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Question time - Caribbean Blinds

Stuart Dantzic, sales & marketing director, Caribbean Blinds explains why the exterior blinds company is at the top of its game.


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

I started helping out the family firm in the summer holidays when I was a youngster, doing general tasks, everything from sweeping the factory floor to some office filing and making the tea/coffee. It wasn’t long before I began assisting with the manufacture of the range of external blinds and learning the processes involved, from the cutting of the extrusions, to the confectioning of the materials to the assembly of all the parts, it was good fun (like putting together a giant mechano set) and gave me the perfect inside-out knowledge of the products I would later go onto sell and market. It was while I was studying Law at college and also working part time at the company that I took the plunge (only three months into college) deciding to ditch college and work full time in the family business. I’ve never looked back and the 12 years since have literally flown by.

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

My official job title is sales & marketing director, however, I am involved in every aspect of the business. A large part of my time is spent developing the business, putting in place effective strategies to grow both our trade and projects divisions and supporting all our team from production to sales to installation.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

That’s a tough question as I’m a very self motivated and self determined individual with a desire to succeed and be the very best. However, I have to say that this mindset stems from my parents who provided me with a great education and a great step and platform into the business world by allowing me to join their firm. They’ve shown me that no matter how tough times get, to keep on going and you’ll come out on the other side stronger and better, with your head held high (they will know exactly what I mean by that comment).

What would you consider your greatest achievement at Caribbean Blinds?

I love winning full stop – whether its being awarded a large contract we’ve pitched for or signing a new dealer over to us, however, if I had to narrow it down, I would say that setting up our projects (contracts) division has been the greatest achievement to date, there is something about starting something from scratch and seeing it flourish, that feel good factor. It was a lot of hard work and continues to be, but I thoroughly enjoy a challenge and it has been highly rewarding. We get specified for and involved in all the elite and prestigious projects, for celebrities including footballers to top end restaurants and internationally recognised businesses and department stores. Notable projects include the 17 external blinds we installed to the rear of comedian Jimmy Carrs property, the large entirely bespoke ‘twin’ awning we designed and installed to the poolhouse terrace at premiership footballers Michael Carricks residence and the 35 external roller blinds we installed to top London architect practice AHMM’s own offices ‘Morelands’ which achieved BREEAM outstanding rating.  We’re now working on projects that include our Outdoor Living Pod to provide protection to more to just over 500 sq/m of outdoor restaurant space and our tensioned roof blinds to shade almost 1,000 sq/m of rooflight glazing.

How has the company itself changed in your time there?

When I started full time in the firm, we were renting premises with a not too shabby production facility and were one of numerous external blind suppliers to the trade. Move on over a decade and we’re now recognised as market leaders and innovators in the field, driving the industry forward and shaping it for the future. We’re housed in and own a modern 30,000 square foot production facility equipped with the latest cutting edge machinery for this industry and a capacity to produce more than 10,000 external blinds per annum, with room for growth – in fact we have already seeked and obtained planning permission for a 10,000 square foot extension to ensure we can continue to meet demand which is growing year on year. So there have been significant changes but we remain a family firm, committed to our core values and a firm who cares, with a genuine love of what we do.

How would you define the Caribbean Blinds brand?

I think it was Gucci that said “Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten” and I can’t think of any better way to sum up our brand. From the quality of our products to the quality of our service, it’s simply superior in every way. We never rest on our laurels, continuing to evolve and innovate, designing, manufacturing, supplying and installing the very finest exterior solar shading solutions that money can buy, products of true distinction that people are proud of, products that are striking, adorning the facades of luxurious buildings and delivering real benefits, whether it be energy saving, lifestyle or comfort.

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

A combination of mis-selling and poor installations. Both of these result in the purchaser or specifier believing that exterior solar shading products as a whole are not great, when in fact it is purely that the company who has supplied it has either supplied the wrong product (usually because of either their lack of knowledge or that they have sold on price rather than the right solution for the application) or installed the solution entirely wrong.

What have you learned from the recession?

It represents great opportunities aswell as threats and it’s up to you what you make of it. If you’ve had a good business model but most importantly margin in the years prior to the recession, providing you remain pro-active and innovative during the recession you should come out the other side, stronger and better than before, with a finely tuned business for the future. Great things happened at Caribbean during the recession, we invested in setting up a contracts (projects) division which is now paying dividend representing growth over 67% last year alone and accounting for a over a third of the companies turnover. We also completely re-branded to better position ourselves and define the Caribbean brand in the marketplace. We’re now a company that is stronger than ever and set for great things ahead.

Can the market look forward to a less turbulent 2014?

The weather will and continues to play a certain element on how successful a year it will be for the exterior solar shading sector. When the sun comes the phones ring off the hook and when it’s raining, enquiries tend to slow down. I believe that companies who have a good external blind programme covering different sectors and requirements along with a dedication and commitment to the field of exterior solar shading and a proactive marketing strategy will flourish and continue to prosper.

What are the major trends in the awnings industry at the moment?

People staying at home and improving rather than moving, along with the desire to make the most of the available outdoor space whatever the weather without spoiling the alfresco feel, are the major trends. This is seen as the popularity of fixed frame awnings with opening/closing roofs and drop down sides such as our Outdoor Living Pod system, has increased significantly. Consumers are happy to invest more money in these types of solutions to enhance their life, creating a 'holiday at home' terrace, rather than traditional retractable folding arm awnings that can only be used for sun and occasional light rain shower protection.

From where does Caribbean Blinds draw the inspiration for its products?

Innovation is key. We work closely with leading European partners who are specialists in their individual fields to source, design and develop exterior shading solutions specifically for the UK market taking into account three key criteria; climatic conditions, building stock and their function/performance. This ensures that our products are suited to the UK weather conditions (so will stand the test of time), able to attach to our typical building construction as well as look good against it and most importantly deliver the benefits they are being purchased for, whether it be energy saving, comfort or lifestyle.

What is Caribbean Blinds’ USP?

Knowledge, Passion & Experience – it’s what counts and makes us different to every other ‘exterior blinds’ supplier out there in the UK. We’re committed 100% purely to the field of exterior solar shading with a heritage that spans more than a quarter of a century, focussing all our devotion and attention to external blinds, awnings and outdoor shading solutions, never taking our eye off the ball and continually investing in the future. We’re (the entire team at CB) passionate about what we do, the products we supply and the transformation our products make, creating cool, comfortable and sustainable spaces, places where people love to be.

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

I think an increase in sales of more ‘all weather awnings’ over the next few years will be a major change, as well as fewer but larger retailers of ‘fixed frame type awnings’ who are specialising in this type of product. Additionally, I believe there will be more cross business (referrals), allowing blinds retailers who get enquiries for external blinds but are not able to service them to pass them to us to handle professionally and earn a commission for successful sales obtained. We will also see an increased awareness of the energy saving benefits of exterior window shading, much of this down to the hard work of our projects team several years ago educating the specification sector, and see more companies offering external roller blinds and tensioned roof blinds in the UK.

Caribbean Blinds




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