Featured designer: Joie Wilson
Naples, FL | http://joiewilson.com
Joie and I go way back. Surprising, since we are still so young! She and I were Training and Development Specialists for Ethan Allen in the mid 80’s after being successful Designer Salespeople on EA retail floors. We reconnected a dozen years ago after bumping into each other at High Point Market when she was working for the Hearst Corporation (Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful, Veranda, Elle Decor, and more). She’s a talented designer and a great sales person who has just opened a small retail hot spot in Naples, Florida – where she serves something cool and sparkling late every afternoon. With her innovative style, and her enthusiasm and sense of fun… plus a couple of dogs on the sofa…her new digs (Joie Wilson Design Studio) will be the place to stop and shop in the on season and off!
1. What are the biggest changes you have seen to the industry and to your business in the last 5 years?
One of the biggest changes is how both designers and clients find products. First Dibs allows me to shop the world for both one of a kind furnishings and accessories, and also to refine my one eye for sense of scale and pure design inspiration. I have not had the experience of clients checking prices on line, but they do look for specific items. It is just so efficient, if I need a “map” wallpaper, I simply Google that, and I find wallpapers from several sources. Usually I call the showroom and they will even overnight memo’s, so we can be so much more efficient with our time.
In the last few months I have opened a design studio as an alternative to a home office. It is truly remarkable to see the reaction of clients to large presentations, possible with large work surfaces and a display/presentation board, as well as their reaction to one of a kind artisan items I display. Items truly do just seem to jump in the car and go home with clients, which reinforces that clients really do want to see, touch and experience items first hand, the total opposite of web-based shopping.
Also, I bring my dog to work somedays. Clients love the immediate connection to a part of my life that exists outside of the work environment.
The principal reason I opened the studio is for street advertising (vs. print). I found a location on a major road, with over 1 million cars that pass by in a year. This was the best advertising I could do. I use my local wholesale showroom to facilitate my ordering, and the showroom has partnered with me by putting inventory in. Saves me out of pocket for furniture inventory, and gives them a direct experience with more retail customers. I have become a bit of a case study for them. Also, I do not have any price tags in my studio.
This enables me to start a conversation with almost everyone that stops in, and they also realize this is a service based studio, not just a store. Of course, this may change if I see a return on more cash and carry items. I also feature lots of art work on consignment from local artists.
2. What have you done in your business to respond to those changes – and how is that working for you?
Response to changes, I have started taking credit cards for payment. I do increase my percentage for cost plus fee basis to cover the cc charges. It is just so immediate for my payment, and for payments to my work rooms. It also simplifies book keeping as I no longer have to manage a large balance of money from my clients through the purchase stage. Many of my clients live in other cities as I am in a resort community, so now I do not have to track them down to send checks. It is a seamless way to handle billings and payments. My cc service is through my bank and there is even a line on the receipt/transaction form where I can identify “Draperies for Steve’s room.”
I have also worked to develop relationships with the local magazine editors, which does create an opportunity for press coverage. I have offered the use of my studio to local service organizations for meetings, it is just good energy to have that flow of guests.
3. What do you predict for the future of the interior design industry – and how can designers prepare for that?
Just to stay aware of the best of products that suit your client base. They love it when I show them something that is new to the town, the first of a series from an artist or manufacturer. Also I customize a lot of furniture pieces that I buy from standard furniture vendors. I live in a tropical market, so the large number of white, blond, washed or almost unfinished items offer a wonderful canvas for colored glazes and surface applications. Also continue to offer the total package, if they just want an item there are so many great resources available to all of us as consumers.
Just keep trying to have something that no one else features, I design custom curtain rods for example with star fish, and can offer any shell or coral design.