Without workrooms, the custom window coverings industry would be lost. The many thousands of women and men who fabricate window treatments look to the industry and each other for the latest in products, tools, methods and advice.
Draperies & Window Coverings tapped two active leaders in the industry segment for their thoughts on the state of workrooms today, what products are most in demand and how technology has influenced workrooms. Here are their replies:
Debbie Green, Casey Green
Minutes Matter Solutions, Inc.
We think the workroom segment of our industry is still growing—maybe not as fast as last year, but it is still on an incline. We always have a large number of people that are new to the industry call to ask questions.
Products and services most in demand by workrooms are those that help with the business. All workrooms are trying to systematize to speed up the fabrication process so Minutes Matter Instructions, M’Fay Patterns, Pate-Meadows, Rowley Co. and Patterns Plus are in high demand. Smart workrooms have decided there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Any tool or machine that saves time in measuring, cutting, pressing, tacking, pleating, etc. is looked on as a worthwhile investment.
It also appears that large-scale workrooms are in demand—they help lessen the burden for smaller workrooms when they have jobs that are too large for their limited spaces. Workrooms look for vendors who offer online ordering, making it easier to place orders outside business hours.
Technology has definitely had an impact on workrooms today. Many of them are using a graphic software program such as Minutes Matter Studio to allow a designer to see the window treatment to scale before fabrication even begins. This technology enables a line of communication that has not been available in the past. They’re also using QuickBooks to manage their businesses, prepare quotes and track orders.
Another way workrooms are using technology is by attending online classes to further their education. They’re also connecting with other workrooms via Internet forums and e-mail lists to share knowledge and resources, solve problems and alleviate isolation. Networking, banking and ordering online at “off hours” can free up the workroom owner to concentrate solely on fabrication during the workday.
Huge Potential to Tap
Precision Draperies Education
The Precision Draperies Inc. workroom closed its doors in 2004, partly because of a lack of available educational materials for training staff. Precision Draperies Education, however, is well on its way to being able to fill this void with online training and a selection of books and materials designed to help designers, workrooms and installers learn and communicate. While our energies were focused on the development of our educational materials, former workroom customers were calling and begging us to come back. Now that the educational Web site and its enterprises are moving along nicely, we have decided to reopen our workroom because the demand is so pressing.
Even in what the media presents as the worst of times, the custom soft furnishings workroom is in major demand. The consumers who have these discretionary dollars to spend want our unique custom products just as much as ever, and money really is no object. In fact, some consumers we have encountered lately in our business have made the statement, “Sometimes, the more expensive and exclusive it is, the better.” Our purpose in re-opening our workroom is to fill that niche!
There is huge potential in our market, but in the new millennium we can’t do what we’ve always done and expect to get what we’ve always gotten. A whole new way of doing business is on the horizon and it looks like this: The day of the traditional large business structure is dead, the small and independent businessman or woman is back! Individuals are tired of working for “The Man.” They are asserting their independence, and along with this comes innovation. The craftspeople who create the kind of soft furnishing works of art that will bring the big bucks, are the educated and intelligent among us who have the business savvy to know that custom means serving the customer. These new workrooms will be run by one or two individuals who work in alliance with many others, and as a self governing group will accomplish greater things.
The “new millennia generation” of workroom people will invest in getting all the business, computer and product knowledge they need to properly set the consumer’s expectations, then exceed them. They will communicate, socialize, organize, learn, advise, vend and procure all largely, via the Internet. The days of driving to work and flying to the job are gone. In workrooms of the future people are working at home, or very close to home. Communicating efficiently via the cell phone—computer and video conferencing will be essential job skills. Those of us who wish to remain along for the foreseeable future will welcome the change, embrace and mentor the young ones as they mentor us and, man, are we going to be having some fun in the years to come!