- At the Closets Conference and Expo, which opened at the Charlotte, NC convention center today, a healthy advance registration suggests a good turnout for the event’s three day run. As the first major residential wood interior industry gathering this year, the positive turn reflects the gradual improvement in the housing market.

Conference sessions run Wednesday through Friday; the Expo runs Thursday and Friday. During the event the Top Shelf Awards for best closet designs will be announced as well as the winner of the
ACSP annual Pioneer award

After several rough years in the housing market, closet and home storage solutions professionals are looking for opportunities and tools to grow their business in a segment that includes retailers, manufacturers and designers serving both the home improvement and new residential interiors business segments.

"The last couple years have been really rough for all of us," said Rich Christianson, associate publisher of CLOSETS magazine, during opening remarks.  “But there is something about the spirit of the people who were at the conference last year and this year, who are actively pursuing how to improve their business and not just be governed by fate in the general marketplace." 

ACSP president Jeff Klein
outlines the state of the home
storage solutions industry.

Among the morning keynote speakers
was Bill Fotsch (top with Mike Carson).
CLOSETS magazine publisher Laurel
Didier and associate publisher Rich
Christianson plan with Jeff Klein ahead
of the morning sessions at Closets Expo.
 Meanwhile exhibits are readied on the
show floor for a Thursday opening.

Noting the Expo is up 50 percent in exhibitors with prergistration up 15%, Christianson said, "Thank you for being here to share your knowledge with your peers.”

One of those peers is ACSP president Jeff Klein - he also owns Closet Specialist, Savannah, GA, who described the state of the closets industry and where it's headed.

“We know where we’ve been," Klein said. "We’ve been in the trenches.” But business is on the mend. "Everybody feels it," said Klein. "If you are here, you’ve made it." Noting the board had been meeting monthly to plan this year's conference and a number of new initiatives, Klein said, “Everybody in this room is a visionary."

Klein unveiled several new tools intended to grow new business for closet firms, and make them better at delivering services. Among the new offerings:

-Certification for closet designers

-Outreach to general consumers

-Education for home builders, architects and designers

    Klein briefly described highlights of the new closet professional certification program. It will provide a certification credential that would follow a designer's name, similar to those in LEED design and kitchen and bath design. Klein said the board has tasked a committee to create the program, which has been in development fo a year. It will be a rigorous process, he said, with three levels of certification:

    • Registered Storage Designer
    • Certified Storage Designer
    • Master Storage Designer

    The master level Klein described as “basically a PhD in closet design.” Details of the program will be presented in a special evening session Thursday night at Closets Expo at 6:30 pm at the Charlotte Convention Center in room 217 BC

    The certification program is structured in three levels:

    Another educational outreach Klein described was publication of second edition of of closets "Design and Construction Techniques." The closets tutorial was first published by ACSP in 2007.

    The new edition will be a three-part series, some components geared to increase demand for closets services. For example, a basic level in the series is designed to educate home owners about closets and home storage options.

    An intermediate level is geared to inform professional partners about the services closets professionals can provide their clients. The intermediate version is intended for builders, architects, interior designers, remodelers and real estate agents to help drive business to closet companies, and provides enough detail on home storage solutions approaches to reinforce the skills of ACSP members and other closet professionals, while not so much as "to give away the store,” said Klein.

    An advance level of the "Design and Construction Techniques" is intended for training closet designers, employees and trade partner.

    Many among the attendees at the 7th Annual Closets Home Storage Solutions Conference are a close-knit group. Many of these mostly small business owners were present for the formation of the conference, which is sponsored jointly by The Association of Closet & Storage Professionals and CLOSETS magazine.

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