Window treatment purchases are now just mouse clicks away, thanks to online merchandisers such as Swags Galore, a discount curtain retailer. For Melinda and Eugene West, the concept of an internet solution to a common decorating dilemma – choosing the right window curtains – began after trial and error trips to local home furnishing stores and attempts at custom curtain making.
"We found the supply of affordable ready-made curtains to be limited," Melinda noted. "Then, buying bolts of fabric and hiring a seamstress to cut and custom sew was even more expensive." That's when the idea of an online discount outlet stocked with beautiful, ready-to-install curtains from manufacturer suppliers came to mind.
It was the 1990s and Melinda observed that online shopping was gathering momentum. "It was becoming more than a fad," she recollects. "Back then, I was a quality assurance specialist for government contractors and, through my work, learned website building."
Using the web programming skills she acquired, Melinda designed the Swags Galore website customers now use to place orders for curtains, curtain hardware and accessories, and to arrange for shipment of these purchases.
Designing the website was probably the easiest phase, but proposing the business plan to potential suppliers presented a bigger challenge. "We had to convince them that our online discount store would be useful, that it would even attract consumers living in rural areas with few shopping centers," said Melinda.
Having uncovered a niche market in online discount curtain merchandising and then getting suppliers to become business partners, Melinda and her husband opened Swags Galore in 1999, fulfilling orders for curtains and curtain hardware from their home in Shirley, NY. The following year, order volume increased and the couple leased a warehouse in Yaphank, NY to stock larger curtain inventories. When the order for curtain materials continued to increase, the couple moved their business to Lakeville, PA in 2007. At the new location, they built a larger warehouse that in a short time had to be physically extended. "As the business expanded, Eugene and I realized it was time to leave our daytime jobs and commit full-time to our online-based venture in curtain sales and delivery," Melinda said. "The rest is history."
Since helping to open a new chapter in internet-based merchandising, Melinda and Eugene continue fulfilling online orders for drapery, rods, valances and curtain accessories at a nationwide clip. Many customers are from the Boston area. "When you're an online merchant, customers can come from anywhere," Melinda commented.
Swags Galore features discount promotions on curtains and curtain hardware, free ground-shipping for purchases within specific price-range minimums, and shipping and handling within 24 hours. The company's mission is to make a large selection of the latest curtain styles available at affordable prices, delivered to customers in a short time frame with either discounted or free shipping based on order limits and promotional offers.
Nearly any type of curtain one can envision can be found on the Swags Galore website. Some curtain treatments come in five-piece sets, priced at less than $20.00 in exquisite patterns and bold color schemes. Customers can also browse the website for decorating ideas and instructions on how to measure windows for window treatments.
Melinda West herself never had formal training in interior decorating. "I don't even sew," she admits. But she has a demonstrated flair for dressing up even the most ordinary looking window, making the view from the inside worth looking at.
Even more significantly, Swags Galore is a story about a couple's successful transition to a dream career.