Home Furniture Sets Up Interior Design Departments and Training In their Stores.
Says Monica Heinrich, "At Home we have the ability to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary". Monica, Marketing Manager, Home Furniture Stores, Elmira, Ontario, has developed yet another break-through promotion, designed to create "exciting shopping experiences and provide a reason for customers to want to open the (store's) front door a second and third time".
Home Furniture, with its 70-plus stores, is the fastest growing division of the vast Home Hardware Stores and Building Centres network, 1,000 and more outlets across Canada, sourcing worldwide. There is also a huge and growing buying association of more than 3,500 retail outlets in Canada and the U.S. During 1998, Home Furniture added four new stores with a total of 53,000 square feet of showroom space.
Then there was the landmark grand opening of Eric, Julie, Krista, Karl and Margaret Norenberg's first Home Furniture Concept Store in Kemptville, Ontario, last October. Brand new from the ground up, this 16,000 square foot store is a company model incorporating both the National Exterior and the National Interior concepts, complete with store colors, ceramic tile, carpet, lighting, office, galleries, product and merchandise plan. And the Norenberg family has reported that sales have already exceeded target. Of course!
It took almost a year of intensive planning, design, construction and merchandising to achieve the impressive facade and the inviting interior flow and room settings from the "theatre room" to the warm and welcoming showroom cafe. "We've created an atmosphere which is enhanced by fun accessories and, in addition, utilizes current decorating techniques within the settings. This is designed to not only intrigue the customers, but give them confidence in the store's ability to help them create their own unique home decor."
Enthusiasm for the National Store Concept "continues to grow". New stores are conforming to the interior plan. Nine floor and merchandise plans were completed in 1998, and the same number of stores implemented interior color schemes as well. Rick Nicholson of Fairview, Alberta, reconstructed his old retail storefront to exhibit the Home Furniture exterior.
With all this activity, what else has Monica concocted? She has successfully engineered an affinity to the '90's powerful cocooning movement that has enhanced consumers' interest in their lifestyles and home environments. According to surveys and focus groups, these people are actively seeking knowledge, both product information and design input, many of them frustrated with the lack of educated assistance at their friendly home furnishings retailer. Monica's new "Shades at Home", a unique Interiors Workshop, will provide Home Furniture stores with ammunition to fill the gap.
She explained, "Home Furniture's target customer is primarily the female baby boomer. She is between the ages of 30 and 55. Although her age varies, many common traits remain true. She is short on time, and much more demanding of the stores in which she shops. Therefore, the stores most often frequented by our primary consumer must offer shopping conveniences that include inviting and current showrooms, a well-rounded selection of quality products, knowledgeable staff who can easily help her with her buying decisions, and a fair price.
"As we recognize the growing value our customers place on their time and energy, we must continue to anticipate their needs. How can we ensure they think of Home first when they require home furnishings and, in turn, how can we continue to develop our store's competitive advantage?
"Because of our association with Home Hardware, we are extremely well poised to break out of the traditional role of home furnishings retailing in Canada. We can assume a leading role in the industry by adding complementary services of color and decorating consulting, and offer this in functioning interiors workshops right in-store. In essence, we are focusing on becoming home interiors experts, offering one source for a complete decorating service."
The concept involves a "Shades of Home" workshop, approximately 288 square feet, the equivalent of two room groupings. The area combines elements from all aspects of interior design. It is intended to provide a creative, functional workspace in which customers and sales consultants work together in a relaxed and friendly environment to complete an entire interior project. The workshop is an ideas corner, a custom order center, a room planning station, a training center and a decor center. Customers can relax, have a coffee and flip through current decorating magazines, browse through Home and manufacturers' catalogs, study fabric swatches and even arrange the furniture in their rooms using the computer station within the area. They can view manufacturer product videos or learn the latest painting techniques as they sit comfortably in the gallery. And, a service not traditionally offered in a furniture store, they can work with their consultant to choose the perfect paint colors and treatments to suit their new furnishings. "Shades of Home" includes not only materials to customize the home furnishings for the room, but paint and related sundries.
"It's a known fact that females are the decorating decision-makers. She co-ordinates the furnishings and accessory purchases, and selects the majority of interior paint. With Shades of Home we are the first to provide a softer, more comfortable environment in which to complete the entire interiors project."
Home's Super Beauti-Tone Designer Series is a natural. Beautiful brochures both practically and poetically provide color paint chips and great descriptive copy. For example, "Northern Whites--Colors That Are Barely There", "Forecast Colors--The Future is Bright", "Historical Colors--Celebrating A Rich Heritage", and "Shades of Home--to Enhance the Warmth and Harmony of Your Home".
Hand-in-hand, Home will soon be able to advertise that they have accredited interior designers on staff. A new decorating and design correspondence course has been created by Marlene G. Pearce, working closely with Home's own interior designer, Bev Bell.
Marlene is an internationally renowned designer, author, teacher and speaker. A former Director of the Paint and Decorating Retailers Association, St. Louis, Missouri, she has presented the "Certified Drapery Consultant Program" and the "Interior Decorating Seminar" across Canada and the U.S. She authored "The Interior Decorating Workbook" and is frequently asked to speak about interior decorating and design, the psychology of color, color trends and color co-ordination.
The course is an excellent opportunity for dealers and their staff to equip themselves to better serve customers, particularly in the Shades of Home workshops. Retail students will learn about decorating styles, color schemes, elements and principles of design, flooring and lighting. The workbook contains an artists' color wheel, sections on wall coverings, flooring, furniture arrangement, window treatments, lighting, home offices, accessories, kitchen and bathroom and, very important, how to work with a customer.
Dealers who have adopted the Shades workshop have undergone a specifically designed training program created by Home's Paint and Home Product Division.
The ancient law of supply and demand governs many of Home's directions and continuing success. Give the customer what s/he wants, when and how they want it, and they'll return over and over again. It's called "building a relationship".
FURNITURE PLACEMENT TIPS
1. Angle chairs slightly.
2. Use narrow sofa tables:
- To divide room areas.
- In entrance halls.
- behind sofas.
3. Use multi-purpose furniture:
- Antique chests (linen storage).
- A Deacon's bench (boots and glove storage).
4. Keep two feet of operating space:
- In front of cabinets with doors or drawers.
Behind desks or dining room chairs.
5. Ways to create space in a room:
- Use a monochromatic color scheme.
- Paint ceilings a lighter shade than the wall.
- Consider the woodwork: Does it advance or recede?
- Darker woodwork will appear smaller, lighter will appear larger.
Use oversize furniture on a light wall.
- Make the room appear larger by placing the sofa six inches from the wall.
- Keep tables uncluttered.
Placement tips were provided by Marlene Pearce, a principal of Marlene Pearce And Associates. Marlene presents the "Interior Decorating Seminar" and "Certified Drapery Consultant Program," using her workbook "The Interior Decorating Workbook." Questions on any of these subjects can be directed to email@example.com.