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Susan Dickenson

Retail profile: Moe's Home Collection stores

Sara Samieian manages the retail division for Moe's Home Collection stores, the Pacific Northwest operation Moesnamed for her father and the company's founder and CEO, Moe Samieian Sr.

Sara stepped up to the retail plate at the bottom of the recession when many businesses were experiencing sluggish sales, including Moe's. She turned her focus to her staff, customers and product lines, started doing her office work at the cash desk, and tweaked Moe's buying strategy. Under her leadership, the stores have experienced steady sales increases and are currently 30% ahead of last year.

Moe's has been wholesaling home furnishings in the United States since 1999, a venture that grew from a rug store Moe Samieian opened in 1985 in Vancouver. In 2004, following the success of its wholesale division, Moe's opened a 35,000-sq.-ft. store in Vancouver. Last year, that store underwent a $1.5 million renovation, expanding to 52,000 square feet. Earlier this year, Moe's Seattle store moved to a 20,000-sq.-ft. space in the suburb of Tukwila, Wash.

Sara joined the company in 2004, following her graduation from the University of British Columbia. In 2009, her father asked her to manage the retail division.

"Back in early 2009, I felt that the stores were seriously under-performing and needed to make a big change," he said. "I brought Sara in to take over the role of the management of the store to replace the existing manager and assistant manager. Since then, we have increased sales year after year in dramatic fashion."

Sara's management style is very hands-on, with a heavy floor presence and lots of staff interaction. "I usually spend about one or two hours in the office catching up on email and administrative stuff, then I try to spend the rest on the moes2floor," she said, when asked to describe a typical day. "I keep my laptop with me at the front so that I can multi-task with the office, while keeping my eyes and ears focused on the floor."

In the beginning, most of the store products were exclusively Moe's Home Collection, but now close to a third come from a roster of vendors that includes Surya, Global Views, Phillips Collection, Natuzzi and Ital Sofa.

"Having a wholesale and retail division goes hand in hand for us," Moe said. "The wholesale helps the retail as far as product development and staying on trends, and the retail helps the wholesale by being a large customer and providing customer feedback before product is shown at market so we have a feel of the product already. It also enables us to help our wholesale customers since we are facing similar challenges to them, understand their views, and can relate to that."

Sara still handles some key accounts on Moe's wholesale side, which means she'll be working in the showroom at this month's High Point Market. But she'll also spend a few days browsing and buying for the stores. Before turning her attention to High Point, she discussed Moe's retail success, and her role in it, with Home Accents Today.

How do your retail customers feel about sharing their local markets with Moe's stores? Our retail locations are limited to the Vancouver and Seattle markets. Moe's retail division buys from the wholesale division just like any other customer. When we buy in large quantity, we get the same volume discount. We maintain our prices, and our margin is the same as theirs. moes3

Moe's doesn't retail online, correct? Correct. We do sell to online retailers, though, and we always have an MAP (minimum advertised price) so as not to compete with our independent retailers.

Describe your store(s): When you walk into Moe's, you have an entire room created for you, from the rug to the table to the sofa to the lighting to the wall décor and vases. And Moe's wholesale division already has it all set up as a package so it's very easy for me as a retailer to set up my store. In addition, I have a loyal and dedicated staff. When a customer walks into the store, they find an upbeat atmosphere that is fun and comfortable to shop.

Our merchandising is a nice eclectic mix of the many categories of products we carry. The floor is set up in room vignettes, and we are always changing our displays and mixing styles to show different options. We carry mostly Moe's products, along with those from several vendors. Our look and concept is different, and consumers are very drawn to it.

How important are design services to the Moe's retail operation? A good chunk of our customers are interior designers, home stagers and movie companies. They are very important to our business. We give trade discounts, and designers can buy from us and sell to their customers. I don't employ designers at my store and try not to compete with my designers who are my customers.

How do you reach your customers? Our number one method is word-of-mouth. We have one or two yearly sales, and we do some magazines and newspapers. Most recently, we furnished a waiting room at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, and did some work with the Boys and Girls Club and Family Services of Greater Vancouver.

What categories of home accents do you carry? We carry almost everything - tabletop, kitchen accessories, seating, case goods, lighting, rugs, outdoor furniture, wall décor and all kinds of decorative accessories. Even mattresses. It's a one-stop shop, short of electronics, kids' furniture and appliances.

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

Besides Moe's Home Collection, who are some of your other vendors? Surya, Global Views, Phillips Collection, Natuzzi and Ital Sofa

What's "hot" in home accents for your markets? Lots of color. Our wall décor is an exceptionally well-received category because it's well-priced and very trendy and can really change a space with little investment.

Retail website: moeshome.com

Stores: Vancouver store, opened Nov. 20, 2004 at 1728 Glen Dr.; North Vancouver store, opened March 1, 2009 at 1305 Welch St.; Seattle store, opened March 1, 2012 in new location, 720 Andover Park East, Tukwila, Wash.

 

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