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  • Susan Dickenson

Dynamic merchandising keeps things moving at Gallery Furniture

DynamicHouston-based gallery furniture was founded in 1981 by Jim McIngvale. The privately owned furniture, bedding and accessories retailer serves the greater Houston area with a 90,000-sq.-ft. showroom on North Freeway (I-45), and a 22,000-sq.-ft. location on Post Oak Road near The Galleria.
     The Post Oak Road store includes a gallery of high-end special order and other goods from the top tier of price points at Gallery's main showroom. The larger North Freeway store adds interest to its inventory with live parrots and monkeys, a playroom, free WiFi, and lots of sports, entertainment and celebrity memorabilia.
     Gallery holds the number 50 spot on Furniture Today's 2012 Top 100 list, a jump from last year's position at number 58. Furniture, bedding and accessories sales for both stores totaled $115.7 million in 2011, an increase of 26.4% over 2010. The retailer's average sales per square foot number of $1,103 is the second highest of this year's Top 100.
     Known locally and nationally for its generous support of local charities, creative merchandising, innovative promotions and colorful shopping environment, Gallery has received a lot of attention in the press. In his 2009 book, Retail Superstars, author George Whalin said Gallery was the most innovative of the 25 independent retailers he profiled, a group that also included Nell Hill's and ABC Carpet and Home. Gallery is also known for sending some of its customers to the High Point Market, where they accompany the retailer's buyers, sharing their opinions on new products and participating in buying decisions.Gallery Furniture
     For more than two decades, Micheal Burnes has played a key role at Gallery Furniture, as a designer, visual merchandiser and accessories buyer. His design work has extended to local and national television shows including Extreme Home Makeover, MTV Cribs and Military Makeover (new homes for military families).
     Earlier this year, Burnes, a member of Home Accents Today's retail advisory board, and fellow designer Sarah Crockard shared the results of one of their projects, a complete makeover of a 3,000-sq.-ft. showroom in the main store. They completed the entire project, start to finish, in just one week and provided a few project details along with before and after photos.


Designers: Micheal Burnes and Sarah Crockard

Project date: Mid-March 2012

Reason for makeover: Gallery was adding reclaimed solid wood furniture and, with such an extensive product line to showcase, we needed more space. Along with the furniture, the new showroom would include one-of-a-kind pieces, accessories, rugs, lamps and art.

Inspiration for design: We felt the reclaimed wood product often took on a masculine "Texas Hill Country" look, which limited the customers' vision for how these products could work inside their homes. The product, when presented correctly, could mix in with all types of design, from traditional to contemporary. We wanted to present a warm, neutral backdrop to show off the uniqueness of each wood piece.

Burnes and Crockard
accessories
Burnes and Crockard repainted the walls and installed reclaimed wood doors and shutter partitions to present a warm, neutral environment in which to showcase the reclaimed wood line among several styles of furniture, rugs, accessories and art.

Makeover: The 3,000-sq.-ft. makeover space was previously a promotional/special purchase/sale area and art gallery. All the walls were repainted, fabric and tack accents were applied, and two sets of reclaimed wood doors and shutter partitions were constructed and installed. Then, the furniture, rugs, accessories and art were set and reconfigured to facilitate traffic flow. The gray/brown wall color allowed for a flexible show space to blend with a consistently rotating inventory line. Product styles included Texas rustic, Asian-inspired, French influenced, painted pieces, recycled metal and more. The result was an upscale sophistication the previous space lacked and that showcased the product in a new light.

Biggest challenge and resolution: The biggest challenge was the showroom had too many openings, which confused customers and limited our wall space and backdrops. We decided to close all but one that would be used as the single entrance and exit. This created a traffic flow in which our customers would not miss anything by exiting the area too early. Reclaimed wood doors and custom shutter partitions were installed to allow visual access and provide a solid backdrop against which to exhibit the products.

Amount of time involved: One week, overall, from start to finish. The showroom was never closed to the public during this time.

Follow-up: The space has already been made over, again. We had a need to expand our contemporary furniture, so the space was turned into a contemporary furniture showroom. The wall color base stayed the same, but it looks completely different. At present, we are about to begin a complete renovation of the Post Oak Road store where Gallery will be dedicating roughly 7,000 square feet to carrying the Barclay Butera Lifestyle line.

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