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E Business Evolving Rapidly
From March 2001 Window & Door

Few doubt E-commerce is coming to the window and door business. Talking to a variety of experts, however, you get different views of what it might look like. Will dealers sell to builders, contractors, and even homeowners via the Web? Will manufacturers? Will the Internet spawn new distribution channels? Or is the Web simply another part of the infrastructure used to conduct business in traditional ways? It depends on who you ask, but the answer may be yes to all those questions.

Targeting building professionals and consumers, 1st Windows has been established as a subsidiary of California Distribution Center, Inc., to sell name-brand windows at wholesale prices over the web (www.1stwindows.com). Although not available to customers nationally, currently products from Milgard, Superior, International Windows, Atrium, Andersen, and Marvin can be purchased on-line.

Douglas Lopez, president and founder of the Signal Hill, CA, based firm, notes that it is in negotiations with a number of other window manufacturers as well. The company plans to offer licensing of its system to other manufacturers and dealers, he explains, but it chose to go on-line on its own to demonstrate that it could be done. Lopez emphasizes that the company does not plan to work around existing dealer/manufacturer relationships. “Our goal is to help the industry. We want people to go on-line with us,” he states.

“We’re a traditional brick-and-mortar window dealer,” Lopez continues. “We knew no one believed window orders and purchases could be done yet. Everybody thought it was still two years away.” Now that 1st Windows is on-line, he reports, it is generating significant interest from all types of window and door companies. “When it comes to E-commerce, they know they need something,” Lopez states. Unlike other E-commerce businesses which have approached the industry, he notes, the company’s goal is to provide a system that benefits everyone. Manufacturers are responding positively to the company because it is not out, he explains, “to ruin the industry.. Manufacturers want to protect their dealer base.”

The company is simply trying to develop a system which allows products to sold on-line. It’s up to the manufacturer how the transaction is structured, according to Lopez. If they sell direct, they can continue do so, if they sell through distributors and dealers, they can continue to handle the sale as well, he explains. He envisions the technology being used by contractors and homeowners to order products, and by dealers ordering products from the manufacturer. Eventually, he states, the site will be structured so that users enter the state where they are located. That will determine the choices of product offerings from various manufacturers and dealers.

To date, users, including both contractors and homeowners, have been overwhelmingly positive, Lopez reports. They particularly like the fact that the site “empowers” them to do pricing. Since going on-line in May, he continues, business has been increasing approximately 30 percent each month. The site also continues to add new features, such as more extensive information about window selection, he points out.

Copyright © 2000 NGA - National Glass Association

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