Earlier this month, the Decorative Furnishings Association (DFA) hosted its first annual Summit together with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) in Dallas. Attendees included 50+ ASID Chapter Presidents; media representatives from Hearst, Conde Nast, Meredith, Sandow and Cottages & Gardens; and Marketing Directors and General Managers of independent design centers through Design Centers International (DCI).
The discussion took place at round tables, each of which included a cross section of attendees. The agenda was divided into four sections, each of which was discussed at length amongst the groups: Access ot Design Centers; Consumer Marketing; Business Practices; and Continuing Education and Cooperation.
A full report will be released in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, DFA board members and other attendees shared a few of their personal take-aways from the event.
“This meeting was the culmination of nearly four years of steady work to bring together leaders who all have a stake in the future of the design industry,” said DFA Executive Director Steve Nobel. “We are transforming the 'exclusive' model into a 'third way' that begins by aiming an inspiring message at affluent consumers revealing the value of design and giving them pathways to find it in our showrooms and design centers where they will be welcomed and made aware of how to meet the designer that is right for them. The interior design professionals in attendance were enlightened by the competitive conditions in the market, and have embraced the 'third way' with such open-mindedness, courage and confidence in our mutual self-interest."
"This was the first meeting of its kind and brought together key players in a forum that allowed dialogue on how this industry can and needs to change in order to thrive in the future," said Randy Fiser, Executive VP and CEO for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). "If we all work toward a common vision, to advance business, we can find more opportunities than challenges. Continuing the conversations, like the one from this day, will help us build a stronger and more resilient industry."
“We need constant and improved communication and collaboration throughout the industry," said Kravet President and DFA Co-President Cary Kravet. "It is not a one-time explanation but rather a philosophical and cultural change that takes time for all stakeholders to understand and then internalize and then adopt. Design centers need to allow access to targeted consumers, inspire them and find pathways for them to buy our products through value added intermediaries.”
He hopes showrooms will begin to post the rules of the game on or at the entrance to each showroom to clarify its policies with regard to who is welcome, how the showroom prices products, to whom samples are given and to whom the showroom will sell. "Clarity and honesty should be the guiding principles that lead to more business for both designers and vendors," he said.
Andrea Favaretto Rubelli, CEO of Donghia and Rubelli, agreed that transparency and welcoming everyone to the showrooms must start now. "It Is clear to all parties in our industry that more transparency can’t harm anyone," he said. "Our product needs interior designers, interior designers need our product, and high-end consumers need both. The key is to make it easier for consumers to access our industry, especially younger, wealthy ones."
"The biggest benefit for me was having the opportunity to discuss salient issues confronting our industry in the mixed company of designers, manufacturers, design center directors and media industry insiders," said Traditional Home Publisher Beth Brenner. "We (as an industry) have a unique opportunity with the new Washington DC design center to create the design center of the future—a "case study" in the truest sense of the word. Here's a situation where we aren't 'undoing' current practices and attitudes, but instead starting from scratch and building something with modern thinking and true awareness of today's consumer and designer demands. This and the examples being set by design "districts" such as the community in Dallas should be closely studied and shared with all other design centers and manufacturers so that they too can evolve their businesses for modern-day success."
"From a design center and showroom level, we need to focus on promoting the value of hiring an interior designer. For the industry to be successful, interior designers need to reciprocate by supporting their design centers and showrooms," said Katie Belveal, General Manager of the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC), which opened to the public in October 2012 and hosted two weeks of consumer-focused events. "There were representatives at the meeting from all over the country, and it was very interesting to hear various perceptions of the industry from different states and cities. Our view in Georgia was, in some cases, very different from the view in Arizona or California. It was not only beneficial to hear other region’s perspectives, but it also reinforced the need to develop a clear, industry-wide action plan."
"Change is happening now, " said SVP, Publishing Director, Hearst Design Group Kate Kelly Smith. “Now is the time to continue to enforce this change and the most important thing is the DFA/ DCI/ ASID are all open to this course of change collectively.”
“I’m glad the dialog has finally begun,” said New York Design Center President Jim Druckman. “We should focus on working together to educate affluent consumers about the value of good design—it will bring more clients for designers and more traffic for showrooms and design centers.”