My Community

The Business Of Upholstery => The Business Of Upholstery => Topic started by: baileyuph on February 20, 2018, 08:47:32 AM

Title: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: baileyuph on February 20, 2018, 08:47:32 AM
Reupholstering - early in this game consumers have to engage in fabric selection, make a selection
based on simple or complex parameters. 

Question:  Since fabric milling has evolved as rapidly as it has, what are the more important
parameters?  Of course price is, color is, but do customers have a lot of knowledge about content?

What are the contents used today in making fabrics?  Haven't they changed?
I don't read/hear much about natural fibers (cotton/rayon/wool, to name a few).

So, what are the contents of available fabrics?

In review, several of the fabric books noted have a name but either it doesn't describe content or
the name just leaves the thought that this is just some kind of synthetic.

What are the fabrics to avoid fraying problem?

I have had customers bring me material (they didn't know what it was, nor did I) but the stuff
would start fraying after cutting.  Sure made sewing difficult and not want any more of that stuff.

Feel is about the most parameter I know to use and it helps in selection but more is needed
sometimes.

The original question is:  How do you guide a customer in fabric selection?

Any tips on fabric selection issues?

Doyle












Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: kodydog on February 20, 2018, 09:36:18 AM
We do not sell fabric so this is a big deal with us. We suggest several places for fabric purchase and the first thing they ask is what type to look for. Occasionally a customer will ask about all natural fabric but these days it is hard to find a fabric that doesn't have some type of synthetics in it. Except for 100% cotton, linen, wool, or flax most fabrics have rayon, nylon or polyethylene in it. Even if they do find a 100% all natural fabric the dyes used for patterns are toxic and if that's not bad enough they spray it with fabric protectors and glue like backing that's also toxic. If its imported you can bet it is also fumigated. It would be hard to find a fabric that has no toxins of some kind in it.

I think the fraying problem has more to do with loose weave than content. Also the glue like backing was almost non-existent for a while. I think the mills learned their lesson and are using it more often now. I tell my customers to buy a fabric with a nice tight weave and to hold the fabric up to the light and see how much comes through.

There is no telling what the content of the stuff coming out of China is. They will give you a list but is it accurate? I tell my customers American made is best. We just finished a job with fabric from India. It had a small geometric pattern that changed size as we went up the bolt.

Another often asked question is clean ability. We tell them this is something they need to ask the sales person about. Of course most sales people haven't a clue and will tell them just about anything.

A big sore spot with me lately is Hobby Lobby and JoAnns rarely use tubes anymore. They just stuff it in a bag and send them on their way. This is okay with some fabrics but fabrics with a nap and vinyl's can be a problem. Vinyl's are another problem. Some coming across my cutting table lately are very thin and stretchy. One particular piece of white vinyl was very difficult to keep clean and get stains out. Almost like it wasn't sealed or something.
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: baileyuph on February 20, 2018, 05:31:01 PM
What is Nanotex?  (sp?)  I see this label on a lot of fabric.  Is this just another processed synthetic?

Sometimes getting COM to work with is more efficient - in reality it comes down to the fabric quality

Doyle
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: MinUph on February 20, 2018, 06:53:19 PM
Nano-Tex is one company becoming widely known for its nano-engineered fabrics that repel stains and control moisture levels in a way unheard of a very short time ago
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: MinUph on February 20, 2018, 07:14:35 PM
I try not to recommend any fabric. I will take time with a customer to help them in their decision process by explaining what I know but won't help "pick out" fabrics. The important points now a days are durability, cleanability, and cost. Durability is Wyzenbeek Test, thank you, cleanability is a nil unless it is water base, and cost is what it is.
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: sofadoc on February 21, 2018, 10:45:28 AM
A big sore spot with me lately is Hobby Lobby and JoAnns rarely use tubes anymore. They just stuff it in a bag and send them on their way.
This is exactly why I don't send my customers to those places. Of course, most of them find their way there on their own.

What compounds the problem........after the customer takes the bag of folded fabric out of the store, they toss it in their trunk........take it home and spread it out......... then they half-ass fold it back into the bag..........toss it back in their trunk and bring it to me.

By the time I get it, it's just one big wadded up pile of crap.
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: kodydog on February 21, 2018, 08:28:26 PM
Sofa, what can I say. You are right.
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: baileyuph on February 21, 2018, 09:17:37 PM
A few years ago, I would not accept COM jobs.  Material not bought here didn't get installed here.

Then, time later, when my suppliers were in flux - said Ok COM you get what you have. 

It has been that way for a good while, but here lately - last couple of years or more, customers want
to get me more involved selecting fabric.  Since I have had changes in suppliers and have many sample
books.

Customers (many) now don't want to even look for COM.

Today, I got 4 pieces (think that is right could be 5) and they didn't give COM a thought.  They won't do
COM and even wanted my input on fabric selection. The selection was made in less than 15 minutes, fabric is on order and I was able to get the job (two pieces stripped down - almost).  I am going to be
good to go when the fabric arrives.

Another job went about the same way - this customer especially demanded my input because she
said I did the job several years back an fabric and job still is holding up - so you know the rest.
Part of the reason there aren't near as many shops left and these customers are jumping on
"getting the job right".  Plus I didn't have to hear all this stuff about "how much".

In the shake out, one customer's husband gave me to auto seat jobs.  He said he had trouble finding
someone who did original auto work.

What these customers said, fewer shops who can get it done and some don't do it at all.

So, maybe what comes around goes around.

So, I encourage all of you to establish good relations with customers today.  The new stuff problems
- the word is getting around on that also!

I finished some real classy nice chrome pedestal work.  This customer wanted to get rid of the
processed leather (bonded) and had me to put the best vinyl on the job.  Very detailed job.

Doing good work that people appreciate sure makes for a nice day! 

You experienced business know what I am saying.

Doyle
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: MinUph on February 21, 2018, 09:35:13 PM
A few years ago, I would not accept COM jobs.  Material not bought here didn't get installed here.

Then, time later, when my suppliers were in flux - said Ok COM you get what you have. 

It has been that way for a good while, but here lately - last couple of years or more, customers want
to get me more involved selecting fabric.  Since I have had changes in suppliers and have many sample
books.

Customers (many) now don't want to even look for COM.

Today, I got 4 pieces (think that is right could be 5) and they didn't give COM a thought.  They won't do
COM and even wanted my input on fabric selection. The selection was made in less than 15 minutes, fabric is on order and I was able to get the job (two pieces stripped down - almost).  I am going to be
good to go when the fabric arrives.

Another job went about the same way - this customer especially demanded my input because she
said I did the job several years back an fabric and job still is holding up - so you know the rest.
Part of the reason there aren't near as many shops left and these customers are jumping on
"getting the job right".  Plus I didn't have to hear all this stuff about "how much".

In the shake out, one customer's husband gave me to auto seat jobs.  He said he had trouble finding
someone who did original auto work.

What these customers said, fewer shops who can get it done and some don't do it at all.

So, maybe what comes around goes around.

So, I encourage all of you to establish good relations with customers today.  The new stuff problems
- the word is getting around on that also!

I finished some real classy nice chrome pedestal work.  This customer wanted to get rid of the
processed leather (bonded) and had me to put the best vinyl on the job.  Very detailed job.

Doing good work that people appreciate sure makes for a nice day! 

You experienced business know what I am saying.

Doyle

Doyle if I could give this a thumbs up I would. We do know.
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: Mojo on February 22, 2018, 07:47:56 AM
Fabric selection is a biggie with us despite our work being awnings. We now offer 3 lines, acrylic, vinyl and CBD acrylic. All 3 fabrics are branded under our trade name CoachGuard, Migliore and CoachGuard Elite and Elite 3D.

We have 2 fabric consultants and one thread consultant and meet with them twice a year. These guys are some of the very best in the business and spent a great deal of time inside textile mills around the world. They keep us up to date on all the changes and new developments in marine/outdoor fabrics.

Their expertise helps us to provide information and educate our customers on fabric selection. Most have no idea what they want. Ingrid is great at finding out how the customer uses their motorcoaches, their travel habits, etc. and then helps them select the right fabric. For instance if we have a customer who winters in the Rio Grande area of Texas she recommends our vinyl as it is better in the wind. If they spend a lot of time in AZ then she recommends our CoachGuard acrylic. She also recommends certain fabrics depending on the awning assembly type and manufacturer.

We have found that by providing professional assistance and showing expertise with fabric types our customers become very confident in our abilities and work and recognize us as experts. Educating customers, while I admit can be a pain in the ass, really helps sell jobs. It has always been part of our mission.

Here is a recent article on our new CoachGuard Elite fabric:  https://rv-pro.com/news/stone-vos-unveils-new-acrylic-fabrics


Mojo 
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: MinUph on February 22, 2018, 12:27:14 PM
Chris I envy you having 4 fabrics to choose from and all that left is colors. My sample room must have 500 different types of fabric and that is at a minimum.
They can have whatever color they want as long as it's black.
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: sofadoc on February 22, 2018, 01:30:27 PM
Customers (many) now don't want to even look for COM.
Well, they do here. They can't run to Hobby Lobby or JoAnns fast enough.

They'll even settle for a color, pattern, or texture that they aren't truly happy with............just because "That's all they had".
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: kodydog on February 23, 2018, 09:52:27 PM
We have JoAnns, Hobby Lobby and another non-discount store in Gainesville. In Jacksonville (1-1/2 hours away) there is also a JoAnns, and a Hobby Lobby plus two other non-chain discount stores. Valdosta Ga (1-1/2 hours away) is another mom and pop discount fabric store. It is amazing people will drive that far to save a few bucks. I guess its the American discount mentality.

We just got the go-ahead on a job we quoted last October. That's how long it took to get her fabric.

So Doyle, where are you and don't you have discount fabric stores there?
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: baileyuph on February 23, 2018, 11:05:09 PM
I commented that "many" do not want COM.

The bottom line to this issue is how you market and to whom.  The discount materials are cheaper for
a reason -- fabrics simply are not the best and some do not want it in their homes.

Educate the customer in your marketing, many will appreciate the professional advice.
There are fewer people doing what we do, it isn't hard to attract upscale customers, especially those
with expensive homes, cars, and nice boats.

I just finished rebuilding an expensive German car seat w/air bag.  The skill to do this is scarce even
in a bigger city.

Some of my customers do not ask for a price, some do.

Young people are not doing what we do, there is no keyboard attached! You have a skill in demand,
Market it! 

Doyle

Doyle 

Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: sofadoc on February 24, 2018, 09:26:13 AM
Educate the customer in your marketing, many will appreciate the professional advice
With furniture, you can educate them all you want. But the bottom line is.......many simply aren't going to pay $50, $60, $70 a yard and up. They're going to run to Hobby Lobby and pay $14.99 a yard.

In smaller towns, there isn't enough high-end clientele to market to. You have to take on the "Blue collar" crowd.

But most of my business has transitioned over to commercial work now. And thankfully, commercial clients don't go divin' in the bargain bins. They buy from me.

Residential upholstery is only about 30% of my business right now. And almost all of them are COM.
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: kodydog on February 24, 2018, 09:55:16 AM
I agree 100% on marketing to upscale customers. If I could tell my customers "we do not accept COM's" I surly would. Here in central Florida upscale customers are looking for a good deal too. Our business plan is to make our money on labor and let the customer save money by buying online or at the discount stores. And they appreciate that.

Maybe things have changed. When we sold fabrics, over 15 years ago, the fabrics in the books were the same quality as the fabrics at the discount stores. The fabric we bought from Greenhouse had just as many flaws as the fabric the customers brought us. Greenhouse sends us fabric in 2 or 3 pieces and the discount stores do the same.

It was nice to get the fabric sale, it was like icing on the cake but the prices in the books kept going up while the discount stores stayed the same. We often wondered how they could sell so low. I can go online and find designer fabrics like Kravet or Scalamandre for 1/2 price. In North Florida upscale customers will not spend $100/yard when they can get it for $50/yard.

But what really made us decide to go COM only was customers would have Rose show them her samples and then would buy their fabric someplace else. It was frustrating. it was the same fabric Rose was showing them for 1/2 the price. We couldn't hardly blame them. The only way we could sell our fabric was to sharply discount it. But then we weren't making any money. For us showing fabrics was a waist of time. We have done much better by raising our labor prices and let the customer buy their own fabric.

We still have a few customers who insist on buying fabric from us. They want us to do the whole job. For them we say, go online and look at Greenhouse website, select 2 or 3 fabrics and we will get them samples.

We all have unique ways of running our businesses, this works for us.
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: sofadoc on February 25, 2018, 02:41:39 PM
Maybe things have changed. When we sold fabrics, over 15 years ago, the fabrics in the books were the same quality as the fabrics at the discount stores. The fabric we bought from Greenhouse had just as many flaws as the fabric the customers brought us. Greenhouse sends us fabric in 2 or 3 pieces and the discount stores do the same.
My experience has been the opposite.

Very rare for me to encounter flaws, extra cuts, or dye lot variances from Greenhouse, Charlotte, and other suppliers.
While COM from Hobby Lobby, JoAnns, or .com sites like newtoto or fabricworld is always substandard in one way or another.

Part of the problem is the "Blue collar" customer. They start out looking at the $39.95 yd. stuff. Then they gravitate down the line to the $9.99-$14.99 closeouts. Sometimes, they even go farther to the $6.99 garment fabrics. I've had customers that furnish something they don't even like, just because it was cheaper.

And I REALLY REALLY don't understand upscale customers buying fabric from discount stores. Why would they want the same "cookie cutter" fabrics that everyone else is buying? 

Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: baileyuph on February 25, 2018, 09:54:27 PM
At a recent home show, got to meet another attendant who was building a new home, she commented
that the new home was just been recently completed and she was going to spend $100,000 on
interior furnishing!  Well, I got some of it!

Marketing does take on differences, depends on who has money.

Doyle
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: kodydog on February 26, 2018, 10:01:34 AM
[quote author=sofadoc link=topic=14710.msg119745#msg119745 date=1519587699
And I REALLY REALLY don't understand upscale customers buying fabric from discount stores. Why would they want the same "cookie cutter" fabrics that everyone else is buying?
[/quote]

I agree. They can afford to buy any fabric they want. But like everyone else they are trying to save a buck. Even some of the decorators we work for are getting cheap. It always floors me when they bring me fabric ordered from Green House. Some even bring fabric from JoAnns. We work for one decorator who buys furniture from Rooms To Go. This furniture is so cheap she can bring it to us, recover it in her fabric and resell it to the customer.   

Around here it doesn't matter if they are high income or middle income. They are all comparing our price with new furniture. We try to educate  them about the advantage of recovering their mid-century furniture or, if they're buying new, at least buy in the $2000 to $3000 range. And some customers take this to heart. But most are just looking at the bottom line. If they can buy a brand spanking new sofa for $1000 then why would they want to spend $1500 to $2000 to recover their sofa. I'm guessing this is a big reason Sofa does mostly commercial jobs these days.

So if I can help the customer save a little money, not on labor but on their fabric, I point them to discounters or on-line stores. And when I show them how to save 50% or 60% at JoAnns they get excited. And I get the job.

This is why I asked Floyd where he is located. It's not that I doubt him or that I want to move to his location, I love where I am at and I love the fact that some upholsterers can still sell fabric. But it really intrigues me how he or anyone else can sell their fabric only, at full price and stay busy enough to keep a full schedule.

My only other question would be do you go to the customers house to show them fabric or is it mostly done in the store? This is a good conversation one we should have more of. I would love to have the extra income of selling my fabric.

 
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: sofadoc on February 26, 2018, 11:47:57 AM
My only other question would be do you go to the customers house to show them fabric or is it mostly done in the store? This is a good conversation one we should have more of. I would love to have the extra income of selling my fabric.
If I had a crew that I was trying to keep busy, I probably would be more inclined to go to the customer's home and show fabrics.

In my younger days in the family business, I was just a foot soldier doing what I was told. Which meant taking sample books to houses and spending 1-2 hours babysitting the client.

Nowadays, I'll be happy to drop some books off at their doorstep at my convenience. But I'll be damned if I'm going to hold their hand while they browse through them.

I love to sell fabrics in-store, but not if I have to lift a finger to do so. I point them to the books, and then I go back to work. I'm positive that I could dramatically increase my in-store fabric sales if I were willing to climb down their shirt with them like a pushy salesman. But it's just not my style.
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: 65Buick on February 28, 2018, 08:52:46 PM
As you probably all know, I am new to this business.

I have read extensively about this issue, and long since decided I won't go there. I will do designer jobs with designer fabric only.
I absolutely refuse to do any job with COM (public) with fabric bought from Joann. Simply not with it.
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: MinUph on February 28, 2018, 09:26:45 PM
65, pay close attention to how many jobs are thrown out because of this limitation you are putting on your business. Not saying don't do it just watch and learn.
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: Mojo on March 01, 2018, 09:40:00 AM
I have to agree with Paul. I am a data hog and we keep a very careful eye on not only trends but how we conduct business. We routinely go back and adjust our operations and business model to either accomodate a new idea or to expand in our market or in somme cases drop product offerings. I constantly run P & L's ( Profit & Loss Statements ) to see where the money is coming in at.

A perfect example is I seen competitors throwing away $ 10,000's of thousands of dollars every year in business by refusing to make fabric replacements for a certain awning assembly. Yes they are a royal PITA but I latched on to it and while it took over a year to perfect them we now have the entire aftermarket for these panels to ourselves. I probably should send a thank you letter to our competitors. :)

Like Paul stated whether you accept or reject COM's is your call. Just be careful your not throwing a lot of money out the door.

Mojo
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: SteveA on March 01, 2018, 12:03:32 PM
65 maybe now you don't like for whatever reasons COM but there will come a day when it won't matter to you anymore. 
What do you say to folks who want to bring in a quality fabric specifically designed for upholstery ?  - would you tack on a per yard service charge since it's not your fabric  ?
SA
Title: Re: Need Help in selecting or guiding customers in fabric selection
Post by: brmax on March 01, 2018, 12:46:42 PM
  I personally think and have conducted myself presently and in my history to educate my customers.
It has been proven by myself with returning customers and new recommended clients. With that I have been thankfull now and for sure in my past with companies and institutions building, maintaining and engineering infrastructure projects. These projects and or items within as equipment for example to get task done has a big impact in all levels of the company.

  This is most times as some learn if they are in the positions discussed at the extreme top with engineers and financial leaders. These positions each have their knowledge and skill levels as you should and I am sure take pride in getting to know well. I have been lucky to meet and work directly with and for many in these projects.

So I would continue to say educating the new clients is in our best interest, the art is knowing how.  To help this. We all can have our pro technical connections to refer in our phone list. Im not sure any of us have on our payroll a technical consultant and above that a certified textile person on payroll. What I have found is being able to conduct a conversation without being over bearing or a knowledge idiot when the level actually request and honestly requires being instep to the customer and more important a leaders knowledge base.

Good day and try to know your customer

Floyd