• Susan Dickenson

Retail Profile: Abode Fine Living, Scottsdale, Ariz.

"Organized eclectic"

ABODE FINE LIVING is one of Scottsdale, Arizona's newer home boutiques, occupying a storefront along a stretch of North Scottsdale Road dubbed "furniture row." Since opening last September, the 3,400-sq.-ft. retailer of furniture,

Abode Fine LivingShaun Aguilar, Derek Tucker and store owner Catherine Crandall are the creative team behind Abode's ever-changing store configurations and dramatic display groupings.
accessories and gifts appears to be finding its niche in a shopping community that includes a number of chain stores and larger independents.

Abode is owned by Catherine Crandall, who moved to Scottsdale in 2002 after spending 15 years on Wall Street in the offices of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Derek Tucker is Abode's manager and a home furnishings retail veteran with more than 20 years of merchandising experience in the Phoenix/Scottsdale market. Crandall's passion for beautiful home décor, as well as a new residence to decorate, led her to Tucker and a career move into retail.

"When I moved to Scottsdale 10 years ago, I frequented a favorite home furnishings boutique, where I met Derek Tucker," Crandall said. "Derek was the store manager who helped me with several design projects for my new home, and we quickly became good friends."

As the economy began to take its toll, Tucker found himself at a career crossroads, so the two started collaborating on plans to open their own store. They found one of the last available storefronts on Scottsdale Road and opened AbodeAbode Fine Living, a tasteful collection of mid- to high-end furnishings showcased in an environment that is eclectic and visually stimulating, yet clean, inviting and easy to move through.

After being open for just a few months, the overwhelming response of customers who "love everything in the store" and asked for help with their own decorating projects prompted Crandall and Tucker to add design services.

Since opening, business has been steady, but the pair says they expect things to slow a bit during the 110-plus degree summer months. "We've been able to keep merchandise moving by having select sales, sending e-mails to our regular customers and working more closely with designers," Tucker said. "What's really made the difference for us this year are our new design services. Also, we look for and take advantage of show specials and promotions, especially free freight, to keep our product cost down."

Going forward, said Crandall, the store's future looks bright. "With today's economic conditions we try to remain positive and hope to grow. Each passing month our customer base increases as new folks find Abode. As a newer store we find this to be promising."

Describe your store: The layout is open and inviting, with a clean, crisp, bright feeling, and we mix casual and formal pieces for an easy, relaxed elegance. Furniture and accessories are staged in vignettes, in a way that gives our customers ideas of how the pieces can be used in their homes. In larger vignettes, we try to find a great piece of art and build the color scheme, accessories and furniture around it, creating a focal point that helps draw the customer in. To give the store a unique look, we use lots of props - old watch parts, antique bottles, vintage chess pieces, cigar boxes, old maps.

Abode Fine Living, Scottsdale, ArizonaAbode's visual merchandising team maximizes the store's use of open space with lots of layering, and three movable H-shaped walls that give definition and cohesiveness to the room vignettes.

The showroom has three 12-foot H-shaped walls on wheels that can be repainted and repositioned for a totally new look. The furnishings move as well and show completely different on a new color palette. Several large tables display accessories, and we put a lot of thought into layering for drama. We are always on the hunt for large vintage boxes, trunks or anything else we can use to help us build height and layers on a table.

We love using large manzanita branches. Manzanita is a very hard wood, so the branches are sturdy enough to use in a variety of ways. We place them on top of tall hutches, suspend them from the ceiling to hang merchandise, and use them in large floral centerpieces. In one example, we placed several branches inside a four-foot glass cylinder vase, and filled the bottom with paperback books, pieces of burlap and green moss pads. Paper flowers were constructed using the burlap and pages from the books. The concept is simple, but the effect is huge - the tall centerpiece draws the customer over to the table where they'll see the accessories displayed around the base.

Size of store: 3,400 square feet

What percentage of your merchandise are home accents? About 50%

What's "hot" in home accents for your market? Customers are updating and refreshing with accent furniture, lamps, pillows, florals and decorative pottery.

What categories of home accents do you carry? Accent furniture, lamps, wall décor, decorative pillows, throws, mirrors, permanent botanicals, tabletop, candles, decorative accessories

Key vendors: Imax, Global Views, JC Fine Art, PAC Art, Uttermost, Four Hands, C.R. Laine, Old World Design, Creative Co-Op, Time Works, Ambella Home, Sigla, Jamie Young, Cyan Design, Bliss, Arteriors, Park Hill, Studio Artique, Peninsula, Lamp Works, Guildmaster, The Import Collection, Visser Arts, Noir, K&K

Tradeshows/markets you shop: Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. We hope to visit New York and Chicago this year too.

What makes you different from the competition? In addition to our ever-changing vignettes and store configurations, what sets us apart is our wide variety of products. We have furniture, accessories, art, lighting, baby, pet, tabletop and entertaining products, and prices range from a $5 bar of soap to a $5,600 sofa. There is something for everyone. We look for merchandise that isn't carried by the big box furniture stores or mass-market retailers. We also allow merchandise to be taken home on approval for four days. Customers love this, and most of the time the items are purchased. And, on weekends, we bake! We carry a line of cookbooks, The Gathering of Friends, by Michelle Huxtable. By serving delicious recipes from these cookbooks, we not only sell the cookbooks, but we build relationships with our customers and get to know them on a more personal basis.

Describe your average customer: The mid- to high- income local residents of North Scottsdale, second home owners and designers. Over the last several years, we've seen a growing number of Canadians buying second homes in the area, and they're avid buyers of everything needed to furnish a new home.

How do you reach your customer: Our best exposure is advertising through Phoenix Home and Garden magazine. For sales events, we use our local newspaper. We just started working with the ASID Arizona North Chapter and their quarterly magazine, Desert Design. We've done direct mail to designers and may do something similar with real estate agents and new home buyers. We are big animal lovers, so we hosted a month long sales promotion benefiting Altered Tails, a low cost spay/neuter clinic serving the greater Phoenix area, and plan to continue to help support animal welfare organizations. We have an easy-to-navigate website and recently hired an SEO company to help us move up in Google search results. They began this work on March 1st, and we've started to see an increase in store traffic, more viewers to our website and more people who register to be on our online mailing list.
Website: abodefineliving.com

Address: 15505 North Scottsdale Road, Suite 190, Scottsdale, Ariz. 85254


Susan DickensonSusan Dickenson | Editor in Chief

Susan Dickenson is the editor in chief of Home Accents Today, where she has spent more than a decade covering trending topics, best practices and news items pertaining to the manufacturing, retail and interior design segments of the home furnishings industry. A graduate of UNC, Dickenson spent 15 years in the Washington, D.C., area, writing and researching in both the public and private sector. After relocating to her native North Carolina in 2003, she freelanced as a writer of general interest, business, garden and home items for local and national publications before joining Home Accents Today in 2006 as retail editor.

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