As a retail window coverings store, I want to make sure my business is millennium savvy. What can I do to entice customers, update my customer appeal and bring my business side up to par? I know this is a lot to ask, but could you offer insight into some of these areas?
With all the attention given to the Y2K problem, by the time you have read this article it will be history! It has been easy to sidestep some of the real issues for the future of a retail or wholesale window coverings business, but don't worry, it's not too late to be sure your business stays sharp and competitive. Let me offer some sound solutions that will enhance any business!
Consumers are looking ahead more than ever before. There is a wealth of information available to the everyday consumer. They are smarter than ever before, do not mind shopping price and know what they are looking for! As retailers, wholesalers and designers, we must meet customers' needs by listening to what they have to say when it comes to their designs. Each and every time you speak with a client, you should be taking mental and written notes of their needs and wants. Become aware of what the client is telling you in every aspect of interior design and decoration.
As professionals in our field, staying up to par on the latest color trends, technology in textiles, updates in drapery hardware, new and innovative hard and soft window treatment styles, and current design trends are some strong areas of concern for a business owner.
How do we keep up with all of these changes? By meeting weekly with our sales representatives, reading trade publications, researching the World Wide Web for new technology updates, and keeping the communication lines open with suppliers.
Here are some other areas to work on to keep your business fresh and up to date:
• Curb appeal—Showrooms may need a facelift. New displays should be added on a regular basis. Pulling discontinued samples will help keep customers happy. How many times have customers pulled out samples only for you to say, "Oops, that has been discontinued"?
• Customer open house—Host a consumer open house and let current and future customers view the new products you have introduced into your showroom.
• Employee updates—Update your employees on a regular basis in regard to new and discontinued products. Offer an incentive to employees for continuing education units at a local college. (This will keep employees up to date on current changes, trends and laws regarding the business.)
• Network—Networking with your community leaders will bring in new ideas and new business. Invite manufacturer representatives into your showroom to give pointers on new and innovative office design, computer equipment and product news. Efficiency in the workplace will contribute to better profit for the retail and wholesale business owner. Do not be afraid of change! Too many businesses operate with the same ideas day after day.
• Computer savvy—Workshops are readily available for all levels of computer know-how! You would be surprised what a simple workshop or class in computers can do for yourself and your employees!
• Build a Web page—Millions of consumers are turning to their computers for advice, business direction and research possibilities. Don't be left behind. Customers will be impressed with a site that is available for them to view the interior floor plans of their homes, window treatment ideas and new and innovative textiles and hardware.
By using some of these suggestions, and keeping your business on the right track, you will not be left behind in the new Y2K age.
Sharon L. Anderson has more than 20 years experience as a professional interior designer in both commercial and residential design. She has taught at numerous colleges throughout California and currently is an educator at Moorpark college in southern California. She is a published author and frequent public speaker.