From Home Furnishing Business
Tempted by the Fruit
Temptation is as old as the world itself, and it remains a powerful draw in all aspects of life.
The allure of a partner; the desire for power; and the seduction of consumer products, including furniture, all reap the rewards of temptation.
As furniture retailers, a key element in snaring the almighty consumer dollar is temptation, and what better place to start than with a provocative showroom filled with precisely designed and poised product.
Walking into a furniture store should give consumers an aspirational feel of what their home could be. Without that enticement, the consumer is just as likely to turnaround, walk out the front door and find another retail store that speaks to her inner design diva.
There’s no better or more important place to make a first impression and grab the consumer than at the front entrance.
“It’s so important that when the consumer walks through the front door that you take her breath away,” said according to retail designer and brand strategist Connie Post of Affordable Designs by Connie Post. “When you come into a store, and there is something that is just gorgeous to gaze upon that’s when they decide if you have something they’re looking for or not.”
Post suggests the welcoming zone can be done with a color story through a seasonal presentation or a number of creative displays using accessories or lighting.
‘Tis the Season
Cardi’s Furniture & Mattress in Swansea, Mass., has nailed the seasonal presentation. Post said the retailer recently took fall displays to a new level by filling the dining room tables with seasonal appropriate dinnerware and linens, as well as creating a pumpkin house within the store. Carved jack o’lanterns featured the three Cardi brothers images for a personal touch, and Post said the stores were pitch perfect.
Pottery Barn and Pier 1 Imports are other retailers that standout with seasonal displays that are kept fresh and up to date as holidays and seasons roll through.
“It’s the No. 1, easiest thing retailers can to do make a big impact within a small space,” she said. “That first 700 to 1,000 square feet can be filled with three vignettes glamorously set for the holidays.”
Point of View
Once inside the store and past the decompression zone, it’s imperative that the showroom lives up to the consumer’s expectations. Most experts in the industry agree that to create a great looking, well thought out showroom requires a talented design and buying team working in tandem.
Kris Kolar oversees the showroom design and merchandise for high-end retailer Clive Daniel in Naples Fla. As vice president of interior design and merchandise, Kolar spends an inordinate amount of time setting the stage for the retailer’s client base.
“To get the look requires talent and taste of those people in buying jobs,” Kolar said. “You have to have a taste person in on the buying process. You have to buy talent to set a vision.”
Clive Daniel’s merchandising and display strategy differs from many in the furniture industry, and Kolar admits that it’s complicated and takes a great deal of time that Clive Lubner and Daniel Lubner are willing to invest in to get the desired look and feel.
“We think outside of the box,” she said. “We collect bits, or we’ll pull cases from a group and pair them with a bed from a completely other group or vendor. The rule here is that there are no rules.”
Kolar describes the look in the Naples store and the soon-to-be-opened store in Boca Raton, Fla., is more of a curated look than a gallery presentation of matched-up furniture in suites. She points out that retailer doesn’t buy end tables that match cocktail tables and dining groups are often split.
By creating customized vignettes and displays pulled from an immense number of vendor partners, Clive Daniel makes it harder for consumers to come in and then head out to shop the competitor down the street.
“It’s one way we can differentiate ourselves,” Kolar said. “We’d rather have it scrambled. We buy from a wealth of companies. That makes it hard on the buyers and it’s a much more complicated way to merchandise. We’ve chosen to go that route, and we’re better for it.”
Clive Daniel lives and breathes by its breadth. The retailer has more than six lifestyles that it targets with its merchandising. That’s a lot, but Kolar said it’s worth it. In addition to those lifestyle segments, the retailer offers a lighting shop, a rug and flooring area and a section for custom window dressings and ready-made goods.
“Our goal was to cover the total home for every consumer,” she said.
Consumers shopping Clive Daniel one day could very well return the next and find a reimagined showroom floor. The floor flips every, single day.
“We bring transfers in four days a week,” she said, adding that it could be 20 pieces a day that need new homes on the floor. “It’s how we keep it fresh.”
Add to the Mix
Last year, Thomasville of New Jersey underwent a major renovation and merchandising shift. What had been a single-vendor store was transformed into a multi-vendor store, completely redesigned and rebranded to as Home Inspirations Thomasville.
To oversee and manage the renovation and transformation, the Massood family leaned on Jean Hall, president and CEO with Jena Hall Designs.
Hall said much of the renovation was done with “smoke and mirrors”, got rid of the upstairs and added a few structural walls. “The goal was to improve the look of the store to increase sales,” Hall said, adding that it was time to rejuvenate and update the store.
While the Thomasville brand remains the anchor vendor for the retailer, the retailer’s showrooms now include a variety of brands, including private label goods under the “Home Inspirations: Be Inspired” tag.
To turn the redesigned showroom into a showstopper, Hall relied on some good, old-fashioned design strategies that fit into the retailer’s parameters to create an aspirational, dreamy space where consumers want to shop. Once the renovations were complete, the product had to come in, and that’s where the serious decisions were made.
“There are few situations in retail where every slot on the store floor is selling great,” Hall said. “Likely there are problem spots and those need to be identified. You have to be critical in the analysis and you can’t fall in love with something if it’s not making you money.”
A critical review means taking into account whether the location, the lighting or the product is the problem.
Rug, decorative accessory and lighting supplier Surya has showrooms in every major furniture market in the industry. Shane Evans, showroom director, relies on the company’s trend forecasts to pull together show-stopping presentations to inspire retail buyers.
It’s no secret that retailers and manufacturers are looking to uncover the best presentation to tempt the end consumer and what better way than to share ideas.
“Creativity is key,” Evans said. “We try to think outside of the box for some off-the-wall, memorable displays; something with whimsy. Many of the things we showcase can easily be replicated at retail without a big budget.”
Evans is a fan of cross-merchandising to feature a breadth of products from different categories to create a layered look, another easy strategy to pull into a retail showroom.
“Some retailers come into our showroom and they don’t have an eye to pull it all together,” he said. “We try to make it easy and offer them a little assistance.”
Along those lines, Evans suggests retailers play with texture and color to pull consumers through the showroom, and points to fashion magazines and websites for additional inspiration that resonates with consumers.
“The magazines are filled with metallic looks, for examples,” he said. “Consumers can relate a fashion story to a home trend. Pearlescence and metallic is highly understandable and current.”
When evaluating showroom space, Evans encourages retailers take a step back and make sure there display is telling a story that consumers can relate to. “If not, you likely shouldn’t do it,” he said. “If it’s too complicated to understand or requires too many graphics to explain, you have to simplify it.”
Looking ahead to store design, Post sees movement toward opening up showroom floors and shifting away from cramming as many products as you can into one area.
“We’re looking at taking out unnecessary walls and creating arch elements to open up spaces,” she said. “When a consumer feels a store is big enough to accommodate what she wants, you’re in business. Elements to pull her through the store are key.”
Showroom Design Tips
- Don’t be afraid of color. It grabs the consumer’s attention.
- Be bold and split groups up. Toss the rules and mix and match product from different vendors and groups.
- Keep the showroom fresh by changing with the seasons.
- Make a stunning statement at the front of the store to wow consumers when they enter.
- Get the lighting right. Shopping for furniture in a dark, shadowy store doesn’t work.
- Ensure the merchandise mix coincides with sales data.
- Engage all five senses. Retailers usually get the sight part right, but go beyond with music, scents, taste and touch.
- Invest in the visual and merchandising teams that can implement your vision and brand.
- Freshen up the linens on beds; set dining room tables and create inviting family room vignettes.
- Create beautiful, engaging window displays to entice consumers through the door.
- Thing outside the store. In a warm, sunny climate? Create an outdoor casual display on the sidewalk or in the parking lot in front of the store.
- Don’t forget the signage. Keep it consistent with the overall marketing plan and materials.
- Clear the clutter so consumers envision a clean environment for their homes.