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How did we do?

Julie Wood, Somfy’s retail programme manager and market manager for Interior Window Coverings looks back at 2008 and forward to 2009

The 2008 overall economy was subdued and consumer spending on non-essential items continued to feel pressure from rising transport and energy costs.  


Added to these issues were the increasing environmental and legislative requirements, including 'green' energy efficiency standards for commercial buildings and consumer demand for energy and cost savings in residential properties, as well as safety issues becoming ever more pertinent.  These factors will persist through 2009 - we are all aware the economy will remain challenging and that disposable incomes will continue to be squeezed. However within our industries the news hasn't been all bad - and nor will it continue to be.  

Grant Allan, Somfy's MD commented: "The housing market dynamism experienced in previous years will take time to return but earlier economic downturns have taught us that there are always customers who prefer to stay put and improve.  Our products are in that area of consumer consideration, more accessible than a new kitchen or bathroom and with less hassle."

Mindful of the climate, Somfy is providing its retail programme members with additional support, for example with special offers on its WireFree LT30 motor for roller blinds.  The WireFree range also includes battery operated motors for Venetians and Romans – and the range is hugely popular especially amongst its customers and consumers who are new to motorisation, as these products require no wiring or specialist skills to install.   

This latest offer is in addition to its existing range of packages linked to the Home Motion living experience. Somfy also provides general and marketing advice.  For example a blinds/curtains/awnings retailer could form links with other providers, such as local builders, electricians and audio visual retailers – to offer a complete and easy solution for a consumer.  A consumer could purchase a home theatre set up, including a near silent motorised projection screen, black-out blinds and/or curtains, all powered by Somfy and operated by a single remote control handset.

Other suggestions include retailers/customers marketing to existing databases of consumers about the enhanced lifestyles they can enjoy by motorising or fully automating the products around their homes (awning, blinds, curtains, gate, garage door, projection screen, roller shutters) so that the products operate how and when they want, freeing them from mundane tasks.

This advice is in addition to literature for providing in stores and mailing out to consumers, as well as displays and the training given by Somfy for sales staff and installers.

In the commercial sector, Charlotte Townend, Somfy's commercial buildings market manager, confirms that although any negative effects of the economic downturn will emerge later, due to the long lead times associated with commercial building projects, the outlook currently remains positive.  "Applications for commercial building projects are still seeing considerable growth in sales and with our portfolio of products we have a solution compatible with any type of exterior or interior solar protection technology, for every type and size of building. Throughout 2008 Somfy continued to support architects and specifiers across the UK and delivered RIBA approved CPD training to over 300 architects relating to dynamic facade management.  

For 2009 this support will continue and widen, not least by developing new relationships with technically orientated groups such as electrical engineering boards, and Charlotte suggests that customers specialising in commercial project applications, can do likewise in order to remain competitive.

It's important to understand the variety of technologies across all commercial and residential buildings and Somfy's aims are to facilitate the development of partnerships and efficient solutions for the control of internal and external systems, interfacing where required with building control systems to yield cost reductions and energy savings in both the commercial and residential sectors.  

Somfy are in the process of becoming members of CEDIA and KNX UK  and this will enable full advantage to be taken of smart home and intelligent building concept opportunities which Somfy can also use to support its customers.

Throughout 2009 Somfy intends to maintain and broaden its customer support in securing new contracts, continuing technical assistance, dedicated training, specification and commissioning assistance, and joint business development and marketing initiatives.

Now is not the time to sit back and see what happens, now is the time to take action to overcome any obstacles set before us and to make ready for the upturn when it comes.




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