Innovation awards: Bloc Blinds gives new life to roller blinds

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Anyone who has ever had roller blinds installed in their home will be aware of the problems that arise when they start to age. You can’t really take them down to wash them and the only solution for worn or discoloured blinds is to replace the complete unit.

But you can’t just do it for one window, the whole house needs to be done at considerable expense.

Changing the blinds themselves isn’t an option either, the whole mechanical assembly for each one must be replaced as well.

A simpler and much more cost-effective solution is now at hand thanks to an invention by Belfast based Bloc Blinds. The company is responsible for a number of patented and patent-pending products since breaking into the window blinds market but its most striking innovation is the fabric changing roller blind.

This clever design allows the user to swap the fabric of the blind as often as they like without replacing or even removing the complete system from the window.

The barrel, fixtures and fittings of the blind all remain in situ, only the fabric is changed.

This has considerable advantages beyond simple cost savings as Bloc Blinds marketing manager Kiera Scullion explains.

“The ease with which fabrics can be swapped means that consumers no longer need to think of their blinds as stagnant pieces in their room which can only be of neutral colour so as to match all possible colours schemes over the coming years,” she says.

“This means that consumers can be as daring as they like with their colour and pattern choices, safe in the knowledge that if they redecorate or have a change of heart down the line the fabric can be quickly and inexpensively swapped.”

As well as increased design flexibility there is also the practical element with the option to replace tired or worn fabrics as needed without replacing all the other elements of the blind which are still perfectly functional. “The components used to build our blinds are extremely hard wearing so that they will last for many years, and fabric changes to come,” she adds.

The blind has been designed with simplicity in mind. Users can swap the fabric of their blinds in seconds by simply hooking off one and hooking on another.

“The re-ordering process has also been simplified. By scanning the QR code on the barrel of the blind the customer is taken to the reorder page on the Bloc Blinds website.

“The measurements from their original order are already stored so all the customer has to do is choose a fabric and wait for it to be sent out to them ready to be hooked into place.

The blind’s origins date back some years to when Cormac Diamond, inventor of the fabric changing roller blind, was working in Poland for window manufacturing firm. He realised that there was a gap for high quality and visually appealing blinds.

Easily interchangeable

“As a solution to this gap, you could say the ‘lightbulb’ moment came when he looked at other household items which were easily interchangeable such as printer cartridges and razor blades,” says Scullion.

“Cormac wanted to offer this same level of flexibility to window blinds and as a result move them into the home accessories market.”

The blind was launched in 2014 and was quickly picked up by the John Lewis Partnership. It is currently available as a category brand product throughout its nationwide network of stores in the UK and on its online platform. It is also available and selling well throughout Europe and has recently been launched on the US market.

“It has been really well received with 10 per cent of customers reordering fabrics to date as well as several recognitions for design innovation both in the consumer and trade sectors,” Scullion says.

“Given that it is an environmentally friendlier option which reduces the amount of aluminium going to landfills, the fabric changing roller blind has been particularly well received by the public sector as well as environmentally and sustainability aware consumers.”

Founded in 2006, Bloc Blinds originally manufactured skylight blinds, with a handful of people in Diamond’s father-in-law’s shed.

“We have come quite a way since then with over 100 employees and a recent move into our new, custom-built factory,” she says. “We now design and manufacture a wide range of award-winning window dressing options and deliver them all over the world.”

Continued growth is very much on the agenda for the future. A new factory was completed at the beginning of this year and the company is engaged in an ongoing recruitment drive to increase staff numbers by nearly 50 per cent over the next two years.

“We have worked hard to expand our retailer network in the UK and Irelandand will continue to do so in the coming years. We have recently opened our first office in the US, in Boston, to service our US website and customer base.

“We hope to increase consumer sales as well as exploring long-term growth plans in the market. The overall goal is to increase the number of our products in the market so that we can subsequently increase repeat fabric sales.”

BARRY McCALL

http://www.irishtimes.com/business/innovation-awards-bloc-blinds-gives-new-life-to-roller-blinds-1.2728306

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