|Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be...|
In celebrating 40 years of Louvolite, Steve Birtles take a look back over the decades at what has changed along with ‘our little company’
The Prime Minister of Great Britain was Edward Heath who had narrowly gained victory over Harold Wilson. Texas Instruments had just brought to market a newfangled idea called a pocket calculator.
Such technical wizardry was desperately needed in the UK as the Government had recently changed from good old ‘£SD’ to decimal currency, whatever that was... (And why did we use a ‘D’ to represent ‘pennies’? It doesn’t begin with D!)
Inflation was running at 8.5% – that’s at a time when money was money – and a new home would cost around £5,500. If you went to the movies you would have seen The French Connection or Love Story and if you drove there you would be paying 33 pence per gallon. I’ll repeat that – yes 33p – for a gallon of fuel. On your transistor radio you may have listened to Knock Three Times by Tony Orlando and Dawn – or if you were really cool you might have bought Rod Stewart’s new single, Maggie May. (Thirty-three pence a gallon – I really can’t get over that – that’s just 6s 7d in old money!)
Anyway, back to the topic...
The year was 1971 and in addition to all the wondrous things happening in the UK at that time, a small blind company was being registered somewhere in the North of England. This company was a little different to other blinds companies. It had just one product: something called a vertical louvre blind. Other companies typically sold this product to architects and specifiers in the commercial marketplace, but this new company decided it would only sell via the trade and manufactured products on a made-to-measure basis for third-party retailers. Prior to this, a retailer would have had to phone a manufacturer for the price of any blind before quoting a customer. This new company, however, came out with a newfangled thing called a ‘price list’. In fact, it made two! One for the trade person and another one that featured a suggested retail price which provided a realistic profit margin for the company selling the blind. Such a concept may not be a bad idea today!
The product it sold offered options to the consumer. Bottom weights were typically sewn into louvres. If you wanted stabilising chains, these were extra. As for cording systems, a tilt chain was fitted, but a corded traversing system was also an optional extra, with a draw cord and acorn fitted to the first truck being standard. Was this the forerunner of child safety wand ideas?
Through hard work, great product quality and even better service, this little company prospered and grew. When it was able, it reinvested in itself to ensure product and company performance were not affected by external influences. It started to weave fabric; it then started to coat fabric. Rather than relying on outside moulders it invested in a moulding machine and tooling to create the little company’s unique systems. When finances allowed, more moulding machines were bought to satisfy expanding production requirements.
As the UK market structure changed from predominantly retailing of products to a myriad of blind manufacturing companies supplying trade or direct, our little company slowly changed its method of supply. From being a supplier of made-to-measure blinds it became a supplier of superior fabrics and components to a selection of blind manufacturing companies. Once again, it never sold directly to the consumer.
The company continued to satisfy its customers’ needs. As the customers grew in size and number, so too did the little company. As new products were required the little company would create new systems and fabrics for its customers to use. Both parties benefited from this relationship and it has always been that way.
Forty years on from its registration, the little company continues to put its customers first. Investment in equipment and resources is still key to its success. Innovation in products and services is also critical in order to support the ability of the company and its customers to grow when times are tough.
Believe it or not, internet chat rooms were first seen in 1971. That phenomenon of the internet has grown bigger and better over the years to the point where now – well, we wouldn’t know what to do without it, would we? Many people would say the same regarding our little company – Louvolite: big enough to matter, small enough to care.
Forty fabulous years – congratulations Louvolite!