Market to client lifestyles and desires, regardless of the economy

High Point Lesson–FOCUS your attention on the clients that matter! In this case, it has become clear that the winner in the furniture shuffle is the interior design professional, not the retailer. While retail sales remain sluggish and/or decline, high-end interior designers are still placing orders.

While at High Point, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion at the new Suites at Market Square, an MMPI property, in conjunction with Interior Design Society, on ways to conduct business in the 21st Century. Attendees heard from esteemed industry leaders including John Pujol , CEO of Enkeboll Designs, Jena Hall, VP of Aspen Home, Thomas Burak, a prominent textile designer, Jo Fleisher, Senior Editor with Home Furnishings Business, and last, but certainly not least, Caroline Hipple, a consultant with Jaclyn Smith and former president of Storehouse.

The consensus is that we cannot change the economy overnight, but we can listen to consumers and works towards giving them better design and quality service, focusing less on price and more on what individual clients value–remember that everybody will pay for something they understand and desire! Sell the process of design, not the product!

I think a good follow-up to the market was written by Jim Carper, editor of Home Décor Buyer, in his April 11th article, titled “Week in Home Décor”

Rethink every aspect of your business practices:

Retailers: stop advertising things and start marketing to the lifestyle and life stages of consumers, focusing on the emotions surrounding those events.

Vendors: quantify and analyze your e-mail marketing campaigns. Put simply, keep doing what works, stop doing what doesn’t.

Building Managers: leasing today is as competitive as wholesaling and as retailing combined. Landlords need to make their buildings “must-see” destinations from the inside-out.

Of course, there were some very fun parties to attend, including those hosted by House Beautiful , Withit, and Architectural Digest . The House Beautiful party was held in a gorgeous home, consistent with the taste and elegance of the publication itself. Revelers were greeted at the door by the charming publisher Kate Kelly Smith and the man who truly makes the magazine what it is, Editor-in-Chief, Stephen Drucker. Some of the guests included designer Philip Gorrivan, Duralee’s Robin Gordon and Doug Hartsell, industry powerhouse Rachel Kohler, a key Baker executive, the elegant Jim Caughman, the marketing maven from the World Market Center at Las Vegas, Dana Andrew. And naturally, no event would be complete without Jim Druckman from the New York Design Center. Orli Ben Dor, House Beautiful’s associate editor was there, and so was Kelly Peterson, group advertising director for Hearst Corporation and past president of WithIt.

Next was the Women in the Home Industries Today, (WithIt), an organization which includes some of the most dynamic players in the industry, party. In attendance was the oh-so hip publisher of Home Furnishings Business, Amy Kyle, the original sustainable designer Victoria Schomer and the director of the Sustainable Furniture Council, (SFC), the charming Enkeboll Designs CEO John Pujol, the resilient Kathy Bovey from the Americas Mart of Atlanta, DMC’s own pride and joy Cameron Cook, the executive director of WithIT, Sara Lyke, and the exciting president of WithIt, Tiffany Mullis-Brittain from Vanguard Furniture.

Lastly, Architectural Digest had a swell soirée in a terrific inn as hosted by AD regulars, including the soave Billy Pittel, THE lady with the VIP list Amy Adler, and naturally Jeff Petersen who keeps the publication humming along. Notables included the colorful and vivacious Jamie Drake, the original renaissance woman Marta Szwaya of Baker, MMPI’s Troy Hanson, and the king of bold furniture, Las Vegas World Market Center’s new CEO, Bob Maricich, and Will Sharp of Marge Carson.

Alas, the old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know” that definitely holds true in High Point. The AD party was followed by a scrumptious meal at Nobel ‘ s with the man in the know, the guy with pull, and truly, one of my most favorite people in High Point, Jeff Cook, CEO \President of Broyhill Furniture Industries , and his equally charming wife Janet Cook. Dining near us were Dan Bradley of Furniture Brands International with his lovely wife Linda Bradley and last, but not least, Brian Casey of the High Point Market Authority was enjoying a quick respite from the show which he governs over quite well indeed!

High Point is not an anachronism, it is a very real experience that everyone who is anyone in the industry must take part in at least once. To paraphrase High Point newbie, Cobus Gauche of David Easton’s office…” the networking is first class and there is something for everyone.”

[This article is reprinted from a talk by Lloyd Princeton in High Point, NC, 04/23/08]

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