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We’d be forgiven for slipping into wistful nostalgia this Christmas but, according to many lists, the most popular children’s gifts this year seem to have been the hi-tech options – big console games such as Cyberpunk and Call Of Duty for the teens; laser battle robots, interactive puppies and animatronic baby Yodas for the young’uns.

This attachment to the futuristic is probably a positive boost to optimism… In which case… why should the kids be the only ones to benefit from the power of forward thinking? How about some grown-up hi-tech toys?

Appeal has more than 30 years’ experience providing shading solutions to Britain’s homes. One of the main reasons customers return to us every time they are looking for home improvements is that we have spent those decades developing state-of-the products and processes. These include Clear-Vu mesh that makes our insect screens almost as clear as glass; laser cutting of our tailor-made blinds to ensure a perfect bespoke fit; and the custom colour matching that allows us to provide blinds or shutters with an exact match to your existing decor.

We don’t pursue technology for the sake of it; we only adopt an advanced technique or system because it provides a more precisely cut, more robust material; smoother, longer-lasting operation; or even more convenience and user-friendliness.

Hi-Tech With Purpose

When we launched our award-winning ULTRA Smart Blinds five years ago, they revolutionised the powered blinds market. They give you, the homeowner, complete control over your window shading, with one touch of a handheld remote or a wall switch. The controls can be easily programmed to control individual blinds, a group of them, or a combination.

Powered blinds might seem a luxury but they are more than that. Dangling pull cords are not only unsightly – they can be dangerous to small children. Sometimes you really need instant privacy without going to the window (the panic when the window cleaner’s ladder appears when you’re undressing!). And – especially in modern homes with extensive glazing – there are windows (high gable ends, roof lanterns, even simply windows behind furniture) that are hard to reach – ULTRA Smart Blinds make these accessible, so you don’t have to leave them uncovered, with all the insulation implications that has.

With a remarkably quiet motor, no need for mains wiring or unsightly (and potentially dangerous) dangling cords, and an efficient rechargeable battery, we know we had a competition-beating product. But it’s not the Appeal way to rest on our laurels. We have made various improvements to the core ULTRA system – for example, upgrading to a Li-ion battery, which allows normal operation of a blind for a minimum of 18 months between charges (which are as quick and simple as charging a mobile phone). We also went further down the Smart Home route…

ULTRA Plus gives homeowners an added level of control, whether at home or not, via a user-friendly app on your smartphone or tablet. As well as having instant touchscreen control over each individual blind or whole rooms – which works whether you’re in the bathroom or the Bahamas – you can set scenarios… a “6 Nations” setting to shield the screen from a low winter sun. “Cosy Homecoming”, to return from the school run to a warm and welcoming environment. Or “Confuse Burglars” – a random lowering or raising of blinds that doesn’t follow a predictable pattern while you’re away. As well as a basic timer function, you can also set your blinds to track sunrise and sunset times. And the system works with smart plugs and Philips Hue bulbs to add further detail to the ambience you want.

Our most recent step forward has been ULTRA Plus with voice activation, which works through Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Home hubs. This adds even more speed and convenience to those pre-set scenarios and means that if the person with the app is out of the house, the family members left at home can control the blinds. But, if we’re entirely honest, voice activation is mainly fun – calling out “Let there be light!” to wake a lazy teen, or “And it’s live!” to set up for a football match.

And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of hi-tech fun… as we said, it’s the positive power of future thinking.

State of the Art, Indoors & Out

This year, we have brought together our two most technologically advanced products. ULTRA Plus control now includes our Haus awnings. In 2020, these have been a big seller, as a covered terrace space has been ideal for outdoor get-togethers and even as a workspace (sometimes the only place for peace and quiet has been outdoors!).

Haus awnings are German-engineered to the highest standards. The unique OptiFlowSystem® keeps the fabric taut and prevents sagging, while automatic weather sensors react to the sun and wind, opening the awning when furniture-damaging UV rays are at their strongest and retracting it in strong winds.

One aspect of “state of the art” that’s often overlooked is choice – only an advanced facility such as the one Appeal uses can produce bespoke awnings to the exact size you require, and with your selection of over 150 fabric colours and 200 frame options. Whatever colour you choose, it would be pointless if that hue faded easily. We use the Spinneret dyeing process, which locks colour pigment into the fibres for brilliant colour for years to come, then finish the awning with Teflon EXTREME® to ensure it is water- and dirt-repellent.

ULTRA Plus comes into its own if you opt for awnings with infra-red heating and LED lighting – both of which help extend the time you can use your outdoor space. Via the app, you have total control over your outdoor space.

A Thank You From Appeal’s Chairman

Just like so many businesses and families, Appeal has faced challenges in 2020. But we have got through it; we’ve grown stronger as a company; and we’re looking forward to 2021 with a positive attitude. We hope you are too, and we’d like to help with that.

I personally am buoyed by the tireless work of our staff. They have been innovative and creative, whether developing ways to present our products to interested customers over the internet or during lockdown, or reconfiguring our workshop here in Bristol in line with social distancing to ensure we can still deliver the products our customers need.

I am also grateful for the loyalty of our customers, returning to us for further home improvements and recommending us to friends and family. We have managed to continue to visit homes for design consultancies and installations, following all guidelines and precautions, and been made to feel most welcome.

To say thank you for your continuing trust in us, I’d like to offer a belated Christmas present to Appeal customers existing and new. If you’re interested in the ULTRA Smart Blinds or Haus awnings highlighted in this email, or in any other Appeal product, I’d like to offer you £400 cashback towards a Haus awning, or £200 towards any blinds, shutters or insect screens.*

Thank you and Happy New Year

Michael Madigan

Executive Chairman – Appeal Group Ltd

* Mention this gift when booking a free design consultancy before 31 December (the actual appointment date can be after that). You will be sent a cashback cheque, which can be redeemed as £200 cashback on blinds, shutters and insect screens or £400 cashback on awnings if you place an order before 31 January.