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Volume 6   Issue 4                May 2005

by Randy Deering

American’s love improvement. Throughout our history we have embraced ideas, products and technology that have improved the standard and quality of living. It doesn’t have to be earth-shaking. It can be anything from new packaging for a 12-pack of pop to a GPS system for an automobile. 

In America, if you create something that improves people’s lives, the consumer will buy. It can even be something as simple as creating a better way to screen windows and doors, making the home that much more convenient and comfortable.

Retractable screens are a product category whose time has come. I started out in the industry as a retailer of window and door products in Tacoma, Wash., where I was introduced to the product. Soon after adding retractable screens to my product mix I learned that, with the right product, marketing and salesmanship, retractable screens were a product consumers liked. It wasn’t long before they became an important and growing component of my company’s revenue. I became so impressed with the product, that I was later convinced to join Genius and help develop the growing market for retractable screens in North, South and Central America. 

What are Retractable Screens?
By now most manufacturers and dealers have seen or heard about retractable screens. In the simplest form, these do what the name implies: retract. Unlike conventional screens that are either in a fixed position in the case of a window, or conform to the opening and closing motion of the door, retractable screens roll up into a protective housing, becoming invisible when not in use. The best retractable screen system can be retrofitted into a door or window almost seamlessly. The housings, which fit within or around a window or door jamb, can be matched to exterior paint colors. When the door or window is opened, the screen unrolls from its housing and a latch or magnet seals it to the jamb preventing entry of dust or insects. When it’s time to close up, the screen retracts back into its housing until used again.

Are all Retractable Screens the Same?
Just as there are different styles, quality and designs of windows and doors, not all retractable screens are the same. Following are some things to look for:
• A system where the manufacturer can control the custom sizing so you do not need to send away and have the retractable screen company build the screen to specifications. The manufacturer needs a system that he can size quickly, assemble and install;
• A system where the manufacturer can buy the bulk components in longer lineals in order to build custom size units quickly and optimize yields. This can make a huge difference in unit costs and therefore in sales volume and profitability;
• A system designed specifically for manufacturers—not one designed for the aftermarket/retrofit industry but pretending to be an OEM product. This means it must be flexible in its application and designed to blend in with the design of the product, not just bolted onto the surface brick-mold;
• A recess mounted design that will gently rest unnoticed in the profile of a window or door;
• A system using a small and attractive screen cassette;
• A system with a speed reducer designed to control the rapid recoil of the screen;
• A system that uses insect pile in the top and bottom rails to help keep bugs out; and
• A system that, if it uses a magnetic catch, uses one with a full-length magnet seal, as opposed to one small magnetic catch.

Why Offer Retractable Screens?
Now, and even more so in the next few years, consumers will expect the retractable screen to be available as either a standard or, at the very least, an optional feature on the windows and doors they purchase. To remain competitive, it is crucial to have this feature available. In addition, retractable screens are a great way to differentiate products from the competition. They are an impressive feature that gets attention and will help sell your product over those that don’t have them. Finally, and particularly with entry doors, a retractable screen is a great way to screen an expensive, beautiful, decorative door without detracting from the natural beauty of the design.

What does the Future Hold?
Retractable screens are not just a luxury, they have become a necessity. West Nile Virus and other diseases are affecting our world and homeowners want and expect protection from the door and window products they purchase. Consumers are also tired of looking through a screen. More and more people are investing significant dollars into their yards and gardens and want an unobstructed view of their landscape.

Looking through the screen mesh detracts from that experience.

Retractable screens offer many advantages including:
• A clear view through the window rather than an obscured vision through a traditional flat screen;
• Fabric is protected from harmful UV rays, dirt, etc. They will outlast traditional flat screens significantly;
• A lack of requirements to remove and store screens in the winter;
• The elimination of the age-old headache of screens that are lost and damaged during delivery. Factory applying a retractable screen is fast and easy and since the screen is retracted until needed, it is protected from damage inside a petite, durable cassette;
• Retractable screens are a big marketing opportunity and a way to differentiate products and gain market share; and
• A solution for homeowners who want to screen openings.

Screens have been viewed by the window manufacturer as an afterthought, a nuisance and a necessary evil. In the past all that may have been true. The professional manufacturers of retractable screens have taken the position that, not only do these screens eliminate all those problems, they improve the fenestration product.

Retractable screens allow windows and doors to perform their function better without detracting from the beauty of the product. Today’s retractable screens are not those of just a few years ago. Don’t be discouraged by past experiences: there are now some very good retractable screen solutions for manufacturers that can be factory installed. Best of all, retractable screens represent a great way to improve your bottom line ... which is another thing Americans love.

Randy Deering is senior vice president, sales and marketing for Genius Retractable Screen Systems based in Northport, Ala.

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