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IFDA Member Survey Notes Changes In Design Industry

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Design services, the retail marketplace, outsourcing, the rise of Internet shopping, the growth of TV and cable makeover shows-all have had a profound impact on design industry professionals, according to two surveys conducted by the International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA). "From the results," says IFDA President Mark Jeross, "it's clear that while we are still learning about where the Internet and the global economy will take us, the next few years are bound to be challenging." In 2004, a series of questions were put to members of the nearly 60-year-old association's chapters, which now number 15, coast to coast. Exactly two years later, the same questions were asked, and this year's response rate more than doubled 2004's. IFDA is an organization of pros in all areas of furnishings and design, among them manufacture, showroom management, commercial and residential interior design, product design, kitchen and bath design, advertising, editorial, marketing and public relations. Membership interest extends from accessories to wallcoverings. Here's what was asked: If you were starting out now, would you be attracted to the furnishings and design industry? In 2004, 51 percent said yes; in 2006, the number exceeded 87 percent. "The whole world seems to have been opened up to design.from the do-it-yourselfers to the continuing growth of the luxury market," opined one member. Said another: "People [today] are spending more on their residences, second residences and commercial spaces. They want beauty, not just utility." A third member declared, "With the ever-expanding global markets and manufacturing, the opportunity for designs and the need for designers [are] great." Have changes in retail outlets had a negative effect on your business? In 2004, 31 percent of respondents said yes; two years later, that percentage was 41 percent. One member claimed that "quality suffers" because of the way discount merchants attract customers. Another decried the fact that "product sources have changed." And from still another: "Mass merchants do not require the value-added collateral materials we design and provide to our clients' traditional furniture retailers." In what ways have these changes affected you? In 2004, only 19 percent of surveyors said they'd had to alter the way they shopped for materials; in 2006, that percentage topped 33. In 2004, 40 percent said their business picture was affected by what clients said they were willing to pay for the items chosen for them; in 2006, the number reached nearly 59 percent. In 2004, 42 percent to those surveyed said they were affected by where their clients go to buy what designers normally provide for them; in 2006, that number hit nearly 70 percent. Will continued offshore manufacture and foreign competition have an impact on your future in the furnishings and design industry? Two years ago, 31 percent said yes and 67 percent said no; in 2006, there was a handful of additional yeses (32 percent, total) but fewer nos (39 percent). Among the comments: "Cheaper and lower-quality products mean smaller margins of profit and wholesale pricing available to the public." "Competition will spur.U.S. furniture manufacturers to become more innovative in production time and methods." "As we are now more global, eventually the creative design process will also be outsourced to offshore, as manufacturing is now." In what ways have the Internet and the proliferation of mail-order catalogs affected your business? In 2004, the consensus was that information had become more accessible and research had grown easier. In 2006, concern was evident amid the praise. Some comments: - "The Internet has had a tremendously positive effect! We can advertise and sell our business to anyone in the country, [but] mail order doesn't help us at all." - "A good portion of the buying public simply doesn't know what constitutes good quality design, product or service." - "The impact is huge. The Web has given everyone the ability to make their own design selections with less reliance on a designer." - On a more positive note, another surveyor exulted, "Customers.doing research on the computer [are] much more knowledgeable about products. This leads to our being able to sell them more expensive items." - Still another claimed, "The Internet has demystified the interior design field and created a savvy consumer." Yet others carped, "Internet availability makes our business harder" and insisted that it's become "harder to make any money when [clients] know what things go for online." - Taking the middle ground, a member insisted, "I [now] charge more for time, ideas and.intangibles than for product, which allows me to be supportive when clients want to purchase on their own." Have cable TV's design, home remodeling and extreme-makeover shows affected the way you do business? In 2004, 33 percent of respondents said yes, but in 2006, the percentage had risen to 47. While conceding that "cable TV's design/home remodeling shows have opened up a world of new ideas," some IFDA members warned that "people expect 'design on a dime'" and "everyone thinks they're a decorator." Others groused that clients "have unreal cost and time frames for remodeling and makeovers. [Their] expectations are way out of line." Although one member insisted that cable TV shows "give clients just enough knowledge to become dangerous," another proclaimed, "Every opportunity to focus on the home is a plus." -In comparing results from both surveys, IFDA President Jeross concluded that "the saturation of media, Internet shopping and the heightened availability of information have had a direct impact. I believe that the people, and businesses, who carve out a special niche for themselves are bound to succeed, but the way they do business will certainly change in the years ahead. These are exciting times for everyone in our industry." About IFDA The International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA), founded in 1947, is the industry’s only umbrella organization. Its members, in 15 chapters countrywide, represent all aspects of the furnishings and design industry, plus such significant adjuncts as licensing, education, editorial, advertising, marketing, public relations and showroom management. The IFDA Educational Foundation is the association’s nonprofit philanthropic arm, providing grants to students and industry professionals engaged in industry-related projects and enterprises. For further details on IFDA, click on www.ifda.com; or the IFDA Educational Foundation, www.ifdaef.org.

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