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The CIAMO Blog

Can Professional Closet & Storage Industry Trade Associations Assist in Marketing Storage Systems?

The True 32 System:

The entire modern day custom closet and storage industry is

predicated on the 32 mm system. After World War 2, there were not enough skilled tradesmen still alive to rebuild Europe.

Storage System, Wire Frame Drawing

The German engineers came up with a brilliant system of 5 millimeter (3/16”) holes spaced 32 millimeters (1-1/4”) apart which enabled unskilled workers to create storage units such as kitchens, cabinets and wardrobes throughout the continent.

The USA never embraced the metric system, however in 1978 a 17-year old California entrepreneur named Neil Balter started building

Neil Balter inside on of his installations
Neil Balter

closet systems in his garage using this the 32mm system. Four years later, Neil was discovered by the Wall St. Journal, then Oprah, then created the California Closets franchise network and now the entire closet & storage industry generates sales of nearly $40 billion/year. The 32mm system is the prime standard of the closet industry with an estimated 4000 closet & storage professionals throughout North America.

A Closet Industry Divided:

Eighty percent of the industry’s companies are locally-owned 'independents' and often family operated. The remainder are national franchises such as California Closets, Closets by Design and Closet Factory. (CalClosets is still the largest). Among the independents, 2/3 manufacturer their own products using local labor and neighborhood suppliers and the remainder outsource their production to local woodshops, regional suppliers or nationwide dealerships. They all do their own marketing, design, sales, and installation.

Marketing Factoids for the Closet Industry:

Years ago, when CIA (Closet Institute of America) Director Jeff Klein authored ‘The Planning Guide - New Standards for Architects, Residential Designers, Builders, Remodelers, Interior Designers, Home Owners and Home Buyers’, he discovered:

  • 64% of ALL homeowners complained they didn’t have enough storage space

  • 61% of homeowners stated they were willing to pay extra for organized closets

  • 53% of homebuyers said an organized master closet was the MOST desired feature in a new home

  • 50% of ALL new home buyers chose closet upgrades when available and offered.

woman sitting inside her custom closet

When looking at a potential new home, the woman homebuyer will generally ‘project or visualize’ her own clothes into the prospective master closet. In many instances, this becomes either a ‘Deal Maker’ -or- ‘Deal Breaker’. An expression in the south says it all: “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. When Poppa ain’t happy, ain’t nobody cares.”

The Ultimate in Universal Utilization:

In the science of Architectural Universal Storage Design Principles, closet design using the 32mm system meets and exceeds almost all other residential remodeling industries:

  • The system is the ultimate in space efficiency as it is adjustable, expandable, flexible, changeable & interchangeable

  • Meets the diverse needs of everyone (tall vs. short, young vs. old, abled vs. disabled) at all ‘stages’ of life

  • Easy to clean and maintain as many of the systems are fabricated from the pre-finished wood product called melamine laminate

  • Caters to varying levels of ability such as reaching, bending and restricted mobility

  • Increases the home’s value because real estate appraisers realize the value of adjustability

  • Enhances the home’s beauty & function because the materials available are endless and state-of-the-art accessories are readily available

  • Maximizes safety and extends independent living by adapting to changing needs, abilities and wants

  • Has the options to expand the system by adding accessories, hardware and components that are also designed to operate and function within the same 32mm system

  • and finally, costs little or no more than carpenter-built closets.


How Much Has the Closet Industry Grown?

According to the CIA, Closet Institute of America, data gathered at the Greenville Closet Summit Conference & Vendor Expo in 2018, the average closet job sold for $1850. In 2023, that average grew to nearly $7400. Also in 2018, the average North American closet company’s annual sales were at about $1.4 million, and in 2023, that number has doubled to $2.75 million.

Despite the Plague in 2020, the lock-downs in 2021, the shortages in 2022, and runaway inflation in 2023, the industry has done surprisingly well.

comical image about custom closets

With an uncertain future of rising mortgage interest rates and housing shortages, many homeowners are looking to stay put and improve the space efficiency of their current home by seeking out local Closet & Storage Professionals. If they do happen to move to a larger home with larger closets and have not done anything to mitigate their cluttered, inefficient previous lives, they are merely transferring their existing chaos to a newer space.



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