The search for new money-making ideas has led a growing number of flooring retailers to take up window shopping. Many who have expanded their inventory to include a display of window fashions – including blinds, shutters and shades – say the strategy offers a few advantages. Aside from bringing in consumers looking for a one-stop solution to home furnishings, it gives shoppers immediate mix and match possibilities. Most importantly, window fashions give stores an edge over the competition.
Many involved in the category say the question for retailers should no longer be “Should I?” but rather “How soon can I?”
“It was a very natural thing to do,” says George Dubiecki, whose Home Carpet & Window Treatments store in Los Angeles has offered window fashions since it opened 35 years ago. “Often when people are out shopping for flooring, they’re also looking for window treatments. We save them the time of having to shop at two different stores, and as a result we often increase our sales.”
Still, Dubiecki cautions that it is not simply a matter of adding a display to one of the walls. Although his store may have a long history in the window treatment category he says he more than doubled his bottom line two years ago when he became a Hunter Douglas Gallery aligned dealer. Through the program, he was able to take advantage of training and other methods of sales support offered by the window fashions maker. He says that the added business went beyond the window-related product he sold and into his core category of flooring. “When I say we’ve more than doubled our business, I mean both in window fashions and flooring,” he notes.
Jason Kempton, manager of Dugan Paints in Sedalia, Mo., is a more recent convert to the category. “Window fashions make up a nice value-added profit center for us,” Kempton says. He notes that his family-run store is certainly no stranger to change. Founded in 1871 as a paint and glass supply store and now in its fifth generation of management, the store has gradually evolved over the years. When it started selling flooring about 10 years ago, store profits rose dramatically. “Our revenue now is probably about 60 percent flooring to 40 percent paint,” Kempton notes.
“It just adds value to the sale,” he says. “There’s one less place customers have to go when they’re shopping for home furnishings. They can get their floors, their paint and their window treatments all in one place.”
Other flooring specialty store dealers that have dipped their toe into other product categories say it can be done without diminishing or distracting from the store’s core area. The key, many agree, is to position the new products as a resource for customers, and not merely a profit center.
Joe Pagliaro, owner of Joe’s Floor Covering in Branford, Conn., notes that he recently added window fashions to a store he opened two years ago and has found it to be “very good, very profitable.”
Pagliaro notes that a key to success was his decision to hire a window fashions expert to help sell blinds, shutters and shades. He then went an extra step: his crew of installers were trained and certified to work with window treatments.
“Window fashions is big business but you have to put a lot of effort into it,” says Pagliaro. “It’s not a side business like selling a mat under an area rug,” he says. “People think they can just throw in a rack and the product will take off by itself. But you need someone there to answer the customers’ questions. You need someone who knows how to install it. If you’re not willing to put in that commitment, you’re not going to make many sales. But if you’re committed to it and you’re good at it, your sales are going to be high,” he adds.
Dubiecki of Home Carpet & Window Treatments agrees. “The important thing is to get educated. If you’re not geared toward providing excellent service and giving people the answers they need, you’re not going to gain anything from adding window fashions to your store,” he says.
“Window fashions is a rewarding business,” he adds. “Anything you can do to expose yourself to new things, whether it’s something that has a direct and immediate result or a delayed and indirect one, is going to help you and your store. In the end, that’s what separates you from your competition.”