The two-day conference featured a full slate of informative and hands-on seminars and a Product Learning Center aimed at preparing attendees to recognize these changes and to respond with ideas and programs in order to reach their full potential for success in the years ahead.
For the 250 attendees and the more then 30 sponsoring companies, the conference represented a step toward the future. The response to the conference was enthusiastic. The seminar topics were rated highly appropriate and effective, while the response to the Product Learning Center was encouraging for attendees and sponsors alike. Nicole Laurer, marketing coordinator for Techniku said, "Overall, we found while quantity of traffic was low, quality was excellent! This is the only show of the year to pay for itself!"
After attending the Whole New World conference, George Egon, vice president of brand marketing, Springs Window Fashions Division, Inc., remarked, "No one knows how today's trends will evolve over time. Few, however, will dispute that we in the industry must change in ways that are consistent with shifts in consumer behavior.
"The D&WC: A Whole New World conference did an excellent job helping those in attendance understand the state of change in our industry today."
The conference began with an opening reception at the Renaissance Waverly, the host hotel, followed by keynote speaker Ted Bream, managing director at Scient. Both the reception and speaker were sponsored by Hunter Douglas, and Bream was introduced by Hunter Douglas Vice President John Kay.
Bream is an expert on global e-commerce strategy and execution and focuses on consulting with top clients worldwide to establish business solutions to create market leadership and economic results. He told the audience that e-business should not be seen as a business model unto itself, but as another way to provide customer service similar to a personal meeting, telephone call or fax.
Bream stressed that e-business remains a powerful economic catalyst and is not a fad whose time has come and gone. However, he warned that e-business technology will not make an ill conceived business plan better. "A bad idea is still a bad idea," he said.
In the future businesses can expect to feel the effects of several trends, among them: unconstrained, networked communications; business machines and computers operating more intuitively; people living longer; daunting environmental issues; and global stability. As a result, businesses will need to know that leanness is critical, competitive advantage comes from establishing relationships and a real-time infrastructure will be necessary to respond to customers immediately.
The full conference schedule got underway Friday morning with a slate of design, workroom and business technology seminars, which began with an Industry Leaders' Panel discussion. The panel members were: Robert Collett, president, Techniku, Inc.; John Fitzgerald, executive vice president, Comfortex; John Kay, vice president, Hunter Douglas; R.H. Rowley, president, Rowley Co.; Ray Soltis, founding partner and co-owner, Solatech; and Tammy Thompson, executive vice president, sales, ADO.
The panel members were asked where technology is leading the window coverings industry. Their responses included the installation of the latest high-tech and computer-driven manufacturing machinery to the use of the Internet to inform and serve customers. Rowley compared the panel's attempts at forecasting the effects of technology on the industry with quotes from early computer pioneers who could see no reason why consumers would ever need or want computers in their homes. Fitzgerald likened the current use of technology and its expected growth to television in the 1950s.
At the heart of the Whole New World conference was the seminar program, which ran on both Friday and Saturday. Thirteen presenters from the window coverings industry and business technology fields led 32 sessions ranging from workroom tips and tricks to marketing and promotional campaigns, pricing, efficient Web site design and communications, e-commerce and technology and the future of independent fabricators. Several of the sessions were introduced by conference sponsors Comfortex, United Supply Co. and Techniku.
In addition, the Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA) presented four sessions led by a panel of WCAA board members. These well-attended sessions focused on challenges facing the industry, sales and marketing solutions, new workroom technology and techniques, and business planning for profitability.
Small class sizes worked well for most attendees and presenters. Attendees were given time to interact with presenters, and presenters could tailor their sessions to attendees. Overall, the response by attendees was positive to the education portion of the program. On written response cards submitted following each seminar, attendees used words such as "informative" and "inspiring" to describe the class schedule, which covered "the necessary subjects for business, designer and workroom diversity." One complaint was, "too many excellent seminars to choose from."
Four sponsor workshops were scheduled for mid-afternoon. Scroll Fabrics, Techniku, National Business Credit Exchange and BTX each took advantage of this opportunity to meet the attendees to discuss specific product lines or programs.
Running concurrently with the seminar schedule was the Product Learning Center. Here attendees were presented the opportunity to meet with and learn from the conference's 30-plus sponsors. Many of the companies focused their booth presentations on new technology including Web sites, Internet- and CD-based product ordering and information systems and window treatment motorization and control options. Others presented their newest lines of fabrics, decorative hardware, fabrication equipment, cleaning products and systems, design tools and marketing aids.
As the first of its kind in the window coverings industry, D&WC: A Whole New World undoubtedly has room and incentive to grow. Future events are scheduled beginning in the fall of 2002.