Drapery, Curtain, and Upholstery Stores

SIC 5714

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of draperies, curtains, and upholstery materials. Establishments primarily engaged in reupholstering or repairing furniture are classified in SIC 7641: Reupholstery and Furniture Repair.

Industry Snapshot

Curtain, drapery, and upholstery material stores were a thriving segment of the general home furnishings retail industry during the 2000s, although by the late 2000s this industry, as well as many others in the United States, experienced drops in sales due to the economic recession.

Overall, the industry aided consumers who focused on the home and personalizing their environments and recognized these lifestyle directions by providing stylish yet relatively low-priced products. Drapery, curtain, and upholstery stores emphasized the low cost of replacing window treatments as a way to update a room, as opposed to overhauling the entire room. Reupholstering or purchasing slipcovers for existing furniture was also an alternative to redecorating a room. Furniture covers had gone from a specialized industry to a more mass-produced segment with many options readily available in discount and chain stores. The popularity of futons also benefited the upholstery segment because the versatile furniture could be covered with a variety of ready-made or custom-made slipcovers.

There were approximately 5,002 establishments engaged in the retail sale of draperies, curtains, and upholstery materials in 2010, according to Dun & Bradstreet's Marketing Solutions. About 16,657 people were employed within this industry, and total sales were $835.4 million in 2009. California, Florida, Texas, and New York represented the majority of establishments with a total of 1,568 stores. Together, these four states generated $278.6 million in sales, or approximately a third of industry revenues. Most establishments were small, with about 85 percent of employing fewer than five people.

The industry was divided into five categories that included stores that sold either drapery and upholstery, curtains, draperies, slip covers, or upholstery materials. Draperies represented the largest category with 2,631 establishments. Sales for this segment represented about $440.6 million in 2009, comprising more than 52 percent of the overall marketplace. Drapery and upholstery stores numbered 1,491. Combined, their sales were $209.4 million, or about 25 percent of the market. The remainder of the market was covered by 454 curtain stores, with $100.7 million in sales, 291 upholstery stores with $66.4 million in sales, and 135 slip cover stores with $18.3 million in sales.

Curtain and drapery stores were adversely affected by shifting trends in shopping for home decorating fashions. Many stores changed dramatically to accommodate the new trends by adding a wider variety of merchandise both for windows and for the home itself. Chains like Blinds to Go emerged, concentrating on providing a single product. The upholstery fabric segment generally benefited from shifting trends in consumer tastes. New technological developments brought a wider range of upholstery fabrics to consumers and retail outlets, leading to increased consumer interest and increased business for retailers. Furniture stores offering custom upholstery services in a variety of prices and styles, such as Custom Expressions, emerged in major markets across the country, sparking consumer interest in upholstery, which trickled down to more established stores selling only upholstery fabrics.

Background and Development

Many of the establishments in the retail curtain and drapery industry were family-owned enterprises located primarily in commercial districts of residential areas, both urban and suburban. These establishments catered to both new homeowners with a limited decorating budget and older customers with more money to spend. The typical store offered ready-made curtains and draperies, custom-made window treatments, a selection of alternative window treatments such as miniblinds and vertical drapes, and, in some cases, kitchen and bath textiles. Kitchen and bath sales helped boost profits, compensating for flagging curtain and drapery sales. To sell their products, curtain and drapery stores relied heavily on attractive displays of merchandise. One type of store display was the vignette, or small wall-window-bed display. Designed to give a customer an idea of a how a coordinated room might look, these displays changed every few months to incorporate a new product line. The vignette's components were easily interchangeable and adaptable. The displayed products were obtained from a host of major manufacturers, who showcased their products at seasonal trade shows attended by buyers or owners of curtain and drapery stores.

A prime example of a family-owned, privately held curtain and drapery business was Curtainland, a small chain of stores in the suburban New York area. The company was founded in 1975 by the Kanan brothers, who had previous experience in the retail furniture and appliance business. The first store, and the three subsequent Curtainland outlets, were located in areas with a recent influx of new suburban residents. The Kanans believed that the window-treatment areas of department stores did not offer as much variety as their specialty retail business. Curtainland stores aimed to combine a wide selection of products with prices even with or lower than their competitors'. The company tried to hire sales associates with some interior design experience. Curtainland's ability to provide knowledgeable and committed service helped insulate the company from downturns in the soft window-treatment business. The Kanan family played a key role as buyers for Curtainland stores, obtaining the company's merchandise from quarterly trips to curtain and drapery manufacturers' showrooms in New York City. Curtainland stores stocked miniblinds, vertical drapes, curtain and drapery rods, and pleated shades, as well as ready-made curtains, draperies, and matching bedspreads. Bath accessories such as rugs and shower curtains also accounted for some of the store's merchandise.

Prior to the 1980s formal draperies were standard fixtures in living room, dining room, and bedroom areas, while lighter-weight curtains were the primary window coverings in more informal rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms. In the 1980s the curtain and drapery store industry was dramatically affected by shifts in home decorating tastes. American window-blind manufacturers developed new technology that opened up a whole new area of hard window treatments--the aluminum miniblind. This versatile shade came in a variety of colors and styles, was relatively inexpensive, did not require dry-cleaning, and gave any room a modern look. Soon Taiwan restructured its lightweight plastics industry to produce vinyl imitations of the miniblind that were cheaper than miniblinds manufactured in the United States. By the 1990s miniblinds were standard window coverings in millions of households across the United States, which had a detrimental effect on curtain and drapery sales. As a result, many curtain and drapery manufacturers and retail outlets did not survive and were forced to exit the business or adapt their product lines to capture other segments of the home-furnishings business.

The curtain and drapery manufacturers in operation during the 1990s offered a limited product line, with an emphasis on custom services and quick delivery. Specialty curtain and drapery stores also were damaged by competition from home-decorating areas of department stores, which employed more aggressive marketing tactics than the typical specialty curtain and drapery store. J.C. Penney was one example of a department store that invested money in its home-decorating departments to revive flagging overall sales.

The entry of discount retailers into the home-furnishings market also negatively affected the industry. Stores such as Kohl's and Wal-Mart offered a wide selection of ready-made curtains and draperies in the latest styles at bargain rates. Discounters' sales thrived as they turned their domestics divisions into extremely competitive destinations. K-Mart, for example, created its program based on sharp merchandising and the reputation of home fashions expert Martha Stewart, Target had its design staff establish a fashion direction conforming to larger style trends. Discount Store News noted, "One of the big questions that remains about the domestics market isn't whether major discounters will win more share of the market but rather what share of market they will leave for other retailers."

Current Conditions

Curtain, drapery, and upholstery stores were negatively affected by the economic recession that began in 2007. Figures from Home Furnishings News's "State of the Industry" showed that sales of curtains and draperies were down 5 percent in 2009 to $1.9 billion, following an overall trend that had begun in the late 2000s. Mass merchants and clubs continued to claim a dominant share of home textiles sales, claiming 47 percent of the market in 2009. Specialty stores held 22 percent of the home textiles market, followed by department stores with 16 percent. Catalog, online, and other sales made up the remainder of the market. Industry participants were cautiously optimistic about a recovery in 2010.

Industry Leaders

In the late 1990s the leaders in the curtain and drapery industry were stores that specialized in home goods as a whole, but by the 2000s, discount stores like Wal-Mart had gained an increasing market share. Overall, the emphasis had shifted toward "one-stop shopping," where individuals could furnish an entire house with one trip to the store. In the late 2000s, Wal-Mart was the number-one retailer for home textiles, which included products like draperies, curtains, and slip covers. Sales for the home textiles department alone at the superstore behemoth were $3.7 billion in 2008, according to Home Textiles Today. Bed, Bath & Beyond, while in second place behind Wal-Mart in overall home textile sales with $3.0 billion, held its place as the top domestics-only retailer in 2010, having lost competitor Linens N Things to bankruptcy in 2008. Bed Bath & Beyond operated about 995 stores in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico and recorded overall sales of $7.8 billion in 2009.

Rounding out the top five in overall home textiles sales in the late 2000s were J.C. Penney, Target, and Kohl's, with $2.67 billion, $2.65 billion, and $1.1 billion in home textile sales, respectively.

One specialty industry leader was Hunter Douglas, Inc., based in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. The company offered a variety of blinds, shades, and draperies. Hunter Douglas also sold its window treatments to Lowe's and Home Depot. Overall sales for Hunter Douglas were $912 million in 2009.

The rest of the industry was dominated by smaller, specialized companies such as Plainview, New York-based Curtains and Home, Inc. Most of its stores were along the eastern seaboard in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. The company was known as a retailer of affordable curtains, drapes, and other home furnishings, such as shower curtains and table linens. Another company, Window Works International, was the franchiser of over 100 custom window treatment stores across the country and relied heavily on sophisticated advertising and a contemporary look in its outlets to attract upscale but price-conscious consumers. Custom-made blinds accounted for a large part of store sales, but Window Works also stocked an array of products from drapery and curtain manufacturers.

An innovative Connecticut-based business, the Drapery Exchange, Inc., stocked draperies on consignment and sold them to consumers at a reduced price. Local interior designers turned over their leftover inventory of custom-made drapery and window treatment ensembles, originally created for design showrooms, designer showhouses, or magazine layouts. The Drapery Exchange then sold these custom-made goods at a substantially reduced price.

Online sales of draperies, curtains, and upholstery fabrics were becoming more popular into the 2010s. Companies such as Warehouse Fabrics Inc. and the Online Fabrics Store offered a wide variety of fabrics for upholstery at low prices, whereas The Curtain Shop appealed to consumers' demand for convenience by stating "There is no need to run out to the store when you can buy curtains online." Some stores, like The Curtain Exchange, which sold curtains and draperies both online and through traditional stores, even allowed customers to "try out" curtains for 48 hours before deciding whether to buy. Adding these types of services was part of specialty stores' attempts to gain back some of the market share lost to large department stores and discount stores.

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