A Day in the Life of a Pallas Representative
Blog • December 1, 2020
Design is visual and tactile. Those of us who work in the design industry are used to conducting our business in person.
But then the pandemic hit. At Pallas Textiles, our hardworking team adapted quickly to ensure that all our customers -- current and potential -- had exactly what they needed.
We recently spoke with Chicago-based Sales Specialist Shay Nothstine. In the interview below, which has been lightly edited for clarity, Shay shares what inspires her, what she loves about working at Pallas and how the pandemic has affected the way she works.
Pallas Textiles: How did you get involved working in the textile industry? Can you walk us through a typical week as a Pallas sales rep?
Shay Nothstine: I'm an interior designer by trade. I've been in the design industry since 2006 and a sales representative for Pallas since 2019. It was an easy transition for me. As an interior designer, I love fabric. My passion for the product makes it easy to sell.
Pre-pandemic, I would make appointments with architecture and design firms to present our latest updates and collections. They would let me know what they have going on and what fabrics they like for future projects. Historically, I've been most successful selling face-to-face because of the personal element it brings.
I also made sure the showroom in Chicago was stocked and clean and had a nice aesthetic.
I would get inquiries on a daily basis through phone or email from designers looking for a specific fabric or asking for fabric recommendations. So I was always juggling multiple things.
Pallas: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your interactions with customers?
Nothstine: Virtually all my interactions with customers came to a halt at the beginning of the pandemic. But as people got used to working from home, they knew they needed product updates from manufacturers.
Now, I mainly communicate with customers by phone, email and Zoom. I also mail people samples when needed. I enjoy Zoom meetings because it's a way to have that face-to-face connection with people. Seeing customers' faces is a definite bright spot in my day.
I do have to be more creative with how I describe a fabric because my customer can't touch it. Fostering excitement through video is challenging. In person, a customer might be immediately drawn to a particular piece of fabric or pattern.
In early spring 2020, Pallas became a partner of Material Bank. It’s been a great resource not only for designers but also for us as we stay connected with customers, while also generating leads and interest in our textiles.
Pallas: How do you think the COVID pandemic is affecting the industry at large?
Nothstine: Many projects are on hold or aren't progressing as quickly as they were pre-pandemic. Customers are sometimes hesitant to move forward because they don't know what the future of public spaces will look like.
Pallas: Are there any benefits or silver linings you're seeing as work styles change and remote work becomes the norm?
Nothstine: There have been some silver linings. I try to find the positive in any challenge that confronts me. This difficult time has given us the opportunity to re-evaluate what's important in our lives.
It's been an adjustment to work from home full time. But I've learned that I'm adaptable and can be productive at home. I'm sure many of us have learned things we didn't know about ourselves.
I think companies will be more flexible about remote work post-pandemic. With everyone remote, people have had to come together in different and creative ways.
Pallas: Are you receiving any COVID-specific requests from customers? What are they?
Nothstine: My customers are requesting fabrics that are cleanable and easy to disinfect. They still want something comfortable to sit on or something visually appealing that can draw someone into a space.
There's a lot of interest in fabrics that are bleach-cleanable as well as fabrics that are wipeable, like non-woven vinyl or polyurethane/silicone blends. My customers are also looking for information on how to clean our fabrics in line with CDC guidelines.
Pallas: Are you having any in-person interactions with customers? If so, how are you handling them?
Nothstine: I have not had frequent in-person meetings. If it's a live interaction, it is usually through Zoom. We have seen some increase in traffic to our Chicago showroom, which has been positive. Customers need to make appointments ahead of time, and we clean the space between appointments. Of course, we require masks. Customers who are working on projects benefit from being able to see samples in person, so we work hard to give them that option.
Pallas: Moving into trends for the coming year, are there certain styles you see surfacing as we move into 2021?
Nothstine: People are really investing in spaces for the long term. New construction can be expensive, and people have to think about how they can get the most for their money.
In education environments, for example, people know they probably won't have the chance to refresh that space for quite some time. They want fabrics that pop -- but not something so trendy that it will fade and look outdated. They also want fabrics that will stand the test of time, especially for a space that's going to be used 24 hours a day.
Plush is a popular solid pattern because it's reminiscent of velvet but has the added benefit of being a durable commercial textile. Panache, another popular solid, has a tweed texture and a bit of a shimmer. It's beautiful, comfortable and economical.
Pallas: What do you love about working in the textile industry?
Nothstine: I love working in this industry because I love design. I like working in the commercial design industry specifically because it covers so many different kinds of spaces. I have the opportunity to work with designers who are going to use my fabric in a restaurant that will serve thousands of people, a waiting room chair in a healthcare facility or on a sofa in a corporate office.
Pallas: Where do you draw inspiration from?
Nothstine: I tend to draw inspiration from nature. There are so many textures and colors in nature that just make me feel warm inside.
I also love to see what other people are doing. I appreciate their vision and use their work to inspire my own -- or to help someone else create a space.