Jim Venable is president and CEO of Window Depot USA, a low-cost window replacement company headquartered in Little Rock, Ark.
REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: Why are we seeing so many low-cost window companies at this time?
JIM VENABLE: What's happening is that the market is moving to our pricing. People are more educated, more sophisticated. They want to know why they should pay $800 or $900 per opening when we can sell them a low-E, argon-filled loaded-up window for one half to one third of that.
RC: But shouldn't consumers assume from that pricing that they're going to have to sacrifice something in terms of window quality?
JV: We don't sell cheap or poor-quality windows. We couldn't align our licensees with a product line that will cause service or image problems for them down the road. One of the manufacturers we buy from offers a double-pane window that has the best U-values for a double pane in the country. And it sells for a third of what high-end windows are selling for today. When you can take quality and add mass marketing and discount pricing, you're going to get volume sales.
RC: Critics would say that you're not really selling a window so much as retailing it, since the price is known to the customer before the alesperson comes to the house.
JV: The days of the four-hour presentation and buy-or-die scenario are over.
RC: How can you sell a window for $189, even if it's $350 with a glass package, insulation, and capping, and still make the gross margin you need to stay in business and be profitable?
JV: You've got to do volume. You can't sell 100 or 200 windows per month and survive.
RC: What kind of growth are you expecting this year?
JV: We think we're No. 2 right now. I want to add 36 net dealers to our program in '08. That would take us to the point where we're pushing 80 net dealers. The addition of new partners is my thrust.
We expect a small store to do 300 units a month. We have stores that are doing 1,000 units a month. We're very selective. They have to sell me on why they should have my license. Our close rate nationally is well over twice what the average window company's close rate is.
RC: Where do you see the low-cost window option going?
JV: It's a different philosophy and it's an idea whose time has come. We will command more and more market share. Right now there are three major players: us, Window World, and Clear Choice. Everybody's growing. In the first quarter we hope to be west of the Rockies. And there are a lot of people who will be doing low-cost windows as time moves on. Mom and Pops will be doing it.