That could be the motto for Dana Reid and Fabrics & More, San Ramon, CA. It applies both to the full-service interior decorating business she owns and to her business philosophy. "I love designing new treatments-recreating and changing things," says Reid. "We are always designing new treatments for windows, bedding, upholstery and table tops," she adds.
When Reid and three employees opened the doors to Fabrics & More in early February 1992, she and her contractor had converted a storefront shell about 30 miles east of San Francisco into a two-story retail location carrying about 500 SKUs of fabrics in a 1,700-square-foot showroom.
Since then, Reid has added another 200 fabrics to the store, which is "stretching at the seams." But just as important is what Fabrics & More no longer carries. "We do not reorder a fabric again and again because it sells well. We get new fabrics in all the time," Reid says. "We also offer very different things, and I've always tried to do that," she adds. In that way, Fabrics & More keeps renewing itself. "The whole look has changed. We have a lot more wovens and European prints and different things. I change my look all the time. I try not to look like other stores in the area. It's stifling to keep bringing in the same things again and again, plus I would be terribly bored," she laughs.
Reid's philosophy is reflected in the window treatments and home interiors she and the other design consultants at Fabrics & More have worked on. "The homes we do are always different, just like the fabrics in the store," Reid says, "We want our customers' homes to look like them. We do not have a need to stamp a look on their homes."
The style trends in northern California play to Reid's strong suit. "What's hot is really a mix. We sell neutral wovens, jewel tones, even Southwest designs. Everything goes," she says. "Of course, that's wonderful, too. That opens up all avenues for the designer. It's a lot more interesting. You can do everything!" Reid says.
As a full-service shop, Reid says Fabrics & More can design and fabricate anything. She makes a point of selecting area workrooms that specialize in specific products. "The workrooms we use for window coverings do only window coverings and not bedspreads, too. I've found that over the years, if I work with a workroom that does everything, it's usually very, very good at only one of those things. I try to get the best workroom for each design," she says.
Reid's primary customers are women, but they run the gamut in other demographics: "From age 20-something to 70-something. They are housewives and professionals," Reid says. But two distinct style groups emerge. "The population is split. The younger I-want-it-now generation is going toward ready-mades for a quick-solution window treatment. The custom side of the population wants wovens, more opulent fabrics hanging in all sorts of treatments," Reid explains.
A key to Reid's success is the emphasis placed on customer service. "It's what we give them, the time we take. People nowadays can tell if you care. There's lip service, then there's the getting down to it, the real nitty-gritty," she says. "We will take time to teach or draw out directions for the do-it-yourselfer," she says. "I also spend a great deal of time searching for hard-to-find pieces or getting quantity yardage from printers for designer clients," Reid adds.
Fabrics & More's service extends through to installation, which Reid contracts out. "I wholeheartedly suggest that customers who spend money on custom treatments have them installed professionally so that they look like they are custom treatments," Reid says. "We also tell them it will save them the cost of a divorce because it's much harder than it looks," she says.
"I created the store to handle all our customers' design needs from purchasing the fabric to completing the labor," Reid says. "The design consultants who assist in the home also help with room arrangements, paint choices, and the purchase of furniture. We are meant to be a soup to nuts store," she adds.
Fabrics & More carries over 700 SKUs of fabric, averaging 30 yards of each as well as blinds, shutters, shades and a limited group of wallpapers and furniture. "We sell products that last and that we can stand behind," she says. But if customers plan to stay in their current home for only a short period of time, Reid and her design consultants will create window treatments the owners can take with them. Or if they plan to leave the window coverings, they can create treatments that are less expensive. "An honest helpful answer coming from a place of concern for the customer will produce more sales in the end," Reid says.
Actually, Reid's service seems to produce higher sales per customer. In going over the books, Reid finds the total number of transactions per year has remained virtually the same from 1995 through the end of 1997. But the average sale per transaction has increased from just over $162 per sale to slightly more than $201 per sale.
Fabrics & More registers far more in-store sales than in-home sales, but Reid notes the average transaction is much higher when the sale is conducted in the customer's home. Reid says there were more than 3,400 in-store transactions last year compared to 255 in-home transactions. But while in-store sales averaged $137 per transaction, the average in-home sale was $1,073.
"I have, right now, four designers working for me who go out and do the in-home sales," Reid says. "Three of those women also spend one day a week working on the floor so they can keep up on all the products. The fourth is strictly in-home sales," she explains.
Anyone thinking about going into business needs a plan. Reid developed hers after many years in design and retail, and it's built on a small-scale corporate structure. As chief operating officer, Reid maintains a hand in every aspect of the business from choosing fabrics to developing an advertising budget and marketing image, hiring and training employees, choosing workrooms and managing the store seven days a week. "I even take out the garbage," she says.
But Reid is not alone. Fabrics & More has a board of directors comprising family members with a financial interest in the business. The board includes her parents, David and Helen Reid; Jean Ann Flaherty, a friend from childhood who is "like a sister"; and cousin Janet Mahoney. Perhaps chief among her business partners is business manager Joanne Gallo, whose work and dedication over the years, Reid says, has contributed so much to the success of Fabrics & More.
Reid's business plan was, admittedly, a little over ambitious. "My original plans had Fabrics & More in at least four locations by the beginning of 1998," she says. That hasn't happened, but she's philosophical about the way things turned out: "Plans change. Reality sets in," she says.
Reid's success, however, is well established. "In 1997 our sales increased more than 19 percent from 1996, and we almost reached my goal of $750,000," she says noting that it works out to $425 per square foot.
"In 1998 I want to get the financing together to open our second store. I have quite a few different locations in mind for other stores. I'll open only one more in San Francisco and that will be the next one. The others will be in other areas. I have quite a few people who would like to manage them and work with me," Reid says.
"A lot of people start small businesses and they don't know anything about it, and it's really too bad. You have to know your business," Reid says. While none of Reid's triple-major college degree has anything to do with business or design, she has taken business classes since then to fill in the gaps. "Things I didn't know as I went along I went out and found out," she says. "I take courses all the time. I love learning. I love gaining new knowledge."
Reid's quest for knowledge began early. It starts with her flair and interest in designing and has been supported by a large and creative family: Reid's father is the store's advertising and merchandising manager, her mother is her editor, her sister is a former chef now studying spiritual psychology, one brother is creative director at a major U.S. computer software company, another is an artist operating a tour boat company in Costa Rica while helping to save the ocean, and a third is an educational and instructional film maker.
Reid began working in the design field in the early 1970s. She designed the gift shop for the Marriott Hotel on the Berkeley Marina in northern California. From there she worked as a window and carpet specialist for Sears & Roebuck Co., leaving that position to work with a designer. She realized every design job ultimately was dependent on fabrics. In love with textiles, Reid spent 12 years with national fabric franchise Calico Corners, opening or building sales in stores in New York, Pennsylvania and California before finally going out on her own.
Reid's advice to others thinking about opening a retail design business is "to research it a lot. I've seen too many stores like this go under, which is heartbreaking. At different times I thought perhaps I wouldn't make it. You have to put a lot of thought in to it ahead of time. It's a wonderful, wonderful business so I couldn't discourage anyone. You get a lot from it; a lot from the people you work with and from the industry. The industry is fascinating. But do your research. Be smart."