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DLN survey reveals current state of the design industry
Jan 27, 2014

The Design Leadership Network (DLN) polled member firms which bill an average of $5 million per year for its proprietary “State of the Industry” survey—and the results are in.
The findings below are broken down into the following categories: sales, budget, marketing, sourcing and business trends.
Sales:

-    More than half of the survey participants made between $1 and $5 million in revenue and employed fewer than 20 people.
-    The majority of firms handled between 10 and 15 projects, a 24% increase in projects since 2012.
-    Aside from residential interiors, about half of the firms surveyed said they also made revenue from product sales.
-    A small percentage of revenue came from other areas such as architecture, landscape design, construction etc.
Budget:
-    The majority of firms had a budget of less than $100k for expansion of projects and PR exposure.
-    93% of respondents maintained their fees or increased them in 2013.
Marketing:

-    Almost all participating firms agreed that repeat clients and referrals carry their businesses.
-    The use of Internet advertising and social media has also been a marketing tool and designers have increased their use of it by 3X since 2012.
Sourcing:
-    Furniture was the category in which designers spent the most money, followed by lighting, fabric/wallcoverings, and rugs.
-    The majority of designers sourced the items above from trade showrooms.
-    Firms are increasingly using websites such as 1stdibs, Dering Hall and One Kings Lane.
Business Trends:
-    Design trends that will increase firm’s business include downsizing/aging in place, online design and shopping, one-of-a-kind items and technology/smart homes.
-    Design trends that will be deterrent to firm’s business include the DIY movement, product availability on the Internet, the economy, larger lead times and increased competition.

Looking ahead to 2014, the survey concluded that regional strength for design businesses will remain consistent with the North East region seeing the most growth. International business is slated to grow by more than 3X based on 2012 results.
According to the firms polled, the suppliers need to work on product availability and customer service for 2014. More than 75% of respondents agreed that suppliers need to reduce lead times and more than 65% said to improve upon customer service.
Also, for suppliers to gain more designer clients, the majority of firms said that marketing office visits are a must as well as shelter publication advertisements.
Editor at Large was granted permission by the DLN to reproduce parts of this survey. The full survey is confidential and only available to DLN members. For information, visit the website.

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