Arthur Jay: Lady Ann Fabrics is a jobber of decorative fabrics with the majority of our line being moderately priced. Founded in 1974 with an original staff of four people-two people in our office, one person in our cutting department and one sales person-we have grown to a company of more than 25 including 14 sales reps from Florida to Salt Lake City, UT.
We moved into our present 10,000-square-foot facility in 1985 and plan to build a new 24,000-square-foot distribution center about four miles from where we are now. We are expecting a completion date of November or December 1999.
D&WC: What window coverings products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
Jay: Our original line consisted of basic antique satins, sheers and chintz. Today we carry a full range of fabrics including silks, suedes, leather and fabrics for upholstery.
We're doing a great deal with silks right now. We offer an outstanding value on basic silks and carry several different weaves in 40 to 50 colors each. One of the items that we're coming out with is a crushed silk. We're coming out with a 54-inch douppioni, a 54-inch silk taffeta, 54-inch silk stripes and 54-inch plaids. I think natural fibers have been fairly dominant and will be over the next few years.
When we come out with something new we usually try to do it in great depth. We won't come out with just one or two books and say, "Oh, we have that." We've expanded into upholstery fabric in just the last two years. In fact, we're adding two or three programs that are in the works right now.
D&WC: Give a percentage breakdown of these products. What one product or line stands out above the rest?
Jay: Our sales are approximately 85 percent fabrics with the remaining sales being custom bed spreads, Conso trims and drapery hardware. Our sales volume in our first year in business was $125,000. Today our volume is well over $4 million.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
Jay: What makes us unique and distinguishes us from others is that we will always consider ourselves a mom-and-pop operation with my wife Diana and I running the business, trying to give the best service humanly possible. We ship 95 to 97 percent of our orders complete within 24 hours; 80 percent or better of those the same day. Because of this, our growth rate has averaged better than 10 percent per year the last six years. The difficult part has been to maintain the same service level during this time of significant growth, which to us is a must. I consider myself, basically, as a service person. That's the name of the game.
We're not afraid to bring out a new product or a full color line. We also price ourselves competitively. We don't take an extensive mark-up. There are firms out there that will go into a market and offer some people 10 percent off and some people 20 percent off their price list. But their pricing structure is different than ours. Their initial mark-up is greater. We don't do that. We try to give the best price we can and treat everybody the same.
The thing that makes us more desirable is the fact that we feel the customer comes first. You can buy fabric from anybody. Service is the most important thing. That's one of the things we try to do-provide service.
For example, our sample book program is unique in that we come out with anywhere from 30 to 40 programs a year. We do not charge for our sample program. We tell people we will lend them the books. What I tell people is, "When we lend you the books, I'm becoming your partner." They're also becoming my partner because I don't make any money until they sell my products and, we hope, they will make money when they sell my products. It's a partnership arrangement.
Not everybody is going to like the books that we come out with and we know that to begin with. Certain clients sell only high-end products, other clients lower-end products. Some people sell sheers, some people can't sell sheers. So we try to have something for everybody, and we try to keep an in-stock position when we can.
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Jay: We try harder. Not that we want to be No. 1, necessarily. We're not going to be No. 1 in volume. We hope we'll be No. 1 in service. My philosophy is, "You can't please everybody, but you can try." I'm sure anybody who has ever dealt with retail knows that you're not going to be able to please everybody, but if you don't try you're not going to please anybody.
D&WC: Who are your customers? What parts of the country do you service?
Jay: Our main thrust is to the small fabric store and the independent decorator. We do not sell to mass merchants. Our typical customer is the independent decorator who works for herself either out of her home or in a small storefront. She's the individual who, when she needs help with a certain type of rod she's having a problem with, calls up and there's somebody here who has the expertise to help her.
In the last few years, we have branched out into the reupholstery market, as well.
D&WC: Is your business computerized?
Jay: Our original computer system was a 286 system. We now are using a Pentium Pro 200 system with a 20-gigabyte hard drive, which we've networked to PCs. We've been year 2000-ready for the last three years.
We're constantly upgrading our systems. Before we move into the new facility, we'll totally review our software again so we can give more precise and accurate information-such as being able to track fabric by the bolt rather than just by total yardage.
We're on-line with United Parcel Service (UPS) so we can track our packages. We're going to be updating UPS tracking to where we'll be able to do that almost instantaneously. We ship coast-to-coast, also out of the country.
I cannot imaging trying to keep track of sales and accounting without a computer system.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
Jay: The industry has changed since we started in that large stores with a tremendous selection of in-stock fabrics seem to be things of the past. Today it is up to the jobber to carry the large selection. That is why we have more than 150 active programs and produce 35 to 40 programs a year.
The biggest change has been in computers. Computers, basically, have made it possible to do bigger jobs. Today a decorator can get a program or software with a CD-ROM so she can go into a customer's house and enter the price of a fabric, the width of a fabric, the repeat of the fabric and it will figure out the job with everything.
D&WC: What trends and cycles do you see occurring in the industry?
Jay: There's been a return to elegance in interiors. We also see a trend going back to printed sheers. We came out with a collection a year ago, we have two more collections in the works right now and we'll probably come out with another collection next year. We'll probably have more than 100 different printed sheers to offer. When we go after something, we usually go after it in depth.
We tend to be a little bit more contemporary in colors than traditional. Our colorations are a little softer or a little brighter. We stay away from dark hues.
LADY ANN FABRICS, INC.
801 Pasadena Ave. S.
South Pasadena, FL 33707-2094
Fax: (727) 345-9535