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HFA Reports: Millennial Marketing

Furniture World Magazine


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It’s been 16 months since Patty and Beth Artis, mother and daughter owners of Artis, opened a second store – Studio 28 – on Ingersoll Avenue in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. The location made good business sense. That part of downtown Des Moines is in the midst of a rebirth. It also made good emotional sense since Artis Furniture, a Des Moines institution, was located on Ingersoll Avenue many years ago.

Studio 28 is a case study for furniture retailers looking to grab a slice of the millennial pie. Beth Artis set up the new 3,200-square-foot test tube with two shopper demographic groups in mind. Studio 28 still wants to cater to traditional central Iowan customers who have always known the brand for traditional furniture lines such as Stickley, CR Laine, Theodore Alexander and Bradington Young. Studio 28 also wants to attract Des Moines’ 20- and 30-somethings just starting out on their home furnishings journeys with lines like Younger and Noir.

At least that’s the plan. Increasingly, Beth Artis has noticed these two groups crossing over the aisle. She also sees the Studio 28 and Artis Furniture stores feeding clients to one another. Artis says it’s not uncommon for sales associates at Artis Furniture in Urbandale to send customers downtown to Studio 28 and vice versa. “So, we’re constantly directing new traffic to both stores,” she says.

The new website has been revamped and loaded with new product every week. It is geared more toward an ecommerce strategy than just showing a catalog of what the store carries.

Beginning in the 1950s, Artis Furniture operated on Ingersoll Avenue furnishing homes in central Iowa. When Ingersoll and its downtown neighborhood began to lose their luster with shoppers, Artis Furniture and others fled for the suburbs, but the Artis family never forgot its Ingersoll roots.

So, when a retail space opened on Ingersoll Avenue in 2018 (Artis’ 90th year in business), Beth Artis didn’t hesitate to sign a lease. She said another furniture company’s closing, combined with the family business looking to grow, was more than coincidental. “I’m convinced it’s a total God thing,” she said. “You will never be able to tell me otherwise. We’re very grateful.”

“So many things had to happen to bring us to where we are,” says Beth.

She credits her father, Bill Sr., with pursuing the younger demographic. “Dad has always been very forward-looking with the business,” she says. “He knows 20-year-olds will be our regular customers in a few years, so we want to go after them early on in their buying journey.”

She’s convinced Studio 28 will win over millennials through education and reaching them where they are in their lives, which is to say on the couch. Artis Furniture tries to educate them at every opportunity, whether that’s through social networking, e-newsletters or when they walk through the front door. The new website, revamped and loaded with new product every week, is geared more toward an ecommerce strategy rather than just being a catalog of what the store carries.

The common thinking among retail furniture operations is that millennials and quality furniture will get together the day oil and water mingle. Beth isn’t buying into that theory. “The misconception out there is that Artis or any other brick-and-mortar furniture retailer is too expensive to compete with online,” she says. “I think it’s just the opposite. I don’t think online has what it takes to compete with us.”

Beth likes to tell the story of the man who came into the Urbandale store looking to buy a sofa. She told him that she could order it, but it would cost $400 more than he could purchase it for on Wayfair.

“I told him he could order the sofa online, but what if he didn’t like it?” she said. “I told him how hard it would be to return that sofa online as opposed to how we handle returns locally. I told him we’d deliver it to his house and set it up wherever he wanted, or he could buy from the online company and someone would drop the piece on his driveway and leave. I could have gone on and on, but he waved his hands and said, ‘You’re right, you’re right. It’s just not worth the hassle.’”

Artis Furniture had won over another customer.

HFA members Beth and Patty Artis are the owners of Studio 28, a new store in Des Moines, Iowa, that attracts both boomers and millennials.

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