Builders are likely to meet up with Spectrum Decorating's owner, Travis Detter, for the extensive selection of paint offered. Home owners are likely to meet with Natia Dyer, the store's decorator, who handles window, wall and bed coverings. "It works out very well because we deal with a lot of new construction, so people come in and we help them pick out their colors, their wallpaper, window treatments and coordinate everything," Dyer says.
Three of the company's stores are especially suited for serving both customers, offering paint on one side and decorating products on the other. The decorating side is Dyer's domain. She is in charge of ordering patterns and sample books, creating displays, checking in freight, dealing with sales reps and workrooms, and helping customers from start to finish. "It's almost like having my own little shop," she says. On that side, Spectrum Decorating offers horizontal blinds, wood and faux wood blinds, pleated shades, custom draperies, comforters and bedspreads. "The whole works," Dyer says. "Everything we do is custom. Nothing in the store is ready-made."
A GUIDING HAND
As all decorating businesses must learn, Dyer has found in the seven years she has been with Spectrum Decorating that it's expertise and service that drives business.
"A lot of customers look to us for product knowledge and design ideas. Most people, I find, are confused. They may bring in a comforter and need a paint color or a wallpaper to coordinate with it," Dyer says. "People need advice. People are heavily into decorating—more so than ever before. More people are spending time at home and they want to be very much involved in decorating, but they also want somebody to guide them, to give them new ideas or to tell them, yes, what they plan on doing is going to work."
Patience also seems to be a key to Dyer's success. "People don't make decisions overnight. Especially when it comes to wallpaper. That seems to be one of the hardest aspects of building a home for a lot of people because once wallpaper is up it makes such a statement."
New home owners often are interested in doing several rooms at once, kitchens and bathrooms for example. "After we get done with all that, then usually we move on to window treatments. I think window treatments are one of the last things people think of when they're building," Dyer says.
Many times, customers will be pleasantly surprised when they shop for window treatments, especially those who haven't done much in terms of decorating for a few years. "They'll come in and say, 'Oh my goodness. This is overwhelming. There are so many things to choose from,'" Dyer says. "We sell more of the faux woods than we do anything else. A lot of people will come in thinking of plantation shutters—until they get sticker shock. Because plantation shutters are so expensive, they opt for the next best thing, either a wood blind or faux wood."
For Dyer's customers, price definitely plays a factor in their buying decisions. "But overall," she says, "if people find the right design solutions they're willing to pay a little extra to get what they want." There are those customers who shop for prices at the box stores or warehouse outlets in Tulsa or Oklahoma City, then look to get a matching price. "But anymore I'm finding that a lot of people want service and they're telling us that even though the prices might be lower elsewhere, they're not getting our service," Dyer says. "People are really into having somebody help them make the right decisions."
Dyer's success at helping customers is evident by the number of customers who are repeats, people she has been working with and have come back with a new project or new construction.
"Natia does a great job with the people who come into the store," Detter says. "She has a good following of several builders and several customers who come back to her because they are happy with her service."
There may not be a typical customer for Spectrum Decorating, but a sale generally starts in the store and finishes at the customer's home. "We usually start out in the store showing them different things that are available. If they don't feel comfortable with their own measurements, then we'll go out and measure for them. If we do curtains or draperies, we'll have to go out to the house anyway," Dyer explains. "I load down my car with whatever the customer wants me to bring out," she adds. Spectrum Decorating charges a minimal fee for in-home consultations.
Dyer works with an independent installer, Ed Defrance. For most window treatments the installer takes the measurements. Sometimes, for complicated treatments, Dyer and Defrance work together on measuring.
Dyer's creativity with window treatments was recently highlighted when she was chosen winner of a design contest held by The Blind Maker, Austin, TX. The Big Shot photo contest challenged decorators to create a window treatment featuring the Infinity Cornice
Dyer created a display vignette using the cornice above white horizontal wood blinds. She selected a fabric from Graber and matched its background to wall coverings from Seabrook. She hand cut individual leaves from the border and added them to the cornice, then topped it off with a decorative strip also cut from the border. She pleated the coordinating leopard-print fabric and attached it onto the bottom of the cornice and finished the vignette with furnishings and artwork.
Interior decorating has been a part of Dyer's life since she was young. Even at age eight or nine, she says she knew it was what she wanted to pursue. With her father in the military, Dyer spent most of her childhood in Europe. As she got older she would help friends with their decorating and was encouraged to follow her talents.
Dyer's college training was interrupted when she got married, then delayed while she raised children. But she stuck with it, went back and finished school.
"All of my jobs have been related to some form of decorating," Dyer says. In the past, she did some freelance work, then moved on to a furniture store for a while, then to a wall coverings retail store. She stopped by Spectrum Decorating one day after hearing the company was looking for a decorator. She met Detter, and three days later was offered the job.
The six Spectrum Decorating retail stores are scattered across central and northeastern Oklahoma. There are two stores in Oklahoma City and two locations in Tulsa. The remaining stores can be found in Enid and Grove, a resort area in the state's northeast corner.
Growth has come quickly for Spectrum Decorating. Detter started the business in 1986. With just a few month's experience with a regional paint manufacturer, he opened for business selling industrial paint from a mini-storage unit. A year later, he moved his company into a 1,500-square-foot location and the business just took off from there. The main office, Detter says, has moved five times as the company kept growing.
In 1991, Detter decided to expand his product mix to include wall coverings and window treatments. "We were doing a lot of business in the new home construction market," Detter says. "I started attending the National Decorating Products Association trade shows and reading articles about how most independent dealers were selling wallpaper and window treatments. It was a natural. Even my sales rep for our paint company suggested that we branch out."
Today, three of Spectrum Decorating's six stores offer a combination of paint and decorating items side by side. But that's not to say they are equal parts of the business. Detter says the company remains strongly founded in paint sales.
But one store that seems of have been most successful at mixing the two sides of business is in Grove, where Detter has opened a complete decorating center with paint, window treatments, wall and floor coverings. Detter estimates that more than 50 percent of the Grove store's sales are in the decorating end of the business and that floor coverings are very strong for the company right now.
Adding window and wall coverings may have been logical, but it hasn't been easy. "It's been a struggle, I'll be honest with you," Detter says. "The bigger we are, the better we buy. We're at a point now that there is not another paint dealer in the state who can compete with us on an equal footing. One of the down sides of the decorating business is that everybody's in competition with us from people working out of their houses to 800-numbers in wall coverings and window treatments and box stores that can take the margin right out of the business. That part has been frustrating for me," he admits.
Still, further growth is in the future for Spectrum Decorating. Detter plans to open two more stores over the next 24 months. Whether those stores will include both sides of the business depends on where they are located. In larger, metropolitan areas Detter will concentrate on paint. In smaller towns, he'll probably include window, wall and floor coverings. "We've got our hands full," Detter says.