A Champion Window Maker
by Tara Taffera
Only a handful of window companies have experienced growth in the past
few years, and they are harder to find than the ones that are suffering
the effects of the housing downturn. But Champion Windows is one of the
companies that continues to expand. Its set-up is a little different than
your typical window company. The nationwide window manufacturer has showrooms,
not dealers, in 35 states, and just opened its 80th showroom in Fredericksburg,
Va. It manufactures, sells and installs its own doors, windows and patio
DWM/Shelter magazine talked to Champion chief executive officer Dennis
Manes about why Champion has fared so well and learned more about future
DWM: Tell me about Champion’s recent growth, specifically the opening
of your 80th showroom.
Manes: Our Fredericksburg showroom
is our third opening in 2011, and we are in the process of opening six
more locations within the next 60 days. Another four have been scheduled
for later in the year, depending on the economic recovery for a total
of 13 in 2011.
DWM: How have you been able to expand in a down economy?
Manes: We have been in a growth mode for quite awhile. We slowed down
slightly in 2008 and 2009. We took a wait-and-see attitude to gauge what
would happen and to get a better feel for when a recovery would happen.
We had a decent end to 2009 and a strong 2010 and decided to start expanding
again. We opened seven new showrooms in 2010 when the economy was starting
The tax credit was a big impetus for growth. This is a good time to continue
growth so when the economy fully recovers we will be in a good position
with these new locations.
DWM: Speaking of the tax credits, did this account for a
lot of your growth in 2010 and did business drop off when the $1,500 credit
Manes: It was a pretty good impetus
to make purchase decisions. The unfortunate thing is it is hard to quantify
the reason for a purchase decision, especially on the window side, but
our window business has continued to grow every year and we expect that
The beginning of 2011 did have a soft beginning but we are pretty confident
that everyone experienced that as well. We saw some increases in business
starting in March.
In addition to being geographically dispersed, we have a good product
mix. Our entry doors and patio rooms have also seen some pretty good growth
and those products were not affected by the tax credit.
DWM: Why do customers choose Champion? How does your company
Manes: We have a very, very good product.
We have a very good warranty and we have a very good story to tell a potential
customer. A lot of that is based on single-source accountability. We are
the manufacturer, the retailer, the installer and the servicing company.
That gives customers a lot of comfort.
DWM: What tools do you offer your division managers to excel? For example,
how do you help them navigate through issues such as lead paint requirements?
Manes: The division managers at each
location have been provided with a tremendous amount of training.
Being a large organization we can do best practices better than anyone
else. We spend a considerable amount of time educating our division managers
on lead-safe practice rules. We are way ahead of the curve. We are certified
to train as a
company. We also self-audit each of our locations to make sure they are
following the requirements.
DWM: You have opened a few stores, but have any had to close?
Manes: We have only closed two to consolidate with other locations.
DWM: Are there certain areas that are doing better than others? What
are the main geographical areas in which you are expanding?
Manes: You really have to look at
Manes: You really have to look at that by our product mix. Our replacement
products are strong all over the country. Patio rooms are a product that
are asked for more in some of the Southern states and on the East Coast.
We opened a store in Findley, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Mich., this year, in
addition to Fredericksburg. We will open stores this
year in Frederick and Annapolis, Md., Richmond, Ind., Charleston, W.Va.,
Wilmington, Del., and Marlboro, Mass.
DWM: What are the major challenges facing the door and window
Manes: There are definitely challenges,
mainly the housing market and challenges associated with that will exist
for quite a while. Housing, foreclosures, unemployment—those are big headwinds
for our category.
The lead paint requirements also continue to be a challenge in the length
of time it takes to complete a job. Some of the proposed changes are not
workable outside of the marketplace. Consumer credit also needs to loosen
for us to enjoy the benefits of the marketplace that existed prior to
DWM: What are your future growth plans?
Manes: We are already looking at 2012
and would like to open 15 new showrooms. We will wait and see if the economy
shows some additional improvement and make the final decision later in
We can grow geographically, and we want to increase our geographic footprint.
We currently cover only 30 percent of the U.S. market and we have no presence
in states including Florida, Arizona, Nevada and California.
DWM: How do you utilize new technology as sales tools?
Manes: We try to stay on the leading
edge of all technology. We have to stay ahead of everything. Social media
has become an important aspect of marketing now, and we have to make sure
we are ahead of the curve. What some of those things will be down the
road none of us knows.
We have systems where we can show what our products will look like on
a home. Things like that are very important for us now and in the future.
Visit the Champion Showroom through Video
DWM/Shelter captured a portion of its visit with Copple and its tour of
the Champion showroom on video. To take a tour and hear Copple’s thoughts
on various industry issues, scan the tag at right.
Champion seems to know a thing or two about setting up and opening a showroom.
It just opened its 80th in Fredericksburg, Va., an outer suburb of Washington,
D.C. This newest location serves as a satellite showroom, so it is slightly
smaller than some of its other locations. But, smaller seems to be translating
into success, according to Ryan Copple, division manager.
“This store is poised to be one of our best,” he says.
Much of that success is based on the old adage, “location, location, location.”
The store is located on a busy road packed with area shopping, and it has
85,000 vehicles passing by the storefront each day, according to Copple.
“This is unlike any of our other locations,” he says. “We wanted a local
presence on a highly visible street.”
Copple does admit however, that much of this is because Champion also has
a store in nearby Richmond, Va., so some in the area are familiar with the
company name. But it’s more than that, including the fact that a showroom
allows homeowners to walk into a location instead of a dealer intruding
“Some people don’t like someone coming to their home to sell them windows,”
But walk through the company’s showroom and you will see a variety of its
doors, windows and patio rooms on display. Copple takes the time to explain
the benefits of its products to each customer, which includes a comprehensive
service plan in which the company replaces or repairs its products for free
for the lifetime of the product.
“This is the reason we get a lot of business and the reason customers come
back,” he says.
Another reason is the fact that Champion is the sole supplier from manufacturing
“If something goes wrong, there is no one for us to blame,” says Copple.
“They don’t get the run-around as we will fix the problem.”
No showroom is complete with product displays and industry suppliers offer
a range of products to meet the varying needs of
“The displays we make are kind of a do-it-yourself kit,” says Mark Shields,
Emes Marketing. “Our products are made with an eye for a practical and modern
design and they are designed to show off the technical capabilities of a
He adds that the displays are maintenance-free and are “so lightweight that
they can be taken back and forth from the showroom to a trade show.”
Some companies that sell showroom displays don’t stop after the purchase
order is placed. Often, these companies help design a new showroom for a
company or redesign an existing location.
For example, Chris Hodges, business development manager for DAC Products,
says the company works with customers using a 3D modeling tool that offers
layout options so a company can envision a new showroom layout. DAC representatives
then work with the company to implement the design.
“Some owners know where they want to go and others give us free reign,”
Ultimately, the two companies work together from the ground up, starting
with square footage and ending with the final touches.
“It’s all about the shopping experience and a unified corporate look,” says
Shields adds that the company focuses on designing a product that will meet
the needs of the customer.
“We let our customer tell us what they are looking for and we build it,”
he says. “You tell us the size and we make the display.”
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