Group One - The Low Price Chinese import. Norman and Sunland are the big players, followed by several other smaller names. The business model is low cost with good quality, but a customer has to be comfortable buying a Chinese import, and generally has to wait 8 weeks on average for the product.
Group Two - The Large Box Stores. You will find some variety here, but the biggest player in this arena is Springs. The business model is buying the stability of a big box, with 50%, or more, higher cost and a shorter lead time. They are currently shooting for about 3 weeks. The quality of these shutters can vary, as they are often fabricated in Mexico using Chinese components.
Group Three - The Small Local Manufacturers. Here you find good quality, with some buying Chinese components and some buying American components. As you would expect, the cost for the local fabricators is less for those with Chinese components and more for those with American components. Lead time on these can vary based on the size of the shop, but three weeks is a good average. There price point is usually higher than the imports but lower than the big box stores.
So, which is best for you?
If price and best value matter, then go for Group One - the Chinese import. We like Sunland because they are a big company that has gone to extreme lengths to ensure things like Green Guard Certification and low VOC ratings. Additionally, there quality has been consistently good.
If you want to support local small business, then Group Three is for you - the Small Local Manufacturer. Just be sure to do your due diligence in checking references, as there can be a wide variation in how different shops operate and whether they are using the components they claim. It is all too easy for a small operator to claim American hardwood, and then sell you a shutter made with Chinese components. It would be almost impossible for you to know. So, extra effort is wise here.
If you believe that Big Box stores offer a better buying experience with more long term stability, then Group Two is for you. While we can not see the value added by the Big Box stores for this sort of custom product, their proximity, business hours, and financing options do appeal to some people. The actual cost to value add is not readily defended, but the peace of mind they provide some is hard to measure.
The better dealers in the shutter industry have learned to find their comfort zone for their particular market. Any reputable dealer will be comfortable helping you find your comfort zone - even if it is not the strategy they have chosen for their business model. While we all want your business, none of us can stay in business pressing a Group Three customer into a Group One or Two model. That is why education, consultation and listening to help people is better than selling. High pressure sales can often lead to dissatisfied customers, while educated customers helps them take responsibility for their decisions, and have a far more enjoyable end result.
We would love to help educate you about your shutter project. Also, for a quick idea of what your shutter project might cost, check out our online shutter cost calculator.