Those who pass will become either a WCAA Certified Window Treatment Consultant or a Certified Workroom Professional. The Las Vegas exam will be the first of at least four opportunities this year for window fashions professionals to earn this status, which can be—and should be—proudly displayed to all customers as a sign of knowledge, dedication and professionalism.
WCAA is all about professionalism, says association president Bruce Heyman, who also is president of Fabricland Interiors, North Plainfield, NJ. "We're all about putting people out there as decorators and workrooms who are professionals." WCAA members stand for a professional code of ethics and fair business practices as well as continuing education, he notes.
As the only independent trade association for the window coverings industry, WCAA also offers its members a package of benefits and discounts. One benefit Heyman highlights is the WCAA Web site (www.wcaa.org), which features a searchable database of members under the link, "Find a Window Covering Professional."
During his term as president Heyman plans to concentrate on building WCAA's exposure within the industry and on increasing its membership, which stands at 700. "It amazes me that more people do not belong," he says. "There are 20,000 people in this business. There is no other organization [for this industry]. I think you'd belong to this association for no other reason than to support the industry that puts food on your table. More than that, of course, I think it's important to network with other people. I would like to see the bigger manufacturers take a bigger role and do more for the association."
'WHAT WE DO'
Heyman first became involved in WCAA three years ago, largely at the behest of Les Finkelstein, Sunshine Drapery & Interior Fashions, St. Louis, MO, who Heyman considers at true industry mentor. But WCAA is one of several associations on which he sits as a board member. "It's about giving back to the industry, which is important," he says, "and I'll be the first to tell you that I've plenty to learn, so I sit on these boards to meet people and to learn."
In the 11 years he has been involved in the 67-year-old family business he now runs, it is hard to believe Heyman could have much more to learn. He has taken Fabricland Interiors to new dimensions, expanding it with the purchase of Nassaus Window Fashions in Paramus two years ago and becoming the first Hunter Douglas Gallery dealer in New Jersey. Today, the company boasts "the largest selection of fabrics, trims and drapery hardware in the state."
"It's what we do well," Heyman says. "That's our business. What does a drapery consist of? It consists of fabrics, trim and hardware. When customers come in, they don't have to look anywhere else." Of course, anything they don't see displayed can be ordered through the store's large selection of sample books.
The hottest product line for Fabricland currently is custom window fashions, both hard and soft. "Everything your heart desires or your mind inspires in custom," Heyman says. That is followed closely by "800 styles and colors" of ready-made window fashions, "over 700 SKUs of drapery hardware in stock . . . 1,000 bolts of in-stock decorative fabric . . . drapery supplies, patterns and more," he adds. The stores also feature other custom products such as furniture, bedding, accessories, apparel fabrics and sewing machines.
If Fabricland's product mix runs the full gamut, so too does its customer base. "We sell to everybody," Heyman says. "If somebody walks in the door, we're going to sell him window treatments. If they're high-end, if they're going to spend a couple thousand dollars, then let's have a decorator come out to their home. If they have only a couple hundred dollars to spend, no problem. For the lady who wants to make it herself, we do that."
As a result, the company maintains a large database of more than 100,000 loyal customers on its mailing list. "We typically mail to the current customers who have shopped within the past year (25,000 names) or the past two years (45,000 names)," Heyman explains. "We do glossy print magazine ads, 12-page color sale flyers, postcard promotions and we are in the major newspapers every Friday. We also send out a newsletter once a year to highlight new products and community service projects," he adds.
"There is an amazing number of customers who have been shopping here for 30 years or more," Heyman says. "They all come back and bring their grown children who are buying their first homes. I call it the mother/daughter demographic. We see it all the time."
One of Heyman's favorite customer appreciation events is his Top Customer Night held twice a year. "We invite the top 10 percent of our mailing list to an after-hours wine and cheese event with discounts on everything in the store," he says. The sales do not include custom orders, he notes. "It generates good will because they know they're special. They have a great time shopping. They buy lots of stuff, and it's just a lot of fun," he says.
Ninety-eight percent of sales are to residential customers. The remainder is commercial (hotels, banks, schools, restaurants) and designers. Designers either use the store as a resource for fabrics, trims and supplies or make use of its full-service custom department.
In window treatment styles, Heyman says a custom, soft look is definitely in demand. "People are going for a little bit more opulence. New Jersey is traditional. I understand in Southern California and Florida it's a blind market. But this is a more traditional market, and we sell a lot of draperies and we sell a lot of the heavier fabrics, a lot of trim and a lot of decorative hardware," he says.
It takes a lot of work by a good number of people to keep a business of this size successful. In fact, it takes Fabricland's 90 employees. "When you're open 72 hours a week—we're closed only for the major holidays—you need full-time, part-time, office staff and cashiers, and the numbers add up. We've got a lot of shifts to cover," Heyman explains. "It's not a typical business because of all the different departments. We need to staff every department. Every department is specialized. At Fabricland we have a staff dedicated to dress fabrics and that's a different staff than decorative fabrics because it's a different set of skills."
Finding quality applicants to fill these positions is Heyman's greatest challenge. "We look for a basic set of skills depending on the department that we're hiring for. If you don't know how to sew, we will not hire you for a fabric department. If you don't know custom window treatments, we are not going to hire you for the custom department."
Fortunately, many of the company's employees have remained as loyal as its customer base. Some employees have been with the company for 25 and 35 years. "We pay more for our people than most retailers do. It cuts into my bottom line, but we just believe this is the way to do it. I can't wait on every customer so I need people out there who represent me and represent me well," Heyman says.
As large as Fabricland Interiors and Nassaus Window Fashions seem to be, Heyman says it's actually just the right size. "We see a lot of our competitors going out of business. The larger stores can't do it because they can't put the customer service effort behind it. If you're small, it's a struggle," he says. "I think we're the right size to offer customer service. If you don't have enough people, you can't service your customers properly. If there's a problem, you need to be able to deal with it. We have a customer service manager who deals with problems so that the decorators don't get tied up all the time. Decorators need to focus on jobs in progress and new customers."
The purpose behind all of Heyman's efforts—in fact, behind the efforts of all of the company's managers, buyers and sales associates—is to make customers happy. It's Heyman's personal business philosophy and his company's mission statement. "There is not enough good customer service in the world today," he says. "We consider ourselves 'old-school.' Treat the customers the way you would wish to be treated. Customers work hard for their money and they deserve to be treated with respect when they shop at our store. They don't have to shop here; there are dozens of choices up and down the highway. But if they are treated right by a friendly, knowledgeable sales associate, they will return generation after generation . . . and tell their friends."