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From Home Furnishing Business

Bound For Furniture


The Sigesmunds Have a Good Thing Going at Pittsburgh Furniture Retailer
By Powell Slaughter

How many of our readers had their first date with their future spouse at High Point Furniture Market?

We don’t expect a lot of affirmative answers to that question, but High Point is where contemporary home furnishings retailer PerLora’s founders, Perry and Lora Sigesmund, first started hanging out with each other.

“Both our parents were in the industry, mine from a small town (Steubenville, Ohio); and her family had a small store in Pittsburgh,” said Perry Sigesmund , who owns PerLora with wife, Lora.

Perry had worked for a year at his parents’ store in Steubenville before going out on his own to open a storefront carrying traditional lines such as Drexel Heritage and Pennsylvania House. Lora’s parents had a store in Pittsburgh.

“I went to open an interior design studio in Pittsburgh,” Perry said, and that’s where the couple’s paths crossed.

“Our first date was in High Point,” Lora said. “We’d opened another store in Florida, so I was going to the market with another furniture retailer from Pittsburgh.”

As luck would have it, Perry and Lora ended up spending time after hours in High Point, and the rest of their personal history is, well, history. The couple dated for five years and got married in 1990. Four years later they opened the first PerLora store on Pittsburgh’s South Side.

Now the couple own and operate the original PerLora –for Perry and Lora, of course—on Pittsburgh’s South Side, which has a decidedly contemporary ambience; and PerLora Leather, located in a former leather retail store and which has transitional looks to round out contemporary offerings.

The vision consumers see in PerLora’s stores developed over time.
“When we first opened, PerLora, believe it or not, was funky contemporary—all the velvets and contrasting welts—we had clothing, candles, all sorts of stuff,” Perry said. “As the industry changed, we got out of that funky mode and moved to cleaner lines.

“It took us a while to get away from that (funky) style. It was like when Ethan Allen started to sell contemporary furniture. It was hard to shake off that original image and change direction.”

How does that clean, contemporary vision translate on PerLora’s showroom floors?

“We want it to look, smell and feel like no other store,” Lora said. “Now the contemporary style is chic and trendy, but at the time we started it wasn’t. Originally we wanted to have something for everyone, from jewelry to food to furniture. And many of our employees have been with us from the beginning.”

Perry said the store segued away from some of those ancillary items for a long time, but has brought back in more home accents in recent years.

“In the last year-and-a-half we’ve been reading articles about some stores that are even carrying clothing, so we’ve moved back into some candles, accessories and jewelry—we’ve definitely gotten back into some of that.

“There are certain lines you know you won’t do huge volume with, but they make the store an inviting place—though we do concentrate most of the space on what moves.”

The Sigesmunds leave no doubt as to the strongest way to communicate to consumers the clean, contemporary lifestyle projected on their floors.

“Your Web site is gold,” Perry said. “Right now it’s the most important thing for bringing people into your store, and your Web site had better reflect what’s in your store.

“The worst thing you can do is make your Web site very cool, very inviting, and have people not get that same feeling once they get into your store.”
PerLora concentrates hard on making customers who find the store online have an experience in the showroom that matches up to the promise made on the Web.

“The experience they have on your Web site should match the experience they have in your store,” Lora said.

PerLora also has been very consistent in keeping its promotional budget to between 5 percent and 6 percent of sales, and that paid off during the recession and furniture retailing’s slow recovery from a nosedive overall in 2009.

“We didn’t back off advertising,” Perry said. “We didn’t want to fall off people’s radar.”

In fact, 2011 ended up the store’s best year yet, and 2012 beat the previous year’s performance, Lora noted.

There was another key to PerLora’s continuing to thrive in a tough retail environment for home furnishings—the store’s membership in the Contemporary Furnishings Group retail buying and networking association.

“When you’re in a group like that, there are commonalities, even though we’re all different stores,” Lora noted. “We’re contemporary, Circle (in Boston) has traditional, but we all are trying to reach the same people.”

“That networking helped us find ways to save money,” Perry said. “We feel it’s kept us alive through those difficult times.” HFB

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