The president of Designers Only Showroom, weighs in on open access to showrooms

Five Questions With Joye Adamson

In a day when home enthusiasts are inundated with do-it-yourself programs on television and websites that tout the ease with which they can transform their space, many people are interested in access to showrooms that previously have only been “to the trade.” These bastions of high-end product are under pressure to open their doors to the public. Joye Adamson, president of Designers Only Showroom, weighs in on open access to showrooms.

The last time I was in Los Angeles I noticed that some retailers were carrying lines of fabric, wallpaper and rugs that are traditionally “to the trade.” The New York Design Center pairs customers with designers who can help them navigate the design center. What is the upside for the showroom?

I think initially showrooms may feel as if they are expanding their client base, but when I talk to the fabric houses in New York, what they find is that they are spending a lot of time helping customers navigate.

I’ve helped a couple friends on projects and sometimes they would want to visit showrooms. Usually, they’d just find it overwhelming and want to leave. Do you see that?

All the time. There’s so much product. Designers are trained to understand the specific needs and uses of a range of materials. It helps them focus. When clients come into the showroom they can be overwhelmed. It’s not shopping. There’s more to it.

So, beyond the client’s experience, what are the cons?

Design is a challenging business. The margins are really not that great. Designers are struggling already with clients shopping the Internet. Providing access to products that have been to the trade will make it more challenging still. Hourly fees will have to go up.

How would it affect the showrooms?

What I’m hearing is that employees are spending a lot of time educating customers. In order to provide good service, we would have to hire staff to deal with the public. In addition, these customers would have to understand that it’s not the same as retail. You aren’t always able to return things in the same way.

Do you see opening to the public in your future?

It’s not something that I’m interested in. I value designers—their education, their skills, and their experience. I prefer to protect them.