Case Studies

Custom Decorators Inc.

Catering to consumers and major retailers with design expertise

For many homeowners, the thought of interior redecorating and design is an overwhelming, time consuming and risky task. The task can become overwhelming when choosing window treatments, something most consumers, and even some interior decorators, are not familiar with. What if the wrong product is ordered or the wrong measurements are taken? What if the colors don’t match or something is out of stock? For 20 years, Custom Decorators Inc. (CDI) has been alleviating this anxiety by catering to homeowners and small commercial clients with a network of dedicated, experienced design professionals throughout the U.S. and Canada.

CDI provides its service with a direct-to-consumer model (under Dé, direct-to-trade, as well as a private label for some of the largest retailers in North America, such as Home Depot, Macy’s and Costco. “We go directly to the home, measure and take all factors into account from inception to meticulous installation to provide a completely turnkey service,” explains Steve Brown, president and owner of CDI. “There are some mom-and-pop design businesses and regional players, but no one else really does what we do on a national basis. That’s what makes CDI’s business model truly unique.”

A niche in retail partnerships

CDI hasn’t always operated on a national level; in fact, the company is the brainchild of a regional paint manufacturer. “CDI started about 20 years ago as Rodda Paint Company (Rodda), a paint manufacturer with 40 to 50 retail locations,” reveals Brown. “To diversify, Rodda started asking what else it could do besides selling paint and the company began selling more in-home design services from consultations to carpets and window treatments all with the assistance of professional designers.”

When the design services began to take off, Stephen Zimmer, founder of CDI who originally ran the retail stores for Rodda, created the company to support partners requesting similar services. “Ever since then that’s been part of our business model; to partner with large retailers – the bigger, the better,” says Brown. “We allow them to sell goods backed by expert service.”

Brown purchased CDI in February 2014, around his five-year anniversary with the company. “While I’ve only been with CDI for five years, I’ve been around the business my whole life,” he shares. “For his entire adult life, my grandfather owned a small home furnishings store in rural Illinois. He sold everything from window treatments to carpets.”

However, Brown has had previous experience, as well. “I worked in brick and mortar and online retail for several years and what attracted me to CDI was the online presence,” he continues. “Our model actually benefits from the growth of online retail, rather than be threatened by it.”

When Brown purchased CDI only months ago, he says it was a smooth, generational transition. “Very little has changed operations wise,” he tells. “Our strategy remains the same.”

Consumer, retailer and direct-to-trade service

Today CDI offers consumer and retailer direct design service across the U.S. and Canada with approximately 400 designers and 250 installers. “We’re able to get into about 90 percent of homes in the U.S. and Canada in most major metropolitan and outlying areas,” notes Brown.

Brown explains CDI’s ideal customer is the DIFM “do it for me” client. “We take the risk out of the homeowners’ hands,” he says. “Our average job is typically $2,000 to $3,000, but we also deliver major $20,000 to $30,000 renovations.”

While CDI works directly on behalf of major retailers, the company also has a consumer-direct arm known as Décorview. “This division mainly markets and sells window treatments to consumers,” says Brown, “But we also do a lot of work directly with the building trade.”

CDI’s direct business, through Décorview, is focused in two segments: builders and home decorators. “Most interior decorators are not trained and certified for the unique situations we face as window treatment specialists,” Brown explains. “At a full home remodel in Sonoma, Calif., we came in as the designer’s designer to find the right window treatments for each room.”

CDI’s Décorview works with builders in a similar way. “Our advice is a tremendous value add to any builder, from upselling the cost savings of highly energy efficient window treatments to planning for motorized shades; you will appreciate our focus on your client’s satisfaction,” Brown says.

Power in partnerships

For years, CDI has been building relationships with not only big-name retailers, but also some of North America’s most trusted suppliers, such as Hunter Douglas. “We work with some of the premier providers in the marketplace,” says Brown. “We have a few really good relationships on the supplier side.”

These relationships were critical during the onset of the recession in 2007 to 2008. “The market overall took a big hit, but CDI was able to continue to grow thanks to our highly unique business model and the strength in our partnerships,” notes Brown. “The size and scope of our work also came into play. People could still afford to make improvements with the average cost of our projects being about $3,000. I’d say it was a bit of luck, but it also had a lot to do with our strategic business.”

From inception to installation, the company’s model continues to flourish throughout North America as Custom Decorators Inc.’s reputation for thoughtful interior design guidance and performance delivers a stress-free solution.

Published on: September 25, 2014

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