Clear Choice USA and Window Depot Operate on a Different Type of ModelJanuary 10th, 2012 by DWM Magazine
Last November Canfield, Ohio-based Clear Choice USA announced its acquisition of Window Depot, which had been located in Little Rock, Ark. According to Ed Kalaher, president and CEO of Clear Choice USA, so far things are off to a good start.
“They were a similar company that wasn’t in distress, it was just a really good strategic fit to add dealers to our group and take them in the direction that we are now taking the Clear Choice group.”
Kalaher explains that while both Clear Choice and Window Depot are franchise-type businesses modeled after Window World, he and his team are doing things a bit differently.
“The reason I got involved in this company is because I think franchise companies are here to stay and I think they will dominate our industry on the retail-retro side,” says Kalaher. “But I think the Window World type of model is completely unsustainable.” He says when he came on board at Clear Choice last year he set out to build a certain staff, provide certain services, and take the company in a direction he believes will be sustainable, will keep up with technology and the rules of doing business with people and provide a fair value to the consumer and an adequate margin to the franchise so that they are there for the long term. “What I’d want people to know the most is, when we talk about history, Clear Choice and Window Depot were both born of that mentality that Window World became famous for, but our aim is significantly different than the price-only/volume-only approach.”
But as with any change, Kalaher says there have been some post-acquisition challenges. For the most part, though, everything is going well. He notes that with any change there are always some hesitancies. With Window Depot partners, for instance, they had to explain the changes, such as all of the new tools available to them to grow their businesses.
“So it’s our challenge to talk to them and communicate to get them excited about it. We’re bringing together complimentary pieces,” says Kalaher. “The Window Depot support model was very traditional [combining that with] the things we’re doing online … was just a complement to what they already had.”
Kalaher also says they will be keeping both brand names in the field.
“Two brands give us the opportunity in the far future to layer products in there with our partners,” he says. “We support two brands now, but collectively it’s just one chunk of business and as that grows we have more leverage in every regard.”
And the companies are focused solely or providing vinyl replacement windows. While that type of window, according to Kalaher, is the center of the company’s platform, they do have others in the pipeline.
“But we want to get all of our partners across the country entrenched in our systems, in our technology and marketing systems and really solid before we introduce those products,” he says. “There is a lot of opportunity out there, but I think you have to be careful; you have to be strong and sturdy in your core business first before you introduce different product opportunities.”
Currently the companies sell Vista Windows, as well as MI and Simonton.
With just seven employees, including one who still works out of the Little Rock office, Kalaher and his team are working to give their 85 independently owned operations something new—they’re reaching customers and the communities in which they operate in a whole new way.
Though “franchise-like,” Kalaher explains their business operation is actually a licensing program.
“They license our trademarks, our support services, everything we produce for them, from training to collateral; they buy the product we specify for that license,” he says. “We don’t want field stores owned by us centrally; we want good people in that area who know the area …the independently owned business owner licensing our marks, our products and our services, I believe that’s a great model.”
Want to know more about Clear Choice USA’s Window Depot acquisition, its business tactics and plans for the future? Then be sure and look to a future issue of DWM magazine for our in-depth, one-on-one interview with Kalaher.