs to keep pleats uniformly spaced, with no unsightly sags. It makes energy efficient cellular shades; wood shutters from North American basswood with sleek cordless controls; and decorative hardware like valances and cornices. Graber's version of the Hunter Douglas Honeycomb shade is called CrystalPleat. CrystalPleat's multifunctions include insulation, light control, and sound control. Crystals are often six-sided structures, so it may be assumed that the Crystal-Pleat line is a direct nod to Hunter Douglas.
Nanik handcrafted, custom, wood blinds are a premium product. Nanik makes only wood blinds. Its distinction is that it forms and punches slats prior to finishing them with stain or paint for optimum coverage and protection. Its naturals line is made from North American basswood hand-selected for its mineral marks, knots, and cross-grain patterns. Basswood is used exclusively on 2 inch blinds, available in 13 standard colors. Nanik is a real, custom shop capable of making specialty shapes for unusual applications, such as arches, circles, trapezoids, and cutouts. The custom Nanik color palette consists of 50 colors ranging from paints to stains, with an option to custom color match at no extra charge.
Vertically-integrated window treatment company 3 Day Blinds announced on June 25, 2007 that it would manufacture and retail a new line of Laura Ashley Sheer Window Shadings in North America. The sheer shade is designed to disappear into the headrail when raised to maximize the view.
MATERIALS & SUPPLY CHAIN LOGISTICS
American factories shipped $2.4 billion worth of blinds, shades, and hardware in 2002, up 11 percent from $2.2 billion in 1997. To do so, American factories purchased $1.2 billion of total materials in 2002, up 8 percent from $1.1 billion in 1997, according to the U.S. Census Bureau report titled "Blind and Shade Manufacturing: 2002." That report discusses materials consumed by kind. The three kinds of materials needed to manufacture blinds and shades are plastics, metals, and all other materials, a category that includes polyester. Together, these three categories represent 60 percent of materials consumed in the U.S. production of blinds, shades, and window covering hardware.
Plastics consist primarily of plastic coated fabric and shade cloth along with plastic sheets, rods, tubes, film, and other shapes. Metals consist of four classes of materials: fabricated metals including forgings; steel shapes and forms (excluding fabricated metals and forgings); aluminum; and aluminum and aluminum-based alloy sheet, plate, foil, and welded tubing. The other category includes polyester.
Polyester reigns. It is the most-used material in the manufacture of blinds and shades. The synthetic material is popular with manufacturers because of its strength, versatility, and durability. For years, people looked down their noses at polyester because it was a synthetic. Kim Kiner, vice president of product design for Hunter Douglas, explained that polyester is a material that has transformed its reputation over the years and slowly grown into a dominant force. "This is a fabric that never had a great reputation in years past," Kiner said. However, polyester material fares better under ultraviolet rays, unlike natural materials whose color tends to fade and eventually break down. Polyester can be made to look like silk, suede, or any other material.
Ever since the introduction of aluminum mini-blinds in the 1940s, blinds and shades were distributed via two distinct channels. Channels were developed for standard, ready-make merchandise and for custom-made merchandise. When the internet became popular, blind manufacturers and retailers both were early adaptors of it as a sales distribution channel. Popular electronic retailers of blinds and shades include 3 Day Blinds and Blinds Galore, among others.
The mass merchandise channel sells value priced blinds and shades. These are a ready-made or cut-to-fit product, sometimes referred to as custom but a more apt description is customized. Common outlets in the value distribution channel include home improvement centers like Lowe's, The Home Depot, and Menards; department stores like JC Penney, Sears, and more recently Bed Bath and Beyond; and mass merchandisers such as Kmart, Target, and Wal-Mart. In June 2007 when Levolor announced its new Roman Shades collection, it described its distribution channel as including only EXPO Design Center, Home Depot, JCPenney, Lowe's, Menards, and Sherwin Williams. During the summer of 2007, Target Stores had blinds and shades for sale ranging in price from $25 to $200 including Woolrich, microsuede, cotton polyester, Roman shades; natural jute and bamboo shades; 100 percent cotton, Roman shades with acrylic foam thermal backing; and solar roller shades constructed from 71 percent polyvinyl chloride fabric and 29 percent polyester fabric.
The custom merchandise channel is characterized by high-end window treatments. For example, at the highest end, Nanik sells its exceptional custom-made wood blinds exclusively through independent design consultants and showrooms. Independent retail shops sell the majority of high-end blinds and shades. In order to stay solvent, many independent retail shops are affiliated with high-end manufacturers. Hunter Douglas is a good example. Its 2006 corporate report details how it expanded its network of affiliated independent retailers, which it refers to as a dealer alliance. In 2006, Hunter Douglas expanded its Showcase dealer alliance program from 500 to over 800 dealers in North America, and its Gallery dealer alliance program from 320 to 350. It also expanded to 300 the Centurion Club, a dealer alliance category designed to keep its product firmly in the high-end channel as distinct from the mass merchandise channel. In the Centurion Club, participating Gallery and Showcase alliance dealers commit 100 percent of their business to Hunter Douglas branded products.
A part of the distribution of window coverings involves the use of product sample books, which contain samples of both fabrics and finishes. Hunter Douglas sold more than 140,000 new product sample books to retail dealers in 2006. This was a record number and interesting in that in other industries, such as the paper industry, product sample books are free. Maintaining a smoothly operating distribution channel also includes training for dealers, retailers, affiliated stores, or members of an alliance program. Hunter Douglas trained more than 28,000 retail dealers in face-to-face professional customer education programs and an additional 8,000 through remote training sessions made available over the Internet in 2006.
Levolor uses product seminars conducted by its sales representatives at home improvement centers to educate retailers and customers about the proper use of its products. Levolor also has training videotapes at stores such as EXPO design Center, Home Depot, JCPenney, Lowe's, Menards, and Sherwin Williams.
Users of blinds and shades are all those who occupy structures that include windows. In fact, blinds and shades are sometimes used within a structure to separate one space from another as a sort of temporary wall or divider so even those in structures without windows are at least potential users of blinds and shades.
If we were to segregate the users of blinds and shades into categories, they would fall into three: the residential user, the commercial user, and the institutional user. Each is defined more by the function carried out in the buildings in which the blinds and shades are used than by any difference in the way in which those blinds and shades are used. They do differ, however, in the ways in which they buy blinds and shades.
Blinds and shades are initially purchased and installed as new buildings are brought into use. Consequently, the building sector is an important adjacent market to the blinds and shades market. In fact, construction starts serve as an indicator of future business for manufacturers of blinds and shades. In 2005 the U.S. housing market, which had been strong through the first five years of the new century, began to slow and the slowdown continued into 2006 and 2007. Hunter Douglas reported that its 2006 sales and operating profits were negatively affected by this slowdown.
The purchase of replacement blinds and shades is also an important factor in the overall market for these products. Consequently, the business of home decorating is an important adjacent market to the market for window coverings, blinds and shades included. Trends in home decorating strongly influence the selection of window coverings by establishing fashions and thus the fashionable use of blinds, for example, over curtains, or roman shades over horizontal blinds. These style trends influence the selection of window coverings for new installations as well as replacement installations.
During large-scale redecorating projects consumers are often willing to make a substantial dollar investment in window coverings. Blinds and shades are considered a durable good expected to last seven years on average and this helps decorators promote the upgrading of blinds during a redecorating project. Consumers expect newly purchased blinds and shades to perform many functions yet also to be aesthetically pleasing and compliment the style of the room.
A 2003 book titled The American Demand for Household Furniture and Trends presents an analysis of the U.S. furniture market. Examining the period from 2001 to 2011, it reported that as a result of faster growth in the population among those over 40 years of age, the number of households is expected to grow by close to 11 percent, a pace slightly faster than the 8 percent growth expected for the total population. As the number of U.S. households grows, household furniture spending will grow by 23 percent or from $64 billion a year to $79 billion a year (in constant 2001 dollars), it says. Blinds and shades are part of the broader home textiles and home furnishings industry.
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
Research and development efforts in this field tend to focus in two areas, the technical and functional or the fashion and trend oriented. Research and development in the fashion and trend sphere focuses primarily on color and pattern changes in the home textiles and home furnishings industry. In April 2007 Levolor predicted trends such as glam high-gloss finishes and dramatic color combinations; classic colors like plum, jade, gold, silver, and dark grey; casual handcrafted and hip; eco-chic natural fabrics; and global fusion wood and woven wood blinds and shades.
Highly technical research and development efforts have resulted in many advances over the years, including photosensative materials, automation of the opening and closing functions, and the integration of remote control devices with large-scale or high-end installations.
Blinds and shades can be operated by remote control, either by battery power or electricity. Graber motorized operational systems promise smooth operation with headrails known for being the best in the industry. Battery-operated are the least expensive remote control systems and can be installed without ripping up the walls. More technologically sophisticated electronic systems can be controlled from a touch panel that also controls, lights, thermostat, and the audio/visual system. Electronic systems can be programmed so shades rise and fall at precise times of day to protect furniture from ultraviolet rays.
Highly technical research and development resulted in sun control fabric. One fabric was developed by Freduenberg Nonwovens in Durham, North Carolina. Called the Pellon Wonder-Shade, it was developed for custom roller shade applications. Decorator fabric can be ironed on to the fabric's fusible backing, trimmed, and attached to a roller. The result is a room darkening shade with a smooth white backing. DuPont developed Sontara, a nonwoven fabric designed to create enhanced softness and drapability. The fabric is used by Graber in its CrystalPleat cellular shades.
Increasing energy efficiency has been a trend in most fields during the first decade of the twenty-first century as the cost of energy has risen. Systems of all sorts have been retrofit in order to increase energy efficiency. Window treatments are no exception. Energy efficient window treatments are one way to increase energy conservation. By using the sunlight coming through a window to heat the internal space in the winter, the cost to heat a building is reduced. In the summer, effectively blocking the incoming sunlight can greatly reduce the heat buildup in a structure and thus reduce the energy needed to cool the building. Commercial buildings with large expanses of glass—common in both high-rise urban areas and suburban office parks—are prime candidates for the installation of energy efficient window blinds and shades. Window treatment manufacturers are paying attention to this trend and are designing new products that offer greater and greater protection from glare, heat gain, and UV rays.
Natural fibers have been another trend during the first decade of the twenty-first century. During the 1950s through the 1970s, woven shades made with natural materials were relegated to the porch. During the last decades of the twentieth century they migrated into the home with improved construction and enhanced operational systems. Natural materials are aesthetically pleasing and filter light naturally. These natural material-based window treatments were also a popular theme in home decorating fashions during the later half of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Bamboo blinds and sea grass shades help to create an environment that projects a nature friendly and green image.
TARGET MARKETS & SEGMENTATION
The do-it-yourself builder is an important target market for manufacturers of blinds and shades. This target market is accessible through home improvement stores and e-commerce Web sites. Bali, for examples, targets do-it-yourselfers through its Web site by offering a great deal of information to consumers about styles and color trends. Their tagline, "your home, your style," gives customers the feeling they are customizing their home and not following the broader, more beaten path.
Interior decorators are another target market for blind and shade manufacturers. This audience is accessible through professional trade shows as well as through advertising. Prime media for such advertisements are interior design magazines and any one of the numerous cable television networks dedicated to shows about home improvements, decorating, design, and gardening.
Builders and commercial property managers are another audience targeted by makers of blinds and shades. These customers are often able to make decisions that influence very large purchases, for such things as a commercial office building, a hospital, a hotel chain, or an apartment complex. Consequently, these buyers are an important market segment for makers of window treatments, although one that is generally able to command a very competitive price.
RELATED ASSOCIATIONS & ORGANIZATIONS
The British Blind & Shutter Association, http://www.bbsa.org.uk
The International Designers Society of America, http://www.idsa.org
US Consumer Product Safety Commission, http://www.cpsc.gov
Window Coverings Association of America, http://www.wcaa.org
Window Coverings Manufacturers Association, http://www.wcmanet.org
The Window Covering Safety Council, http://windowcoverings.org
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see also Windows