IFDA is an organization of professionals in all areas of furnishings and design. Those areas include manufacture, showroom management, commercial and residential interior design, product design, kitchen and bath design, advertising, editorial, marketing and public relations. Membership interest extends from accessories to wall coverings.
In 2004, a series of questions were put to members of the nearly 60-year-old association’s chapters, which now number 15, coast to coast. Exactly two years later, the same questions were asked, and this year’s response rate more than doubled that of 2004.
“From the results,” says IFDA President Mark Jeross, “it’s clear that while we are still learning about where the Internet and the global economy will take us, the next few years are bound to be challenging.”
Q & A
Here's what was asked:
• If you were starting out now, would you be attracted to the furnishings and design industry?
“The whole world seems to have been opened up to design. From the do-it-yourselfers to the continuing growth of the luxury market,” opined one member.
Said another: “People [today] are spending more on their residences, second residences and commercial spaces. They want beauty, not just utility.”
A third member declared, “With the ever-expanding global markets and manufacturing, the opportunity for designs and the need for designers [are] great.”
• Have changes in retail outlets had a negative effect on your business?
One member claimed that “quality suffers” because of the way discount merchants attract customers.
Another decried the fact that “product sources have changed.”
And from still another: “Mass merchants do not require the value-added collateral materials we design and provide to our clients’ traditional furniture retailers.”
• In what ways have these changes affected you?
Have altered the way I shop for materials:
Affected what clients were willing to pay for items chosen for them:
Affected where clients go to buy what designers normally provide:
• Will continued offshore manufacture and foreign competition have an impact on your future in the furnishings and design industry?
Among the comments were: “Cheaper and lower-quality products mean smaller margins of profit and wholesale pricing available to the public.”
“Competition will spur U.S. furniture manufacturers to become more innovative in production time and methods.”
“As we are now more global, eventually the creative design process will also be outsourced to offshore, as manufacturing is now.”
• In what ways have the Internet and the proliferation of mail-order catalogs affected your business?
In 2004, the consensus was that information had become more accessible and research had grown easier.
In 2006, concern was evident amid the praise. Some comments:
“The Internet has had a tremendously positive effect! We can advertise and sell our business to anyone in the country, [but] mail order doesn’t help us at all.”
“A good portion of the buying public simply doesn’t know what constitutes good quality design, product or service.”
“The impact is huge. The Web has given everyone the ability to make their own design selections with less reliance on a designer.”
On a more positive note, another surveyor exulted, “Customers doing research on the computer [are] much more knowledgeable about products. This leads to our being able to sell them more expensive items.”
Still another claimed, “The Internet has demystified the interior design field and created a savvy consumer.”
Yet others carped, “Internet availability makes our business harder” and insisted that it has become “harder to make any money when [clients] know what things go for online.”
Taking the middle ground, a member insisted, “I [now] charge more for time, ideas and intangibles than for product, which allows me to be supportive when clients want to purchase on their own.”
• Have cable TV’s design, home remodeling and extreme-makeover shows affected the way you do business?
While conceding that “cable TV’s design/home remodeling shows have opened up a world of new ideas,” some IFDA members warned that “people expect ‘design on a dime’” and “everyone thinks they’re a decorator.”
Others groused that clients “have unreal cost and time frames for remodeling and makeovers. [Their] expectations are way out of line.”
Although one member insisted that cable TV shows “give clients just enough knowledge to become dangerous,” another proclaimed, “Every opportunity to focus on the home is a plus.”
In comparing results from both surveys, Jeross concluded that “the saturation of media, Internet shopping and the heightened availability of information have had a direct impact. I believe that the people, and businesses, who carve out a special niche for themselves are bound to succeed, but the way they do business will certainly change in the years ahead. These are exciting times for everyone in our industry.”
The International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA) was founded in 1947. Its members, in 15 chapters countrywide, represent all aspects of the furnishings and design industry, plus such significant adjuncts as licensing, education, editorial, advertising, marketing, public relations and showroom management. The IFDA Educational Foundation is the association’s nonprofit philanthropic arm, providing grants to students and industry professionals engaged in industry-related projects and enterprises. For further details on IFDA, visit www.ifda.com; or the IFDA Educational Foundation at www.ifdaef.org.