Big Investments Position Window City for Growth

Canadian manufacturer looks to woo new customers with good talk, and a good walk
Christina Lewellen
August 15, 2008
FEATURE ARTICLE | Close-Ups

Window City is out on the dealer dating scene and ready to commit. Having served the greater Toronto area for more than 15 years, the Vaughan, Ontario-based window and door manufacturer has invested millions of dollars to automate its production facility, vertically-integrate its business strategy and take its image to the next level with an aggressive marketing initiative.

With nearly a half-million square feet of space full of automated equipment and vertically-integrated processes, Toronto-based Window City is ready to take its unique product offering and marketing support program to new regions by expanding its distribution relationships.

The manufacturer is comfortable in its own skin, confident it can back up its claims of quality products and provide sales and service support to the dealers and distributors it’s beginning to court in Western Canada and the United States. “To be a champion in today’s market, you need better tools,” says Jeff Sadr, president. “Not just better products—you need better technology for ordering, delivery, upgrades across the board. We tried to cover all the aspects of the business that we can.”

Run by the third generation of a window manufacturing family, Window City is comfortable with slow, controlled growth. “If not one dealer came on this year, we’ll be okay,” says Peter Yuhas, national sales manager. “But they’re going to see us and feel us, and they might wonder about their current supplier and give us a shot.”

With a highly-automated plant with capacity to fill and an arsenal of new marketing materials, Window City is exploring dealer and distributor relationships much like a single person explores marriage potential. Believing it has plenty to offer retailers, the manufacturer wants to find businesses that provide the right fit. “We go with the ‘Let’s try each other out’ approach,” says Yuhas. “Give us a commitment and we’ll give you a commitment, and let’s make sure that our part of your business works perfectly. We don’t want to take all your business right away—I want to earn it in year two after you see what we can do in year one.”

THE NOT-SO-BASIC BASICS
Window City has about a half-million square feet of production space at its two facilities. More impressive than its size, though, is the stuff that fills all that space. During the past several years, the company has undertaken substantial capital improvement projects, filling its new headquarters facility with the latest and most automated equipment. One of the two brothers who own Window City, Matthew Sadr, was educated in Germany. While there, he came to see the value of automation in production. Thus, Window City’s production floor features some of the newest equipment on the market—Sturtz’s Crystal Achievement Award-winning compact sash line, an automated Lisec line for manufacturing IG units featuring Edgetech’s Super Spacer, Winpro’s Screen Express, as well as fabrication centers from Joseph Machinery and Urban.

The company is vertically-integrated as well, extruding its own vinyl lineals mere feet from where the frames and sash are cut and welded. The manufacturer also makes its own IG units with Super Spacer with barely a human touching the glass or unit until it’s complete.

Investing heavily in automation means Window City has a strong quality-based value proposition, managers contend. The company guarantees its IG gas fill, with units featuring Edgetech’s Super Spacer, and boasts clean and accurate corners—a differentiated message for potential dealers.

The managers believe that investing in automation and becoming vertically integrated will allow Window City to back up its quality claims with the products it is shipping out. “In any business, there’s a short-term and a long-term,” says Jeff Sadr. “Any way you cut corners today, you’re going to pay for tomorrow. Those things are heavy capital investments but having the equipment allows us the vertical integration and gives us the control over the quality of our product.”

To the Window City team, truly well-made, high-end products are the company’s primary goal. “In the end, consumers will forget who sold the windows to them, but they will always have a quality product,” Sadr says. “That’s because of our equipment and our investment.” The result of all the investments is that Window City produces windows and doors it’s not afraid to put its name on. As its IG units are filled with gas in a vacuum chamber—ensuring a 95 percent fill rate, by the way, the company proudly reports—the Edgetech Super Spacer is laser labeled with the date of manufacture, serial number and the features like what type of gas is in the unit. “If we’re going to go out and brand our name, we want to put out there the full faith and confidence we have in our products,” Yuhas explains. “There are a lot of manufacturers who won’t put their name on a replacement window.”

The tattooing of IG units also allows Window City to deal with any service issues down the road without any paper trails. “We know the piece, part and size exactly,” Yuhas says. “We can reproduce a sash exactly and ship it right out.” The company has also stepped up its investment in computer software, both in tracking products on the factory floor and in what its dealers are using to order products. “We’re trying to perfect the manufacturing process,” says Yuhas.

SPREADING THE WORD
The company offers a full line of window styles—casements, sliders, awnings, double- and single-hungs, fixed units, bows and bays—and is currently rolling out its Heritage Lifetime Entry Door System, an all-PVC door frame system that can accommodate vinyl, fiberglass, steel and wood door units up to 10 feet tall. Window City also offers steel and fiberglass entry doors, as well as patio and garden doors.

With product and capacity poised for growth, the marketing team at Window City turned its attention to its Web site, www.windocity.com, and dealer support collateral.

Having established a strong product proposition for would-be dealers, Window City—traditionally a relatively quiet and certainly regionally-focused company—is ready to open its doors and pursue new distribution relationships. The company overhauled its Web site, www.windocity.com, and produced a video giving a tour of the factory, virtually inviting dealers and consumers into “The City.”

“In the past five years, our growth has been exclusively in our existing territory,” Yuhas says. “Now our growth is in the next stage—expanding our customer base.”

Traditionally, Window City sold its products in the greater Toronto region through its contractor and dealer network. The company also specializes in the high end custom home market selling to builders, designers and architects. Early this year, the team developed the Premier Dealer Program, offering select dealers exclusive product offerings—namely the company’s Heritage Collection—in certain markets.

The plan to grow its distribution game plan was born three years ago when Window City began construction on its second facility. The new building was necessary to accommodate additional product offerings and options, but also resulted in increased capacity. The team knew it was ready to explore new partnerships.

As the company heads out onto the dating scene in Western Canada and the United States, it takes a product- and dealer-focused approach. What that means is that it figures its role is to provide an exceptional product and expects its dealers, in return, to kick in the value-add of a solid reputation with the customer base. “In the vinyl industry, the name of that product is not as important as how the product performs and the dealer putting it in,” Yuhas contends.

To support its dealer network, Window City has committed to providing the marketing tools aimed to reassure homeowners that the company’s products and service stand out from other brands. The interactive Web site was designed to serve as a “salesman in the home,” leaving dealers to focus on answering questions and selling their own services. “We as consumers have the ability to educate ourselves in our pajamas,” Yuhas says. “But the information out there comes to the consumer fragmented. Take the differences in low-E packages. Your geography may play a big part. What you want in Toronto might not make sense south of Baltimore. So we’re putting a salesman in the home before the salesman even gets there.” The marketing team at Window City steered its Web site away from an industry/trade focus to a consumer-centric educational tool. “Rather than text, we have videos of the actual manufacturing process,” Yuhas explains. “It allows homeowners to really grasp how low-E works and how Argon works—and how it impacts them.

“The main thrust now is to educate the consumer and have them ask for Window City products, especially asking for products that the competition doesn’t have,” he continues. The company’s confidence in its products and now its marketing support program puts it in a good position to strike up a conversation with dealers looking for a “reputable and committed supplier,” Sadr says. “I think we have a lot to show dealers, and how their business is important to us. [With the down market,] people are now taking their time to find good product lines because dealers with better product lines will be the winners.”

Still, Window City is most comfortable growing alongside its customers. As the company takes on new distribution relationships, the team will make sure its growth doesn’t outpace its ability to maintain its reputation for quality products and dealer service. “We will focus on how to grow and still stay small with our customers,” Sadr says. “We take care of everyday problems with the people we have and it’s important as we grow that we don’t lose touch with our customers and what we’ve been providing them.” Window City has produced a “Window City Solutions” CD for potential retailers and has advertising and promotions planned for the back half of 2008. The manufacturer will also display its wares at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas in early 2009.

All in all, the quiet Canadian company is ready to start making a little noise. “It’s ongoing, but the initial success going into 2008 is fantastic,” Yuhas says.

Contact Christina Lewellen, senior editor, at clewellen@glass.org.