An audience of buyers and exhibitors was truly inspired by the panel of five of the country’s most celebrated designers. Suzanne Kasler, Matthew Quinn, William Peace, Bob Brown and Stan Topol offered their insights and advice on topics ranging from how to learn what to buy to the concept of trend vs. lifestyle to the future of interior design. Here’s just a glimpse into the ideas these experts offered to help drive others’ success:
Display and merchandising is crucial. You have to edit to create a visual sales pitch that drives a potential customer to want to shop in your store. Go for simple drama using a signature piece, bold color and dramatic lighting. Think of a high-end couture boutique where a limited number of products are offered, thereby increasing their perceived value. With less visual clutter, a stunning product becomes even more significant. As Matthew described, people want to see what’s behind the wall; if you give them a slight glimpse of something fabulous, they always want to see more.
William stressed lighting as an often-overlooked element that should set the mood of any retail space when done properly. “Change the lighting to set the environment you want to create,” he says.
Consumers are less interested in “trendy” and more compelled by investing in a quality lifestyle. “Ideas are different than trends,” says Suzanne. “What’s fresh isn’t cheap or trendy. We have to present ideas that connect with what our customers really want in the homes.” As Bob put it, “Trends are of the moment, but we want clients to think more of investment pieces that they can live with for a long time. We might recover a sofa many times so it’s not something you see everywhere you look, but it’s a quality piece that will last.”
Luxury shouldn’t be the “latest and greatest;” it should represent true quality that will work for your customer. Always offer the best and eventually discerning customers will come to you because they won’t accept anything less. Stan cited examples of jumping up and down on chairs when he was designing for the Peabody Hotel and inspecting every aspect of an antique to ensure it’s the best possible piece he can find. Don’t be afraid to be a leader in your area. Learn presentation and you can sell high-end merchandise by creating a lifestyle expectation for your customers. As Stan emphasized, the merchandise is in the showrooms at Atlanta, you just have to look for it and be smart about what you buy.
While Bob loves his customers to move furniture and multipurpose, Stan wants his clients to leave everything just where he put it – so some viewpoints differ, but consensus reigns on more than one topic. Service can never be too good. William gave an example of returning again and again to a store in San Francisco where a $30 purchase is wrapped with the same extravagance as a $3,000 purchase. As Suzanne says, “Building relationships come from attention to every level of detail, down to something as inexpensive as monogrammed ribbon.”
All also agree that it’s a worthwhile investment to bring in a local designer to help merchandise your store. It brings fresh perspective from someone who also shops and can help create a more defined presentation. It also helps create a relationship with someone who could turn into a customer.
Technology offers customers more access than ever so use that to your advantage to push your business to another level. Embrace the possibilities of everything from advances in manufacturing techniques to the ability to take pictures on your phone to constantly capture images to inspire you later. The future is exciting for those retailers and designers willing to step to the forefront and forge your own path – especially if that path is painted a different color or takes a different turn from what everyone else is doing.
Make sure to visit the b. Inspired Design Showcase on Floor 1 of Building 1 to see the spectacular interiors created by the designers.