Wow, it has been a crazy few weeks, first with big parts of the country being put on voluntary lockdown, forcing us to refine ways of working remotely, and then in the last couple of days, news that the iconic showrooms of Donghia will all be closing.
I have been reading with great interest posts on various sites for the Design Community, that the world is coming to an end and that those of us who still believe in the old showroom model, and ways of serving a client are all dinosaurs. Well I am here to remind you that sharks, alligators and even chickens are all essentially dinosaurs albeit ones that were able to pivot and adjust to the new ways of the world.
Before we eulogize the showroom model of days gone by let's look at what that was and what it offered to designers. The heyday of design showrooms were pre-internet, we all had printed binders of product and if you wanted to be sure you saw the latest a brand offered, you literally had to visit the showroom. Nowadays many design offices have few, if any, printed binders and any and all information is available on websites. We see the inefficiencies of jumping from one site to another in a way that we never thought of as we went from showroom to showroom or for that matter design center to design center. This is not to say that the showroom model is obsolete – in fact just the opposite – by outsourcing the search aspect they have an incredible opportunity to focus on their brand differentiation and create experiential spaces for designers and clients to really get an insight into what sets this brand apart from others.
While the transition to this sort of design experience may be painful and even expensive for showrooms, it is the ones that pivot and turn that not only will survive, but thrive. The success of brands like RH is less about the quality or design of their pieces and more about the brand experience, which explains their success not in terms of an empowered consumer, but a consumer hungry for a true design experience as part of their buying cycle.
What about designers? What have the last few weeks taught us? Yes, we are just as valuable to our clients as ever, but that value doesn't have to be face to face. We have learned that operating in a virtual world, we can shop, present and sell, from almost anywhere, and utilizing online tools we can be more efficient, creative and ultimately better stewards for our clients and their homes.
That is where tools like DesignerInc become so crucial. It shoulders the day to day grind of showrooms, by effortlessly showing product, pricing and availability (among other things) freeing the showrooms to do what they can do best, live their brands and luxuriate in the experience of being there. It also frees designers from the 9 to 5 constraints of brick and mortar experiences and allows us to shop, compare, price and ultimately buy whenever, wherever and most importantly from whoever (using the showroom selecting tool) that we want.
So before you wax poetically about the showrooms that have passed, think back to the actual experience of shopping for something as simple as a Console table. Driving to the design center, going from one showroom to another, waiting for tear sheets, instead of the new normal, sitting with your laptop, after the kids have gone to bed and browsing literally hundreds of vendors, sorting almost instantly by style, dimension and price point. I don't know about you but that's the dinosaur I want to be – who wants to join me?
DesignerInc - Industry Advisor
Owner, Mark Cutler Interior Design