Thursday, February 19, 2009

Innovation and How Trade Shows Fit In

Recently I saw a post on Window Pro from Steve Dale about his visit to the Builder’s Show in Las Vegas. I asked him to comment on what he saw at the show and he was very kind to jot down his thoughts about trade shows, our participation and some new things he found in Vegas. His comments are more than a show report- he has some great thoughts that relate to my recent post about this industry and innovation. Here’s what Steve had to say…

Thank you for your interest in the International Builders Show. As you know a few weeks back Rory had asked about our opinions about attending the Show in Atlanta. I spend 2 hours crafting a response and decided at the last minute to not send it so I deleted the email. What I said in part was: I have attended many window covering shows for the past 20 years, and cannot remember any show I walked away from with a new supplier (that we still use) or a good idea. I look outside our industry for ideas. “
He goes on to say, “The funny part is these people only use their creative talents on window coverings and not their businesses. I see little or no creativity in marketing or operations. I see no time given to our future. We simply react to the news of the day and make no plans to succeed. BUT...
I love attending all types of shows, seminars, conventions and reading magazines, web sites, newsletters and blogs from all different types of industries.
I love to take ideas from different industries and combine them into new ideas for the industry I love, Window Coverings. This all leads me into the International Builders Show in Las Vegas.

I left feeling GREEN. I wanted to vomit green. It will only be a few more years that we have to hear the word Green. It’s over used and over exposed, much like Paris Hilton. Maybe we’ll go back to Ecology or Earth friendly. Seriously who’s going to believe a used brick is Green? After walking this enormous show, I came away with some pretty cool ideas.
First: We need to offer energy solutions, from window coverings to window film to new windows. We need to become experts on glass and window constructions. (I recommend you read Glass magazine).
Second: we need to take huge leaps in software. Our industry is lagging behind in the applications of software both in operations and marketing.
Third: we need to offer a wider variety of products- Retractable screen doors, screens, retractable awnings, closets, garage organizers, and flooring.
Fourth: There needs to be a balance between the aftermarket products like blinds and shutters and new construction. We need to put ourselves into the position of offering solutions to the builders. They need to view us as essential partners.

At the Builder’s show, one of the most interesting products is a stereo system that attaches to the glass and turns the glass into a speaker. If we put a blind in front of that piece of glass are we destroying the sound? What about the new generation of brick ovens? They cook at 595 degrees. How close can we put a blind? I could feel the heat 10 feet away. The very best product I saw was the finest example of a retractable awning I have ever seen. It retracts into its own cassette and has built in lighting. It was being débuted in North America at the show. I am getting ready to carry it.

Also exhibiting at the show was Budget Blinds Pro there; it’s a program for builders to use a local Budget Blinds Franchise. Enview Designs showed an on line system for builders. The system allows the new homeowner to choose their blinds from 3 categories while shopping online. There were several shutter companies there. Of the 4 shutters companies I met there I have never seen a single one of them at a window covering show! The bottom line is we need to become more important to the builders and homeowners.
Steve Dale
Where do you go for innovation, new products and creative solutions?
Window Covering manufacturers- How do you respond to the fact that our industry is so stale we have to go outside for cutting edge products to keep up?

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