The New York Design Center’s chief marketing officer on how to market a design center

As The New York Design Center approaches its 100th anniversary, the venerable institution is thriving. With a remarkable 98% occupancy rate, the NYDC is attracting some of the biggest names as new tenants, from international design stars like De Le Cuona and House of Hackney to regional powerhouses like Atlanta’s R. Hughes and LA’s Hollywood at Home. In a wide-ranging interview, with DNN, the building’s Chief Marketing Officer, Alix Lerman, discussed how the NYDC remains ahead of the curve through innovative programming, a focus on tenant success, engaging editorial content, and an overall commitment to evolving with the times.

Market leading programming at 200 Lex

DNN: The “What’s New, What’s Next” event series has grown tremendously, attracting over 3,700 attendees and featuring 65 programs in 2023. Since New York City is such an invite-rich town, you have competition for attendance nearly every day of the year. With that said, What has been the key (or keys) to making this a must-attend event for the design community?

Alix Lerman: I think what makes WNWN such a special event is that as a department, we are very involved with the planning of all the events of the day/evening.  We work with all of our showrooms and partners on programming in order to ensure the event is exciting, innovative and engaging.  We continue to focus on ways we can improve the event year after year.  We know the success of WNWN directly depends on the quality of the programming and making sure the event doesn’t get stale as well as the flow and execution of the event.

DNN: You launched the inaugural Women in Design event in 2024 with close to 500 attendees. What drove the decision to host this event and how does it tie into your broader marketing strategy?

Alix Lerman: We are so excited about Women in Design! This initiative is a great example of the New York Design Center’s “say yes” marketing approach. We wanted to do an event in the spring, but did not want to duplicate WNWN (something our showrooms have actually expressed to us). We knew we wanted to do an event that focused specifically on local markets (as WNWN continues to become a national event) and we also knew we wanted to have the event focus on a topic that was relevant; something that would resonate. March is Women’s History Month, so “Women in Design” was a perfect topic and it all came together. We wanted to find a way to use our digital channels to support and enhance our in person event.

Working with our digital partners at The Beaux Arts Agency, we created a microsite for the event that showcased the over 40 pieces of native editorial content we created for the event as well as a selection of women designed products found at the New York Design Center.

We are excited to build on the success of this year’s “Women in Design.”  This year we came up with the idea and executed it in 6 weeks—so as we move forward, we can expand on the elements that worked—bringing in designers from more local markets to shop the building and offer more personalized experiences.

Tenant Success  at the New York Design Center

DNN: The Design Center has maintained an extremely low vacancy rate, under 5%. The full floors of empty showrooms at design centers in many cities across the US tell me that is not the norm. What is the secret? How do you attract and retain top showrooms?

Alix Lerman: It essentially stems from the fact we are 98 years old and have always existed in the furniture industry. We are not real estate people, we are design people and are therefore invested in our marketplace. That stems from our President/CEO Jim Druckman, who believes that our industry “has a soul” and that is the ethos of all we do. We want all our showrooms to do well, and we are committed to looking at ways in which we can help make that happen. 

We also understand (or make an effort to understand) the changing market. We invest in our marketing and are constantly looking at ways that we can improve our efforts, engage with designers, attract new designers, and also really care about educating consumers in the value of good design. In short, we care about the success of the building today as well as in the future and that is our drive to continue to remain relevant and in the forefront of design.

DNN: Several notable showrooms like R.Hughes, Hollywood at Home, Amy Lau, and Francois & Co. are opening at the Center. What makes the NY Design Center an appealing destination for luxury furniture brands? And what accounts for this recent boom?

Alix Lerman: Yes! We have so many exciting showrooms opening up in the next few months—most before our annual WNWN event on September 20th!  I think again, it is due to our creating a vibrant marketplace and a “one-stop-shop” for any design projects (we also have 4 floors of contract furniture).  In recent years as the building is full, we also have been able to curate our new showrooms attracting new and exciting resources that really round out the building’s offerings.  And again, our marketing and commitment to really connecting and growing our audience.”

The NYDC’s editorial brand voice

DNN: With a substantial following across social media channels, how do you leverage these platforms to connect with the design community and promote the Design Center?

Alix Lerman: One thing that has happened for us post-pandemic is the connection between our digital and physical marketing. All of our digital efforts, especially social media, support what we do in the building. I like to think that our digital channels serve as a “menu” to the building.  Very rarely does one go to a restaurant without looking at the menu first. Our digital channels inform our audience about all the things happening in the building. Therefore, If we engage our social platforms correctly, when you step into our lobby you will know what showrooms have just opened, who introduced a new product line, or what showrooms you want to visit based on something we posted about.

We have also started to focus on creating native content—both informative and entertaining.  We believe we can use our platforms as our own little “media hub”. We have over 100 showrooms, therefore we have 100 stories to tell, that includes The Gallery at 200 Lex, which features 55 antique, vintage and 20th century dealers. We also have our Access To Design program that matches consumers with one of our 30+ Access to Design Designers—so we have lots to talk about. We love experimenting with different types of content especially on social media—it is also a great place for us to flex our editorial muscles and have a little fun with our brand and hopefully that is engaging to our audience.

See Also

Overall Growth  

DNN: The Design Center has sustained remarkable growth over its near 100-year history. What have been the key drivers behind this enduring success? And what about the slower times? Tell me about those as well and how you stayed afloat during and ultimately overcame them. 

Alix Lerman: Marketing, marketing, and marketing! So much of our success has to do with the fact that we feel it is essential to continue to find new and innovative ways to promote 200 Lex.  Regardless of if the building is busy or quiet—we are consistently working on ways we can engage new designers, expand our reach and essentially bring more people into the building. We focus on broader efforts that talk about the center as a whole as well as smaller more intimate moments where we are connecting with designers on a personal level. I think the key is to continue to always commit to marketing goals and be aware of what is working and always be ready to try something new and do more if needed.

DNN:  What’s new, what’s next? How do you see the role and offerings of the Design Center evolving in the years ahead to maintain its position as a market leader?

Alix Lerman: We love looking towards the future and thinking about “What’s new” and “What’s Next!” As always, I remain dedicated to providing the most exciting marketplace for home furnishings.  We have some exciting new showrooms coming that continue to round out the offerings we have in the building (hint… fabric). We also love expanding our reach nationally. We see more and more designers from across the county (especially on the east coast) coming to shop here; we are looking forward to increasing that. We love being a “must shop” destination for all things design for designers nationally and internationally.  

We are also excited to build up our editorial platform and create new (and fun) opportunities for our showrooms to be featured as well as getting more content from designers. We love the idea of curating our editorial point of view and becoming a place where designers, consumers and design enthusiasts go for news, information and inspiration. 

Overall, like most things we do here at The New York Design Center, we are always changing and evolving which is what keeps us relevant—supporting that growth in creative and innovative ways is what keeps and makes the New York Design Center at the center of design!

About The NYDC

Located in Midtown Manhattan, The New York Design Center (or NYDC for short) has been a go-to destination for interior designers, decorators and design enthusiasts for almost a century. The center is America’s oldest furniture and design establishment, located in a historic building designed by Ely Jacques Kahn in the 1920s. Today, the building houses nearly 100 showrooms of the finest furniture, decor, textiles, vintage and antiques.

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