Last week, members of the Decorative Furnishings Association (DFA) flew in from design centers and showrooms across the country to take part in the annual year-end assembly at the New York Design Center. Led by DFA President Dan Cahoon and board member Steve Nobel, the conference looked back on the year and speculated on what will come for the industry in 2015.
Cahoon kicked-off the meeting by sharing the organization's main goals for the coming year, aspirations like re-launching its website, hosting more events, and increasing DFA content online and in shelter magazines.
Overall, the DFA's credo was made clear: “If interior design succeeds then we all succeed,” said Cahoon.
DFA President Dan Cahoon
Highlights of the DFA’s 2015 mission include:
- The organization will create a stronger digital message. Starting in January, the DFA will host monthly webinars—online lectures on things like 3D printing, the textile industry, and sales training—in hopes of reaching more people across the country.
- Surveys about the state of the business will be conducted throughout the year. The results will be sent out to everyone.
- The Angelo Donghia Foundation will continue to fund and contribute to DFA programming, which will allow for more content and events—both social and educational—throughout the year.
- In 2015, the year-end assembly will be an all-day conference with more speakers and programming.
- Throughout the year, members will break into committees—multi-line showrooms, media outlets, fabric showrooms, furniture showrooms, design center representatives—and do conference calls and meetings talking specifically about issues in those fields.
- DFA will complete its website re-design.
- The 2014 DFA advertisement will run in shelter magazines (including House Beautiful, Traditional Home and Architectural Digest) in 2015.
After Cahoon set the stage for what’s to come in 2015, he turned it over to members of the DFA committee.
For multi-line showrooms, Cahoon, who is also the CEO of Jerry Pair, explained that overall business is stable, but there is still a struggle to get retail customers shopping. “They come in and look but they are not buying, they end up turning to an interior designer,” he said.
Susan North, creative director of Scalamandre and representative for the DFA's fabric showroom contingent, said they need help and support from the design centers. “Boston is a good example of a design center that works,” she said. “But some design centers are not supporting the industry. The competition from retail is an issue, customers know they can get things immediately elsewhere. We need to educate consumer better, and we need help from the design centers to do so.”
ELLE DÉCOR Executive Editor Karen Marx represented the media companies, stressing that it is mainly consumers who are reading those magazines. “Have events and bring the editors to design centers,” she said. “Consumers want that contact, they want to hear the voice of who they are reading, but work together, editors and the magazines need the full support of showrooms and design centers. And don’t just do a cocktail party—they are a dime a dozen—think outside of the box.”
Martha Thompson, senior vice president of showroom relations at the San Francisco Design Center, represented design centers, speaking about the young millionaires in the Bay Area and how they are working to reach them. “They are all around us and we need to bring them in,” she said.
Thompson went on to explain how they are partnering with Houzz and doing more things online. In addition, they are embracing competition.
“We have a Restoration Hardware across the street and we partner with them rather than fight it,” she said.
DFA 2014 Year End Assembly Guest Speaker Doug Gollan
Chiming in on the topic of the young millionaires was Doug Gollan, editor in chief and co-founder of Elite Traveler magazine. He explained that the industry must focus on households making more than $400,000 a year, because those are the people that have the means to spend and become repeat customers.
According to Gollan, there are approximately 1.2 million households in the United States making more than $400,000 a year. They are collectively worth some $30-50 trillion. He also explained that most of them are self-made millionaires and grew up in blue-collar families, where they never had an interior designer.
“You have to make them aware of what you do,” he said. “They might not know what luxury is and where to find it. You need to find ways to get to those people that the market hasn’t touched.”
He also explained that these people are in unexpected places. “Hundreds of private jets flew into Miami last week for Art Basel, which is to be expected,” he said. “But hundreds of private jets also fly in each year for the Florida vs. Georgia college football game. Think outside of the box.”
DFA Year End Assemby Guest Speaker ASID COO Chris Tucker
ASID Chief Operating Officer Chris Tucker then spoke about the state of the industry from his organization’s perspective, explaining that for the first time ASID is up over the 25,000-member mark again (that hadn’t been the case since pre-recession) and that 2014 saw the highest residential spending since 2009.
The annual meeting wrapped up with a cocktail party in the Christopher Guy showroom, where guests were able to mingle and network, chatting about the afternoon’s discussions.
For more information about the DFA and to learn how to become a member, visit the website.