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What a Debut by Rufflette

In the light of Rufflette’s launch of Debut, its first one stop range of fabrics and decorative and functional accessories, Blinds & Shutters talked to a leading Rufflette retailer to see how well the concept of selling a bespoke service works in practice, particularly in these tough times.

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Mike Deutsch set up his original dress fabric and dressmaking accessories shop, Mandors Fabric Store back in the seventies, graduating to soft furnishing fabrics, accessories and window fashions with the subsequent launch of Decorum Interiors from Mandors. In value terms the interiors side now accounts for 50 per cent of the business.

In Mike’s opinion there are a number of reasons to adopt the bespoke route in conjunction with a manufacturer who specialises in that kind of service.  “At the most basic level – and this is pretty fundamental these days – it means you can reduce your stock holding and free up cash, but it’s equally true that bespoke is the way to added value. With the right approach and the right manufacturing partner, that means increased sales and increased profit opportunities.”

MatineeDecorum Interiors from Mandors started to work with Rufflette Debut after seeing the range at a show. “We’d carried Rufflette tape and accessories for years, so obviously I was familiar with the brand,” said Mike, “but what attracted me to Debut was the dramatic dark display gallery. It was stunning and really stood out from the rest. I already knew that galleries of fabric work better from a sales point of view than rolls. There’s something psychologically off-putting about rolls to the customer, not to mention the fact that as a retailer you’ll always be left with one or two in a range that don’t sell – even if you reduce them in price. Commercially speaking, you could pay up to £600 for a roll of fabric, or £600 for a gallery of fifty fabrics, so that seems to me a bit of a no-brainer. All in all, the Rufflette Debut offer made sense – a familiar brand name with subliminal pull that customers would recognise and trust, a really attractive gallery presentation and the chance to avoid carrying the expense of stock.

“I also knew that not only are blinds very popular, but creating fabric blinds – especially Roman – that are bespoke to the customer’s needs, is the most popular option of all.  As the added value side of the equation, bespoke blinds command the highest margins and offer incredibly good opportunities to sell up, to cross sell and, in short, to sell more than you might do otherwise.  From one window, all of a sudden you find you are providing window fashions solutions for the whole house. So having a bespoke service partner like Rufflette Debut makes a lot of sense.”

According to Mike, the key to added value is home consultancy, something Decorum Interiors from Mandors specialises in providing.  “Customers really appreciate guidance in the choice of fabric, the styles that are in vogue, that are best for the long term or will suit their window, house or lifestyle and some advice on the accessories to go with them. Very few people think about functional aspects such as linings and all these present the bespoke blinds retailer with new sales opportunities as well as reaffirming the shop as a source of proper old-fashioned added value service.

Park Lane picWe measure up and we supply the quote in seven days, fully itemised in terms of materials and labour.  This is very important in maintaining confidence and trust. We then have a choice of using the Rufflette Debut make up service or utilising Mandors’ own workrooms. We also fit all our blinds and curtains using our own fitters.  Potentially thousands of pounds worth of window fashions deserve their own fitting service and again, customers will pay happily, once they realise what a skilled job fitting is.”
In the case of Mike’s company, making up blinds within the business is perfectly feasible as Decorum Interiors from Mandors has its own workroom premises.  However, getting the considerable benefits of bespoke does not need this kind of special investment, if it doesn’t already exist. Home Couture is the name given to Rufflette’s make up service and it can handle the whole range of functional and decorative techniques to a very high level of skill and traditional detail and with quick and efficient turnaround back to the customer.

This is crucial because apart from the obvious point that there is a limit to how long you can expect a bespoke customer to wait for their blinds to be made and fitted, in Mike’s experience in the added value world of bespoke, it’s very often the detail that matters and the detail that secures the profitability of the sale. 

“Some detail is fairly obvious – does the customer want pinch pleats or eyelet headings? Do they know that stripes are usually good for kitchens, or that some patterns are just too big to work with Roman blinds? Have they got the weight of the fittings right for the window or the look they want, or have they thought through whether they are actually going to use the blind – or just look at it? But it’s really the detail of the make up that counts and also the functional issues which customers tend not to think about in advance.”

Linings for blinds is a case in point and this is where the fact that Rufflette Debut is truly a ‘one-stop-shop’ for bespoke window fashions can be very helpful to the retailer, because it can supply all kinds of functional as well as decorative accessories, including the less obvious. Mike explained: ”You can sell older people thermal linings, blackout linings for people on shiftwork or with sleep problems.  Silk needs interlining rather than normal lining, and so on.  If you can advise customers on how fabric behaves and work with a supplier who understands this as well as you do, you can really reap the rewards of bespoke. In my opinion bespoke is a win-win for the High Street retailer.  It frees up cash and it unlocks additional sales and more profitable sales. It also enhances the reputation of the whole store.  Taking this route and partnering with Rufflette has been an excellent decision.”

 

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