Last week at the New York Design Center, members of the Decorative Furnishings Association (DFA) and industry professionals met to discuss the next course of action—in particular, what members should know and be prepared to do in their showrooms and design centers with regard to retail customers.
The day opened up with remarks from Co-President of the DFA, Cary Kravet, who discussed the DFA’s major plan to target consumers and bring them into design centers across the country. In order to do so, he said showroom and design center representatives must work with designers to help foster the sale of luxury items to a new market.
Kravet used ADAC Atlanta as an example. Since it opened to the public late last year, ADAC has made a focused effort to reach more outside consumers through events, advertising, and revamped marketing materials including an updated website and newsletter.
DFA's summit on Monday, June 3, at the New York Design Center
Co-President Dan Cahoon suggested that the DFA’s own newsletter is a way to get the organization’s word out and to increase membership. The quarterly newsletter that just launched includes images of DFA member’s actions, articles reporting from members from all over the country, a note from the presidents, a link to the live website, and surveys on how to improve the industry and profiles of new members. All members are encouraged to submit articles to the next newsletter.
Publisher of Traditional Home magazine, Beth Brenner, presented a new advertising campaign for the DFA, which will run pro-bono in a number of shelter publications. This campaign will direct readers to the DFA website and provide them with a list of designer and showroom resources.
Mock-up of the DFA's new ad campaign
Paul Boomsma, president of Luxury Portfolio, presented on marketing synergies. Some key takeaways from his presentation include:
• High-end real estate is booming (national figures). Real estate is up 20% over last year in Q1, Vacation/2nd homes are up 23%; Re-sale prices of homes are up 40% since 2009; and $500k+ homes are selling at a faster rates than the $300k region
• 1 in 10 people in the high income bracket are buying vacation homes for $5 million or more.
• Vacation homes attract families. A big change since 2008, people are buying and are happier. They are focused on health and family and want to entertain in their homes.
Mickey Alam Kahn, editor-in-chief of Luxury Daily, gave a talk on the state of the luxury market. He defined luxury by the following three principles: 1. Exceptional craftsmanship, 2. Limited distribution (high demand, low supply) 3. High perceived value.
Kahn said that creative marketing does the heavy lifting for luxury brands. For example, Louis Vutton’s artful commercial never aired on television, but it went viral online, and sold the experience without any visible product.
Another interesting point Kahn made was that although the U.S. is not considered the main manufacturer of luxury, American luxury companies have mastered the art of customer service, providing a seamless shopping experience, which he called the new luxury.
So, What of these lessons apply to showrooms and design centers? Generate a demand to get people into the store; Have a loyal list of followers and send out a newsletter; Produce and distribute images with integrity and quality; Visit luxury stores and learn from their customer service; Treat everyone like a luxury shopper; and Train your retail staff well.
After the two keynote presentations, a panel presented “Creating a Destination for Luxury” on how to get the consumer in and shopping while keeping loyal designers as customers as well. The speakers included Rebecca Hollander, marketing director for Americana Manhasset; Andrea Sanders, senior vice president and creative director for Americana Manhasset; Ruth Griggs from the Dallas Design District; Jim Druckman, CEO of the New York Design Center; and Brenner.
Druckman said that access to design is extremely important—it’s not all about shopping and sourcing online, but perception and educating the consumer.
Griggs discussed the fact that the Dallas Design District markets restaurants in the center to high-end clientele and works with the Ritz Carlton to train its staff on customer service.
The panel agreed that building relationships and trust with shoppers, finding ways to communicate with them, and listening to their feedback is the key to success in a luxury retail business.
The day concluded with a round-table discussion between all of the DFA members, media and design center representatives to discuss and prepare action plans for this summer. Some key ideas included:
• Implement a more open access policy and practice in design centers and showrooms, which could include posting retail prices for consumers.
• Conduct consumer marketing campaigns and host events that attract luxury-minded customers.
• Develop business practices for welcoming visitors, introducing them to design, referring them to designers and presenting clear business practices.
• Offer continuing education for showroom staff and designers.
The group had mixed feelings on the issue of showroom hours. If a real push is made to market to consumers, showrooms will need to have evening and weekend hours. Druckman made the point that most showroom staff chose this industry because they didn’t want to work retail—they appreciate the Monday-through-Friday, nine-to-five business hours.
For DFA membership information or further information about the Summit, please contact Steve Nobel at (917) 648-4993 or by email.