Hunter Douglas Touts Brand to Attract Shade Clients
That’s the message from the folks at Hunter Douglas, which is targeting integrators via its Electronic Solutions Inc. (ESI) motorized shade control brand. Last fall, the company had a booth at CEDIA Expo for the first time to emphasize that point.
ESI’s message is compelling, but the business model is a bit different from what CE pros are used to, so it takes a few moments to grasp exactly how it works.
Hunter Douglas is a nationally recognized shade manufacturer that makes motors, fabric, tubes/rollers, etc. It sells its products to fabricators, who design and assemble shades. Those fabricators in turn ship the assembled products to dealers, who often are spec’ing the sizes and designs for specific jobs for installation. Hunter Douglas itself has several thousand dealers with retail showrooms across the nation. It also has about 275 high-end dealers in its Certified Motorization Specialist Dealer Program.
“The program is designed for Hunter Douglas window coverings dealers who would like to offer advanced motorization options, usually involving integration into automation systems. The program now has 275 certified dealers in the U.S. and Canada, showing considerable growth from about 100 certified dealers one year ago,” notes Kevin Mayer, sales and marketing director at ESI.
802.15.4 Wireless RF
For its part, the ESI is the maker of intelligent controls, including its new 802.15.4 RF wireless communication protocol. The company also OEMs for other shade brands. Indeed, its own parent company Hunter Douglass is one of ESI’s customers, along with other competitive motorized window covering fabricators. (Think about how for years Tyco International owned both alarm panel maker DSC and installer ADT, yet DSC sold panels to other competing security installers and ADT bought panels from other manufacturers than just DSC.)
So what is the opportunity for integrators? ESI envisions CE pros who are new to the category using the Hunter Douglas brand name as an icebreaker with clients to discuss shade controls. Then, integrators can employ the services of one of the Hunter Douglas Certified Motorization Specialists to design and install the system for them.
“Hunter Douglas is the biggest brand in the window covering world,” notes Mayer. “It is a brand that we want integrators to go to fabricators and ask for. They have the brand equity.” He also points Hunter Douglas’ Duette Architella line as having strong potential sales potential due to its double honeycomb style that makes it eligible for homeowner rebates from the Department of Energy.
Mayer says the RF platform is ESI’s big differentiator, noting that it’s a long-distance, bi-directional mesh network that is easy to integrate for integrators. Mayer couldn’t speculate exactly what the business model or markup potential might be for experienced CE pros and fabricators, who many dealers might see as a middle man between them and their clients. But for dealers who encounter large shading systems that require more expertise than they likely have in house, a partnership with a fabricator seems to make lots of sense.