Earlier this year, the Hunter Douglas Group, Rotterdam, Netherlands, combined cutting-edge e-business technologies with its considerable global resources to launch Tapestria (www.tapestria.com), an internet Web site that will enable interior designers to directly source fine fabrics from the world's most prestigious mills, quickly and efficiently at highly competitive prices. (See D&WC, March 2001.) The site also provides access to research, visualization and online product management tools, the company says.
"For the first time, design firms will be able to select and order from a comprehensive online catalog of interior fabrics, receiving samples and orders more reliably and conveniently than ever before," says David Sonnenberg, Tapertria CEO and formerly the managing director of Hunter Douglas Europe.
In an industry that has traditionally suffered from a highly fragmented and inefficient supply structure, Tapestria has been designed to dramatically streamline the distribution process to the trade. Through exclusive agreements, initially with more than 40 leading European and American fabric mills, Tapestria offers designers a comprehensive range of fabrics, including many that are unavailable through other channels. In addition, Tapestria's Web-based interface enables real-time product search, sampling, ordering and supply tracking with far greater efficiency and accuracy than through traditional methods.
Tapestria is targeting its high-quality fabric offerings at top-tier residential interior design firms and high-end furnishing stores in Europe and America, according to a company statement. Its business model is to function as a mix between an e-wholesaler and an e-marketplace, earning a distribution margin.
Describing itself as a "managed marketplace," Tapestria provides the marketing and distribution of fabrics while enabling mills to determine price, inventory and distribution policy. All parties will benefit from leveraging an advanced operational infrastructure.
Tapestria's features include:
•Speed—It is expected to dramatically cut the time it takes a designer to find fabrics. Its professional search engine will help designers rapidly retrieve, view and receive samples of fine fabrics.
•Selection—Tapestria provides access to a comprehensive range of fine fabrics sourced from the world's leading mills. Initially, the site offers 5,000 fabrics from mills in Belgium, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. By late 2002, it plans to offer more than 25,000 fabrics.
•Reliability—Tapestria offers online sampling, inventory checks, reservations, cuttings for approval, ordering and tracking and tracing, critical to an industry suffering from more than a 10 to 15 percent out-of-stock rate, it says. This problem is especially acute in the United States, the company adds, where the majority of fine interior fabrics are imported from overseas.
•Convenience—Designers can access Tapestria's services anytime and anywhere, reducing their reliance upon design centers and showrooms with standard business hours.
•Cost-efficiency—Pricing is expected to be 30 to 50 percent below current trade prices for the designer.
What's more, Tapestria considers its unique trade platform applicable to a wider range of products in the home furnishings industry.
Unique and proprietary search technologies will help designers worldwide find fabrics to meet their client's specific taste and criteria. A key element of this is a new proprietary classification and search method that can accurately interpret the different ways in which styles are expressed across countries.
A state-of-the-art catalog facility captures color-calibrated images of fabrics with high-resolution digital photography. When posted to the site, the fabrics retain subtleties such as texture and transparency with the use of advanced image processing tools.
The most advanced product visualization technology available is integrated into the site, with features such as zoom and virtual modeling. Pantone's standard setting color communication and selection tools enable users to pick colors securely. An interactive glossary also is included on the site to serve as a fabric reference and educational tool.
A front-end system makes use of leading edge personalization software to accommodate the individual needs of suppliers and designers. Also, a fully automated back-office enables mills to manage inventory, products and pricing in response to real-time business information.
While business-to-business (B-2-B) e-commerce is still a relatively undeveloped concept in the interior fabric industry, analysts believe the industry is ripe for adopting electronic procurement, particularly because fabrics are relatively homogenous, global goods. The growing $2.5 billion specialty market of luxury decorative fabrics is enjoying four to five percent annual growth, according to industry analysts.
Tapestria believes numerous inefficiencies in fabric distribution raises the cost of orders by 25 to 35 percent. Not only is the supply infrastructure fragmented, but also the very methods of sourcing slow access to new product developments for designers, the company says.
With the Internet's able to deliver product easily, at low cost and in real-time transactions, the widely acknowledged inefficient fabric distribution system is not likely to be able to resist market pressures to migrate onto the Web. Capitalizing on the streamlined nature of Web-based infrastructures, Tapestria has developed an advanced fulfillment process that not only supports an unprecedented range of products, but also creates value for both designers and mills. (See chart).
The Hunter Douglas Group comprises 145 companies, with 62 manufacturing sites, 83 assembly plants and marketing organizations in more than 80 countries. As a global leader in servicing the home furnishing trade, the company is positioned through a combination of scale and expertise to successfully realize its Tapestria concept, it says. Hunter Douglas' numerous and deep relations in the industry has enabled Tapestria to be so successful in bringing leading fabric mills online.
PROBLEM-SOLVING VALUE FOR DESIGNERS Problem
1.Searching for fabrics through showrooms and sample books is time-consuming and limiting.
2.Sample books take months to develop, are expensive and often contain fabrics that are out-of-stock or obsolete.
3.The traditional fragmented supply chain hinders the flow of information and introduces costly delays.
4.The traditional fragmented trade infrastructure forces designers to commit large amounts of resources to identify and source hard-to-find fabrics.
5.The traditional fragmented and lengthy supply chain obscures hidden costs from designers. Solution
1.Real-time sample searching, availability assessment, ordering and Preserving, through a proprietary search tool and the latest visualization technology, offers designers the widest and freshest selection of fabrics. Online product management tools allow the designer to quickly build personalized product collections, with up-to-date pricing, availability and specifications.
2.Real-time catalog enables targeted sampling and inventory verification, which reduces unexpected stock outages and enables designers to better manage sourcing and project timelines.
3.Shipping samples and orders by express air from central warehouses moves the latest fabrics around the world in days and cuts handling expenses, which add between 25 to 35 percent to the cost of the fabric. Tapestria also offers reliable online order status information.
4.Tapestria's exclusive e-commerce relationships with dozens of leading mills offer designers access to fabrics that cannot be sourced through any traditional distributors. Using Tapestria's advanced search tools designers can quickly and easily search for these particular fabrics by keyword, price, color and other specifications.
5.Increased price transparency allows designers to more accurately compare fabrics.