Closets companies and custom woodworkers who let their designs lead their marketing efforts will be the most successful. And as we heard at Cabinets & Closets 2015 this week, you have to automate the

Scenes from Cabinets & Closets 2015

production side of the business, if you mean to stay in business.

For closets businesses, automated CNCs for panel processing is largely standard operating procedure. It is in the design phases where there is still a need to adopt computer applications to execute the creative process.

Some custom furniture and cabinetmakers will still confuse manual labor with craftsmanship. Historically - in the days before machines - craftsmanship was executed only manually. But even those manual tools evolved over the centuries to more effective and productive versions of adze's, chisels, planes, and saws.

Contemporary tools propelled by computers set no barriers between the creative vision of a woodworker, and his or her ability to execute that vision.

For both cabinet and closet markets, though, the key to profitability is to move beyond the low-priced sales pitch, and to move up the pricing scale with unique designs to inspire and excite customers to open their wallets. 

This was borne out at Cabinets & Closets 2015, the well-attended conference and trade show in Chicago last week. The conference sessions drew triple the numbers of last year, with attendees moving freely between the Closets Sessions, the Business of Design, and the Custom Cabinets track. Crowds swelled in particular for Skip LaBella, one of the most respected closets business operators in the country, who did a one-hour presentation on the thinking behind his operating approach as president of Closet America.

People were packed to hear the story of another closet and cabinet star - Jeff Bruzzesi of Closet Factory of Hampton Roads, VA. Bruzzesi and his marketing agent Mike Mendelssohn told the story behind one of his marketing efforts: building a house for his local annual Homearama home show. This unusual home is centered on organizational possibilities, with somewhere between 14 to 20 pantries, mudrooms, built-in sideboards, studies, and of course, numerous closets. When the home sells and the investment is recouped.'s Lindsey Thudin also drew a roomful both during her Design-track session on optimizing your presence at Houzz, and her keynote at the April 15 opening day of Closets Expo.

The conference segued seamlessly to Closet Expo 2015, which featured vertical panel saws, operating CNC machines, edgebanders, and design application software - perhaps a third of the show was centered on technology; and two-thirds on designs in panel, hardware, and wood component outsourcing.

It was a successful event, as participants communicated in initial surveys and by showing up in droves. So next year's event is already in the planning stages. Cabinets & Closets 2015 will be held March 22-24 in Pasadena, CA.

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