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Question Time - Aluzion

Andrew Trevvett, a founder and director of Aluzion discusses the power of design and future market trends.

 

How did you get started in the blinds & shutters industry?

I joined the family furnishing business about 20 years ago, which supplied and installed products for contract interiors, eventually specialising in blinds and curtains. After working on this in several markets, I moved out to start Aluzion – a manufacturer and designer of specialist solar shading.

What is your position at Aluzion – and could you describe how your career has progressed there since first joining?

I am a director, but we are a SME so there is a certain amount of multitasking! In order to help the business grow, I have literally done a bit of everything, but now I'm mostly involved in product design and marketing.

What would you consider your greatest achievement at Aluzion?

The launch of our 3e solar powered roller blind was a really exciting project and a great achievement. With its headbox and side wires, it is ideal in high spec offices and when linked to a range of automatic controls it is the ultimate green blind unlike anything else on the market. After months of testing and false starts, it was rewarding to launch such an innovative product. Similarly, the Dolomite – a zip channelled blackout roller that is easy to install – was an exciting product to design and produce, and we have recently manufactured these at 4.8m wide for a museum project, and there’s lots of interest in for boardrooms and labs too.

How has the company itself changed in your time there?

Aluzion has broadened its product range and has set itself to be a vital supplier to the blind industry. Two years ago we had very limited production capacity but we now have a modern unit, well laid out and designed for speed of assembly.

How would you define the Aluzion brand?

It is all about good design: not just blinds, but products with innovative features that add to the buildings, perform effectively and are built to last – not just for the defects liability period!

What do you feel is the greatest threat to the industry today?

The confusion of price and value (price is what customers pay – value is what they get) is a threat to our industry. How many times do we respond to our customers by reducing the price, when actually what the customer wants is to be advised of what the blinds will do for them – how the blinds will improve the customer’s building – how the blinds will add value.

Also, the move from traditional architect-led contracts design and build (D&B) has resulted in a general driving down of quality so that blinds are perceived as low grade commodities instead of vital tools for energy management. This was started off by the D&B move of the 90’s, which in the commercial sectors of the industry reduced blinds down to the same level as, say, plasterboard or concrete, without considering the benefits of each product, and what it could do for the customer when the building is handed over.

Can the market look forward to a less turbulent 2014?

I'm cautious on this one. Emerging from a recession is when cash is under the most pressure, but as things improve, architects and designers will be more inclined to specify good quality products and insist on compliance from contractors.

The domestic market is becoming more discerning, and ‘3 blinds for £99’ is giving way to ‘motorised blinds’ – so that’s definitely an opportunity. Also, suppliers with UK manufacturing will have the edge over imports because the UK market is very much led by delivery times. So, turbulent 2014? Yes, probably. Exciting and interesting? Yes, definitely!

From where does Aluzion draw the inspiration for its products?

Almost entirely from the marketplace. For example the College blind was developed for a college that said they had a lot of blind breakages, didn’t like paying for repairs, and wanted a really strong blind. We sampled what we thought would satisfy them and they said ‘No, it’s not nearly strong enough’, so we went to town using heavy components and they were delighted. That became the prototype for the College blind, which is now on mark III and is a highly successful product, used in primary schools, top independent schools and secondary schools as well as many new build colleges. Of course it is more expensive than ordinary blinds, but most schools can see the benefits and willingly pay the extra because they know they won’t have any maintenance problems.

What are the major trends in the solar shading industry at the moment?

Energy saving is key, which means insulating fabrics, and using best practice for the blind design and the installation too. We believe use of electric blinds will greatly increase, and will start to become vital elements in building management systems for contract applications, and also in luxury homes. We are in an age of automation: why should an older person have to pull heavy chains or cords to operate blinds and curtains? Similarly, there are safety concerns with children, which dictate crank or electric operation.

Mostly, the blinds industry trails woefully behind the glass industry in terms of technical data, and usable information on how much glare/heat/light is transmitted with each fabric and system isn’t always available or understood. This will slowly change as EU standards come into place, and BIM becomes used and other 3D and energy modelling programs are used in the design stages.

What can we expect from Aluzion in the near future?

We have some innovative new products coming along – such as roof systems, new fabrics and controls. However, in 2014 our main aim is to concentrate on giving excellent customer service and become established as a supplier that the trade can speak to and trust – to be more than just a blindmaker.

What do you think will be the future big changes for the industry?

There is going to be more competition, some of it online, and customers will find it easier to shop around. At the same time, domestic and trade buyers are discerning about quality and many will stick with trusted brands that have been well proved. Users will increasingly realise the potential for electric systems, and automated control from timers or climate sensors.

Aluzion

 

 

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