The founding of Graber was one rooted in innovation. Pan the camera back to roughly 80 years ago to the city of Middleton, Wisconsin and you will see John N. Graber hard at work developing the Badger Crane as an improvement to a set of Venetian blinds he owned, thus setting in motion the developments and drive that would fuel Graber well into the current era of motorized shading.
“Since the very beginning, Graber has been heavily focused on innovation, specifically when it comes to the mechanical components,” says Chris Ivie, General Manager, Graber HTI, discussing the company’s history with CE Pro. “We prioritize the elements that you’re going to notice in the installation of our product and the ease of use, and it’s one of the reasons our parent company’s motto is being The Best Experience Company.”
In the beginning, it was this drive for innovation that helped net market share for Graber, setting the stage for it to later grow into the second largest custom shade manufacturer in the world through a series of mergers and acquisitions that would expand the company’s portfolio and distribution network.
Nowadays, the company has nearly every type of shading under (or should I say “in front of”) the sun. From Roller shades to Natural and Soft Roman, Graber can offer a variety of lift systems, colors, finishes, fabrics and opacities for just about any project, something that Ivie views as crucial to have in today’s market, alongside increasing investments in innovation for both manual and motorized shading.
The shades are also dealer-protected, meaning integrators will only ever see licensed Graber dealers installing Graber shades.
Graber and the Next Generation of Motorized Shading
It’s that investment in innovation that has ultimately led Graber to the CI channel with its motorized shading offerings, according to Ivie.
“We noticed that the opportunity around lighting control is broadening into a major solution that is developed and supported by integrators in a smart home,” notes Ivie. “And as more integrators get involved in lighting control, we see them turning to motorized shading as well. More people are realizing that window coverings are an essential component of a well-rounded smart home.
“Shading is so much more than just natural lighting control. It offers thermal regulation and privacy, and these are all things that are important to homeowners.”
Long focused on ease of use with developments such as the precision focused UltraLite Lift System, it makes sense that Graber would view the motorization and automation of shading as the next frontier of convenience.
The company has been a long-time partner of Somfy, (a name I’m sure many of our readers are familiar with), and its Zigbee motors, further expanding Graber’s portfolio to offer both manual and automated shading solutions that can easily integrate with home automation platforms, thanks to Somfy’s 2-way communication protocol.
“One of the challenges we’re addressing is that competition between integrators and designers/window covering companies,” Ivie explains. “The solution we’ve found is that it all comes down to dealers having access to finding the right shade solutions to the right application and putting it all in one place at a competitive price, so integrators don’t have to worry about getting outbid on a project.”
Graber is a Newcomer with a Grounded Approach to the Channel
“We weren’t born in this channel,” Ivie admits. “We have learned it requires a bit of unique knowledge and tailoring to get it right and understand what it is that integrators need to be successful.”
To that end, Ivie says the company has made significant investments, not just in technology, but in the personnel to help Graber provide a better service to integrators. One of the larger investments has been the hiring of a dedicated group of industry experienced personnel and training for internal support teams that are aligned to the needs and functions of a CI dealer and can effectively work with them on requests.
The company also announced the launch of their new technical sales engineer team that provides support in the field as subject matter experts and will support the territory sales teams and CI dealers with project design and assistance. This new role was formed by Graber to better cater motorized designer shading products to the integration channel. Ivie also notes that the company has local territory sales managers across the country that can act as onboarders and partners for integrators just entering the market.
Prior to getting into the CI channel, Graber developed and launched what Ivie deems a “foundational” piece of onboarding for CI dealers who are new to shading: the company’s tailored education and certification courses curated specifically for integrators. Ivie views the courses the company offers as having tremendous value for navigating the nuances of the shading category.
“Integrators coming into this space may know plenty about the tech, but they may not be too confident with the sourcing and specifying fabrics,” Ivie says. “For that reason, we offer plenty of in-person training courses at our facilities, as well as online training through Graber’s HTI—Home Technology and Integration—University.
“Even for those entirely new to the technology we’re using, we take a solid hands-on approach, so integrators get to learn those technologies before having to implement them in the field.”
A Differentiator in the Field of Motorized Shading
One of those pieces of technology Ivie believes integrators will fall in love with is the Graber Visualizer app. Available for both iOS and Android operating systems, the visualizer uses AR technology to showcase how specific blinds and shades will look like in a customer’s home in real time.
As Ivie explains, integrators can take a photo of the client’s window, then input the desired color, pattern or style to view how it would look. There are also options to view the scene either through a virtual showroom or live via the Virtual Viewing feature on a tablet, which projects selected products onto the environment through the app in real time.
“Our goal is to offer products that provide the best experiences for dealers as well as customers,” Ivie states. “What integrators are selling are customer lifestyles, and we know that especially in the realm of shading, every component is critically important.
“Since we’ve always been an innovation company, our promise to dealers and their clients is that what we’re offering today is only going to get better as we continue to invest in this channel over time.”
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