Posts tagged ‘Design Economy’

Steal This Idea

Recently Home Textiles Today asked their retailers at a series of roundtables what were their best and workable business ideas were.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; so borrow one or more of these ideas for your business in 2012.

1. Interior design services. An increasing number of retailers are saying they are thriving and surviving thanks to their interior design businesses. Sometimes it’s a design studio with a retail showroom, or a new design studio or gallery addition. Retailers are also moving from free services to fee-based with the addition of a licensed interior designer or two. Inviting customers to bring in their own digital photos, measurements and swatches is a great way to move more product. Accent Interiors, in Wichita, Kan., calls its design program Seymour Homes: “Seymour is the name of our digital camera that allows us to see more homes. We loan Seymour to customers who don’t have a digital camera to take photos of areas that they want to address. We print out the pictures, and with their swatches, our staff can help them with their projects without playing the guessing game of “it’s about this big” or “it is sort of this color.” They can bring their home to us courtesy of Seymour.”

Is your Retailer competition adding interior design services?  How can you make that threat an opportunity?

2.  Vendor trunk shows. Some retailers have told us their most successful store events and promotions featured a favorite product line, trunk show, or merchandising event hosted by the vendor or rep. Wyoming retailer Jody Horvath, owner of Reindeer Ranch in Cody, said one of her best retail ideas was a showcase of Pendleton Home. “We set three beds and merchandised blankets hung over the balcony railings. Pendleton is now my number two vendor.”

 What vendor(s) could you do an event with?  You don’t have to have a storefront- think unique venues or even online.

3.  Artists/author nights. Like vendor trunk shows, store events that bring artists and authors and their creative works onsite  are consistently bringing in first-time visitors. Why? Many of them actively blog and use Facebook to promote their products, as well as their upcoming appearances. “There’s added value in that the participating artists and authors are blogging and posting on Twitter and Facebook. It’s no longer just the store’s mailing list.  A percentage of sales went to a charitable organization, so they sent something out to their email list, and the artists sent something out, and it was really great for business.”

Selling custom products is a perfect fit for this concept- showcase artisans, workrooms and craftsnmaen and their stories.

 4. Focus on your brand. Now that marketing channels have grown to include social media, websites, blogs and YouTube, maintaining a consistent brand logo and personality is more important than ever. Susan Taylor, owner of Black-eyed Susan in Holicong, Pa., does it well with a simple line drawing logo (of a black-eyed Susan blossom) – easy for Facebook fans and Twitter followers to identify. She also plays off the theme with “Susan on Sale” promotions, a “Susan’s Pick of the Month” board showing new trends and colors, and an overall “Oh, So Susan!” merchandising style that sets her apart from her competition.

5.  Get personal.  Think local.  Get back to old school etiquette. Send birthday cards and thank you notes. If not by mail, then post it on the customer’s Facebook page, so all of the customer’s friends will see it. Mail gift certificates to new homeowners in the area. One California retailer sends a postcard and discount coupon to repeat customers, with the note: “I appreciate that you understand the importance of coming in and supporting your local shops. Instead of making a discount available to you during one event when it might not be convenient for you, here’s a little coupon to use at your convenience.” She says the response has been great.

6. Add categories. As a retailer said earlier this year, “Think Anthropologie.” Add interest with a few antiques, vintage, one-of-a-kinds and handmades. Mix it up with a few lines of books, accessories, jewelry even gifts.  

What would you add to shake up your product mix?

7. Let them take it home on approval. “We’ve seen a renewed interest in furniture, but we’re a very design-driven business. For a client who only buys the furniture, we drive a truck full of accessories and give it to them on approval. They often keep everything, and that easily adds several thousand to a sale.”  From letting clients borrow products for privacy and light control until their window fashions arrive or you offer accessories , accent furniture or soft furnishings on approval this could be a path to a new revenue stream.

8. E-commerce. Some retailers are successfully selling online, others say they are content keeping their online catalogs just that – online catalogs. If you want to test the e-commerce waters without investing a lot of time or money, check out Big Cartel, a company we first wrote about in 2008. It’s a good way to go if you only want to sell a few products (up to 100) and can’t justify the expense of paying a Web designer to customize and maintain an Internet storefront for you. Several companies also offer low-cost e-commerce platforms for Facebook, like one we wrote about last year called Payvment that lets your customers shop right on your page, by clicking on an “Ecommerce” tab.

Do you have an e commerce platform?

9. Mobile Technology. Mobile technology is changing the way products are sold at every level. We’re seeing design professionals begin to test tablets, smartphones and kiosks as mobile cash registers, catalogs, shopping alert and coupon delivery systems, and product customization tools. Within our industry, the iPad is making it easier for vendors and reps to show and sell product to dealers, and for designers to show and sell product to consumers. We just did a series on the iPad  and it was the best attended webinar of the year. It is pretty amazing how some designers are leveraging the iPad for their business. We’ll continue to monitor the burgeoning technology and report on it.

How can you use this technology to be more efficient, dynamic and surprising to your clients?

10. Use a rewards program. One retailer said: “We offer $10 back for every $200 they spend. With a rewards program, it’s easier to ask for e-mails; not tomention keeping them and turning theminto influencers and advocates, There are customer rewards programs in Quickbooks software – it’s all free, but people don’t know it’s there.” Another is Square.

 

11 December 2011 at 8:19 pm Leave a comment

What Makes “Couture” Couture?

The Paris couture shows for Winter 2010 are taking place right now, inspiring oooohs and aaahs of envy and inspiration for both Deb and myself. But as Deb often mentions, the descriptive phrase “couture” is too often tossed off to describe something without have a true understanding of what separates couture from something well-built, well-made, well-crafted.

Take a look at this video, where a Karl Lagerfeld sketch is transformed into a finished Chanel dress and jacket. Each pattern is made and cut by hand, each sequin hand-sewn, each seam hand-pinned…

Lagerfeld is known for his dedication to the petites mains, the specialty seamstresses, milliners, button-makers and other decorative artisans whose elaborate handiwork transforms a design into a showpiece, this video is a clear example of why they deserve his high praise.

10 July 2009 at 7:25 am Leave a comment

Anticipating the Home Sector 2009

This is a blog post from Home Accents Today with the transcript of a panel discussion at Las Vegas Market revolving around what will 2009 bring for this industry. Good reading!

25 February 2009 at 7:47 pm Leave a comment

David Rockwell’s Oscar Set

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Several months ago when I interviewed David Rockwell he had just found out he had been chosen by producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon to design the sets for this year’s Oscar telecast.  He couldn’t reveal any details; so I had to tune in last night to see what he had done. I was not disappointed.  Rockwell is no novice to set design, the acclaimed designer has done sets for Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Rocky Horror Picture Show. The first architect to design the sets, he took his inspiration from Busby Berkeley movies and Berkeley’s legendary kaleidoscopic patterns as well as the Piazza del Campidoglio (The curved floral pattern on the stage was a direct reference. ) Thanks to Linda from Surroundings for the correction!

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                        262px-footlight_parade_waterfall1

Wanting the event to be more party than formal gathering, Rockwell used state of the art technology to create tensions and energy between the audience and the performers. “We created a spatial and architectural solution for the 2009 Oscars that is based on storytelling, spectacle, and community,” explained David Rockwell.  “We wanted to use a surprising and dramatic integration of technology and movement to celebrate the awards ceremony, which has become one of the greatest shared rituals of our time.” There were five LED screens that transformed and reconfigured, as well as 20 other still LED screens. An elaborate bandstand was placed onstage with a full orchestra that had the capability to move up and down the stage, and then break apart and disappear throughout the night.

The piece de resistance was the new proscenium curtain Rockwell created  of approximately 100,000 Swarovski crystals in a variety of shapes and sizes, The crystal curtain stands  an awe inspiring 60 feet tall and 100 feet wide and weighing in at three tons and being comprised of over 6,000 one-meter hand crafted strands. swarovski-and-rockwell-take-center-stage-large

23 February 2009 at 11:35 pm 3 comments

Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trends

Although the overall theme of the trends presented at the January 09 edition of Heimtextil was Expect the Unexpected, none of the individual trends really broke any new ground. The trend hall did however present a comprehensive, well-grounded look at the near future and, as one would expect for a textile show, there was a strong emphasis on innovative fabric constructions, fibers, techniques and finishes.

Here’s a quick look at each of the six main trends along with a sampling of shots from the trend hall. For greater detail on the Heimtextil 09 trends, along with the trends and new product finds from Frankfurt, IMM Cologne, Paris Maison&Objet and other shows, I’ll showing hundreds of images during my presentation on Thursday, May 14, at the Vision show in Atlanta.

Illusionist
New technologies allow for featherweight padding, layering and folding that create mass and volume without the weight and bulk. This volume can come from layer upon layer of breezy mille-feuilles; soft yet structured folds; or sculptural padding.

Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trend

Illusionist: Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trend

Time Traveler
Open up a rare treasure chest where every second slipping by is cherished for the creation of a new cultural heritage. From medieval mystique, a rejuvenated Art Nouveau and Art Deco to centuries-old classics, the stage is set for ornamental opulence, laced luxuries and sensuous graphics.

Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trend

Time Traveller: Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trend

Fortune Teller
In a world where cultures collide and yesterday spills into tomorrow, inspiration comes from the vagabond, the bohemian and free spirits everywhere. Eco and ethnic folks break all the rules and create a rainbow of new ethics and traditions. Fame and fortune can be found in chaos and eccentricity.

Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trend

Fortune Teller: Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trend

Alchemist
Dissecting the structures of metals and minerals, alchemists recalculate the laws of nature. Catching the light from every angle, facet and curve, sharp shimmers and sheens add new dimensions to an intriguingly sculptured surreality.

 

Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trend

Alchemist: Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trend

 

Witchcraft
Bewitched and bewildered by the mythic creatures of the forest, artisans copy real and imaginary fur, feathers, floral and fauna. Vintage skins and technology that allows fabrics and finishes to mimic nature are key looks; while loose, floating yarns add to the modern rustic mood. 

 

Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trend

Witchcraft: Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trend

 

Enchanted
The artist’s sketchbook of pop fantasies has been torn up and stuck together again. A playmania of bold and brash color explosions, free-painting a wacky world with a sprinkle of anar-chic to smooth over the crazy edges.

 

Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trend

Enchanted: Heimtextil 2009/2010 Trend

Which is your favorite trend? Take our poll and find out where you’re favorite ranks!

13 February 2009 at 11:53 am Leave a comment

Top Ten Things They Never Taught Me in Design School

So as I was cleaning out and starting a New Year,  I came across this piece written several years ago by Michael McDonough and published by Design Observer. I have to confess, I pull this out periodically and reread it because it is timeless advice for designers.  Each time I read the list something different hits me. Lately, its number 9 -Show me the outputand I’ll show you the money. What ones strike you?

Enjoy and Happy New Year.

From Michael Bierut, Design Observer Blog  03.24.04:

The Architect’s Newspaper is my new favorite design publication. It’s a 16-page tabloid that comes out about twice a month. It’s literate and timely, a fast-paced collection of news, reviews and opinion from voices as various as Michael Sorkin, Peter Slatin and Craig Konyk, all beautifully designed (in two ruthlessly efficient colors) by Martin Perrin. And, best of all, it has a gossip column.

Last month, they published a piece by Michael McDonough, the accomplished New York-based architect, writer and teacher, called “The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School.” I read lots of these kinds of things (and even written a few myself), but I found McDonough’s not just entertaining but actually quite useful, and valid for nearly any kind of design discipline. He has graciously given us permission to reprint it here at Design Observer.

The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School by Michael McDonough

1. Talent is one-third of the success equation.

Talent is important in any profession, but it is no guarantee of success. Hard work and luck are equally important. Hard work means self-discipline and sacrifice. Luck means, among other things, access to power, whether it is social contacts or money or timing. In fact, if you are not very talented, you can still succeed by emphasizing the other two. If you think I am wrong, just look around.

2. 95 percent of any creative profession is shit work.

Only 5 percent is actually, in some simplistic way, fun. In school that is what you focus on; it is 100 percent fun. Tick-tock. In real life, most of the time there is paper work, drafting boring stuff, fact-checking, negotiating, selling, collecting money, paying taxes, and so forth. If you don’t learn to love the boring, aggravating, and stupid parts of your profession and perform them with diligence and care, you will never succeed.

3. If everything is equally important, then nothing is very important.

You hear a lot about details, from “Don’t sweat the details” to “God is in the details.” Both are true, but with a very important explanation: hierarchy. You must decide what is important, and then attend to it first and foremost. Everything is important, yes. But not everything is equally important. A very successful real estate person taught me this. He told me, “Watch King Rat. You’ll get it.”

4. Don’t over-think a problem.

One time when I was in graduate school, the late, great Steven Izenour said to me, after only a week or so into a ten-week problem, “OK, you solved it. Now draw it up.” Every other critic I ever had always tried to complicate and prolong a problem when, in fact, it had already been solved. Designers are obsessive by nature. This was a revelation. Sometimes you just hit it. The thing is done. Move on.

5. Start with what you know; then remove the unknowns.

In design this means “draw what you know.” Start by putting down what you already know and already understand. If you are designing a chair, for example, you know that humans are of predictable height. The seat height, the angle of repose, and the loading requirements can at least be approximated. So draw them. Most students panic when faced with something they do not know and cannot control. Forget about it. Begin at the beginning. Then work on each unknown, solving and removing them one at a time. It is the most important rule of design. In Zen it is expressed as “Be where you are.” It works.

6. Don’t forget your goal.

Definition of a fanatic: Someone who redoubles his effort after forgetting his goal. Students and young designers often approach a problem with insight and brilliance, and subsequently let it slip away in confusion, fear and wasted effort. They forget their goals, and make up new ones as they go along. Original thought is a kind of gift from the gods. Artists know this. “Hold the moment,” they say. “Honor it.” Get your idea down on a slip of paper and tape it up in front of you.

7. When you throw your weight around, you usually fall off balance.

Overconfidence is as bad as no confidence. Be humble in approaching problems. Realize and accept your ignorance, then work diligently to educate yourself out of it. Ask questions. Power – the power to create things and impose them on the world – is a privilege. Do not abuse it, do not underestimate its difficulty, or it will come around and bite you on the ass. The great Karmic wheel, however slowly, turns.

8. The road to hell is paved with good intentions; or, no good deed goes unpunished.

The world is not set up to facilitate the best any more than it is set up to facilitate the worst. It doesn’t depend on brilliance or innovation because if it did, the system would be unpredictable. It requires averages and predictables. So, good deeds and brilliant ideas go against the grain of the social contract almost by definition. They will be challenged and will require enormous effort to succeed. Most fail. Expect to work hard, expect to fail a few times, and expect to be rejected. Our work is like martial arts or military strategy: Never underestimate your opponent. If you believe in excellence, your opponent will pretty much be everything.

9. It all comes down to output.

No matter how cool your computer rendering is, no matter how brilliant your essay is, no matter how fabulous your whatever is, if you can’t output it, distribute it, and make it known, it basically doesn’t exist. Orient yourself to output. Schedule output. Output, output, output. Show Me The Output.

10. The rest of the world counts.

If you hope to accomplish anything, you will inevitably need all of the people you hated in high school. I once attended a very prestigious design school where the idea was “If you are here, you are so important, the rest of the world doesn’t count.” Not a single person from that school that I know of has ever been really successful outside of school. In fact, most are the kind of mid-level management drones and hacks they so despised as students. A suit does not make you a genius. No matter how good your design is, somebody has to construct or manufacture it. Somebody has to insure it. Somebody has to buy it. Respect those people. You need them. Big time.

1 January 2009 at 12:51 pm 1 comment

The Paradox of Choice

 In August Susan discussed Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Choice that Shapes our Decisions touching upon client’s indecisiveness because of too many options. Mark Hurst,a marketer, that I follow recently talked about the same subject with Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice , another  outstanding book on the subject. As can be the case, I am in a different business place today than in August and after rereading Mark’s blog; it all came together for me and I am on board.

Schwartz says, “Everyone agrees that having choice is better than not having choice. It seems evident that if choice is good, then more choice is better. The paradox is that this “obvious” truth isn’t true. It turns out that a point can be reached where, with more choice, people are worse off.”

People can’t ignore options. There’s more effort put into making decisions, and less in enjoying them. What’s nagging is the possibility that, if they had chosen differently, they could have gotten something better. Some social science research says that one consequence of leaving your options open is that people are less satisfied with their decisions; if a decision is non-reversible, you’ll make yourself feel better about the choice you made. If it’s a reversible choice, you don’t do that. He refers to it as accepting choices that are “good enough”.

Transfer that thought to your retail business. If you provide sales options in your retail store, SAH or website, you might think the way to attract people is to provide as many alternatives as possible. But that’s wrong. You’ll attract people, but they won’t buy as much as they would with fewer choices.

 Schwartz goes on to outline how we should do that:

“There’s no general answer except “restrict options” – though in what way depends on what you’re selling. For example, e-commerce sites and store or your SAH client presentation should be designed so that the complexity is hidden, so that people who really care, or know a lot, can find their way to the complexity, and the rest of us who can’t be bothered to find it, won’t have to.

He cites an example of home furnishing stores -stores that sell things that don’t go naturally together – like clothing and furniture. They’re selling a certain aesthetic. How does a small store sell furniture? It puts a couple of things on display, and then offers a million items in the catalog. You’re not overwhelmed when you walk in; instead, you are in an environment where that’s manageable. If you like a couch, and tell the salesperson you’re interested, and ask if it comes in different colors or fabrics, the salesperson can trot out the catalog and then you can see the infinite number of couches you can get. First you’ve been seduced into wanting a couch by what appears to be the simplicity of the decision. That’s the right way to design things in the modern world, where everything is too complex.

He goes on to discuss Amazon.com’s If you like this.. popup. I have to say that I find it annoying. I don’t find myself buying from those popups and if I do start surfing, I end up losing focus and leaving the site without buying what I intended. So maybe he has a point. Schwartz suggests somewhere in the range of six to twelve options is what most people would be comfortable with, most of the time.

The lesson here is to arbitrarily limit the number of options you’ll consider. My husband I just bought a new TV and it took us over 1 year to decide because of all the options, new models and upgrades coming on the market. I was about to throw in the towel. I should have promised myself that I would go to only two stores and then stop my research and make a decision.

That brings me to a retail trend I have been noticing lately- the limited edition, curated site or store. While this concept plays into several consumer behaviors right now it also is based on the paradox of choice. Gaby Basora, the genius behind coveted line Tucker, just launched e-commerce with a twist. Here’s how it works: Each month, there will be a limited-edition (100-150) classic blouse in a unique print that is available only on the site. That print will not be sold again, which means that if you score one, you will be the proud owner of a Tucker collector’s item, so to speak. Consider Gaby’s take. Cut back on the number of samples books you’re bringing into the house or consider a limited edition window fashion website,

For a “more is better” person like I am; I have resolved to start to editing my options in both my personal life and in working with my clients. If they came to me because I am the so –called expert: then here are the choices I recommend and I can back up. If she needs to see every fabric in every sample book, she’s not the client for me.

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14 December 2008 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

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