The recession has been hard on all of the building industry and Gulf Coast Window Fashions in Houston Texas is the latest casualty. For the last few years, they were the only Hunter Douglas manufacture in the state of Texas and our Hunter Douglas blinds resource. Hunter Douglas, one of the leading suppliers of blinds in the world, announced a couple of years ago that they would no longer allow internet sales. I do know that at the time, Gulf Coast’s growth was in that area before they were told to drop the internet accounts. I was told that the internet sales accounted for ten percent of Gulf Coasts business and I suspect it could have been higher. Hunter Douglas branded products are known for high quality components, unique options and colors hard to find elsewhere. However, the pricing typically reflects this. In a bad economy, over saturated suppliers (including the heavy N. American push by the Chinese), lack of home building, lack of consumer funds for extras, easy availability of cheaper non name brands, the internet and box stores, and slow growth are major reasons for the decline of Gulf Coast.
I worked with them for over a decade and had a relationship with this manufacturer for over 15 years and am sad to see them go. At one point, Gulf Coast was 53% of our business. They are good people, and hard workers. We could see the writing on the wall as the Hunter Douglas requests got smaller (we do have a small retail location), prices keep increasing, lack of brand name loyalty for blinds and easy reallocation of sales opportunities quickly replaced the lost business. They did have some setbacks recently that probably hurt them. They had a thief that stole a significant amount of money from them over several years, they were told to quit selling products over the internet and some territorial issues seemed to hamper the organization.
I got a call from our sales representative not too long ago. He was flying out to California to see if they still have jobs. Since I haven’t heard back I take he wasn’t on the list of keepers. I also haven’t heard from the sales manager who I considered a friend. Times change and the strongest survive. This isn’t the first American blinds manufacture to fold in this downed economy. There are other Hunter Douglas owned companies that have been taken off the books. Rumors have it that several other smaller manufacturers (non related) are on the for sale/closure block. Anyways, I am sad to see them go and wish the best for them.