|A first foray into fabrics for Premierchoice|
|Monday, 09 January 2012 11:09|
Blinds & Shutters talks to Premierchoice about the launch of its first fabric book, the Premier Collection.
It's been a busy 2011 for Premierchoice. The Premier Child Safe Blind, featured in April's Blinds & Shutters, at last launched in August – at more or less the same time as the Premier Collection, Premierchoice's first ever fabric book for made-to-measure blinds and curtains.
“We've travelled quite a long way quite quickly,” says sales director Ray Bluck, talking ostensibly about the process of patenting the design for the Premier Child Safe Blind, but his words apply equally to the sourcing of the first fabric collection. In many ways it would seem the next logical step for a company that started 30 years ago primarily as a curtain-maker, later branching out into soft blinds in response to the massive growth in their popularity – but in the past these were made solely from customers' fabrics.
Now Ray is in some ways asking blinds retailers to consider going the other way and branching out into curtains.
“The soft furnishing industry has adapted and started to use a lot of blinds over the past five years, but I don't think the blinds industry has picked up on the opportunities that exist in the soft furnishing market,” he says. “There are very few companies supplying curtains on the scale that we are into the blinds specialist.”
Premierchoice can do both – and from the same fabric book. Because it's a new venture – not just for Premierchoice, but for the “completely new customer base” it is now targeting, they have decided to keep things as simple as possible. There's no need for retailers to try and work out how much fabric is required; they just choose their fabric and blind system or curtain style and the rest is worked out for them.
“We wanted to take away all the hassle from the customer,” says Ray. “So we came up with a package that means all you actually need to give us is your track size and your drop and then we send you back curtains that fit that size, so it's hopefully a very simple and effective way of working. And from day one we've had a great reaction to it.”
There are three types of fabric priced in bands A to C: faux suede, 100% cotton, and faux silk. Colours are mainly neutral, “softer”, tones – ivory, beige, green, with a couple of what Ray terms “impact colours” thrown in – dark reds; silvers and golds for the silk. All these can be admired – and felt – in the new Premier Collection book available now (pictured right).
Roman blinds are offered in a choice of three operating systems: cord and cleat; cassette; or of course in the Premier Child Safe system. Using customised order forms, customers select self-stacking or waterfall; right- or left-hand control. Roller blinds can be chosen instead or curtains in pinch pleat, pencil pleat or eyelet styles, with decorative eyelets also displayed in the collection book.
Finally, options such as various types of lining can also be specified.
In another move to keep things simple, customers can work out the exact cost of their blind or curtain from the price list, which details every possible combination of width and drop and extras such as lining too.
“We always find that if you can make something easy, people will use it,” says Ray. “So we chatted to all the various departments in the business to work out how we could make the product travel through the workroom in the most simple way. And the result was that there's no longer a need for an estimating service – customers can actually formulate the prices themselves. It's not anything that anyone would struggle to understand. These aren't estimations in the price list; they're exactly what you'll pay.”
Tellingly, the Premier Collection book has space left for the range to be added to.
“Entering a new marketplace, we wanted to keep it simple initially,” explains Ray. “But if we get repeated requests from customers for alternative products, trims and so on, then of course we will build those into the range.”
It's about researching the market and adapting to its needs – something that Premierchoice has always been good at, as its journey over three decades to a staff of 250 today will tell you. “We've always reacted well in that way,” says Ray – and it will be interesting to see where this new avenue takes them.