From Home Furnishing Business
Retail Details : One-Stop
By Powell Slaughter
Toronto furniture retailer Decorium is blending big selection, looks at a value and a family touch to create a home furnishings destination for Canada’s largest metropolitan area.
A constantly changing showroom, marketing that verges on “guerilla” and a willingness to change have Decorium making moves this year.
A new location in a prime Toronto shopping district and a high-end gallery at its existing store has the family owned retailer optimistic for the year to come.
A DEVELOPING STORY
Decorium’s roots trace to the manufacturing operation that Steve’s grandfather, David Forberg, started when he immigrated to Canada from Europe.
He began manufacturing dinettes in the early 1950s, becoming one of the countries largest producers in the category. Forberg’s father, Joe Forberg, had joined the business, and David suggested opening a retail operation. A few years later, Joe’s brother came on board, and the Grand Designs retail brand grew to include eight stores.
In 1986, the family started Decorium as an import business for the design trade, offering chairs, chests, armoires and accent pieces from Italy, Spain, the United States and Asia. In the early 1990s, a recession in Canada and new tax laws put a squeeze on Grand Designs, which led the family to close the eight stores and turn Decorium into a retail business, located in what had previously served as the distribution center for Grand Designs.
CREATING A DESTINATION
As a retail operation, Decorium started in 5,000 square feet of the facility, but quickly expanded.
“Being open to the public, it took on a new life,” said Steve Forberg. “Now we’re a full-service store, with a full range of styles from classic traditional to contemporary to modern to glamour, to leather and fabric upholstery to rugs and accents. We have 700 rugs on display in the store.”
With one exception, Decorium doesn’t brand any manufacturers. Everything in the store is a “Decorium” item.
“Our customers say, ‘I bought this Decorium sofa,’ or ‘I bought a Decorium dining room,’” Forberg said. “We are the brand.
“The only thing we brand separately in the store is HGTV (product).”
On the floor, Decorium wants customers to be wowed by selection and understand they’ve arrived at a true shopping destination with outstanding looks at a value.
“We want them to feel they’re in a unique environment that offers a good customer experience,” Forberg said, “with high-end looks at accessible prices.”
Decorium also encourages customers to keep coming back to see what’s new.
“We’re constantly shifting product in our 60,000-square-foot showroom to make it fresh for the customer and keep it fresh for our sales staff,” Forberg said. “We have 60 to 100 new items on the floor each week. We have customers who come in monthly to see what’s new and fresh, and how things are laid out.”
Decorium relies on two taglines in its marketing: “Definitely—Decorium” and “Just what you’re looking for in a furniture store.”
“It’s a one-stop shop. In our advertising we ask why visit five stores when you can visit five in one,” Forberg said. “We’re large enough to move a lot of product, and we’re small enough to care.”
In addition to radio, magazine and direct mail, Decorium relies a lot on what Forberg called non-traditional advertising.
Commuters in the Toronto area see Decorium’s message via outdoor advertising on bridges, bus shelters and in the subway system.
“My philosophy is to try to advertise where others aren’t,” Forberg said. “I like to swim in a pool where no one else is swimming. Once people start swimming with me, I try to jump out of that pool and into another one.”
A HIGH-END MOVE
Decorium’s new store is located on Toronto’s Yonge Street in the upscale Rosedale area. Most surrounding stores don’t run more than a couple thousand square feet, so Decorium’s 9,000 square feet there make a statement. Plus, the location was home to other furnishings retail operations, so Decorium will be filling a gap.
“It’s a trendy part of the city,” Forberg said. “The new store on Yonge Street is on the longest street in North America. It runs from Lake Ontario to the Northwest Territories. In Toronto, it’s the street to be—it’s like being on Rodeo Drive.”
(Check this link for Yonge Street’s significance in Canada: En.Wikipedia.org/Wiki/Yonge_Street)
Renovations are nearing completion, and after a scheduled soft opening later this month, Decorium will hold a grand opening event in April.
“That store offer’s the fashion and style our brand’s known fore but it’s in more of a boutique setting,” Forberg said. “There’s more layering, more accessories, and overall it’s a little more high-end.”
This past fall, Decorium also opened a 5,000-square-foot high-end gallery at the main store branded as “Signature Collection by Decorium.”
The space features a decidedly upscale product selection, complemented with fixtures such as crown molding, hardwood floors and wainscoting.
“We’ve partnered with some factories for some exclusives that are really unique and high-end,” Forberg said.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
“Business was challenging, obviously in 2008 and 2009,” Forberg said.
Sales leveled in 2010, though, and he reports double-digit growth for the past two years.
“There’s an analogy I like to use,” Forberg said. “We’re like a retractable roof on a stadium. As a family business, we can open it and close it as needed. We’re hands on, we can watch our expenses, and we live and breathe the business.”
Decorium’s making moves, so Forberg feels pretty good about what lies ahead for furniture retailing in general and his family’s business in particular.
“If we listen to the news, how things are hard, we can get complacent and stand still,” he said. “We’re not going to let the economy and the news people tell us times are tough and that we need to hunker down.
“We know when we have to hunker down, and we can when we need to. We’re opening a new store, we’re taking risks, and I think those who are willing to make a leap of faith are the ones who’ll be successful.” HFB
Decorium co-CEO Steve Forberg is a father of two boys—10 and 12—and is coming up on his 15th anniversary of marriage.
Away from the store, he enjoys family time, both at home and on the road.
“We love to travel as a family,” Forberg said.
A hockey forward in his younger days, Forberg still spends time on the ice.
“I coach both my boys in hockey, and in my spare time I like playing hockey and golf,” he said.
Decorium at a Glance
• Founded in July 1986.
• Flagship location is a 100,000-square-foot store and distribution center in Toronto with a 60,000-square-foot showroom and 40,000-square-foot warehouse
• Opening a 9,000-square-foot location on Toronto’s Yonge Street in mid-February, with grand opening set for early April.
• Employees: 64
• Key management: Steve Forberg, and brother, Howard Forberg , co-CEOs; father, Joe Forberg, “ambassador”; Danny Abladi, distribution center manager; Tara Lindsay , advertising manager/buyer; Phil Raso, sales manager; Gabriella Mocanu, controller; Maribeth Bautista, customer care manager.
• Annual revenue: $10-20 million
• Web site: Decorium .com