Retail profile: LOFT Home, Austin, Texas
Susan Dickenson -- Home Accents Today, June 1, 2013
In 2006, spouses Offir and Kelly Schwartz opened LOFT Home in downtown Austin, Texas. In the early days, it was just the two of them, unloading containers of furniture, arranging the sales floor and helping customers. The couple grew their business organically, adding staff and opening a second location in Austin's Domain shopping district where they eventually consolidated all sales and operations.
This year, LOFT Home won the 2013 ARTS Award for best furniture store and was named a Home Accents Today Retail Star. The 5,000-sq.-ft. store showcases contemporary and transitional furniture, accessories, lighting, rugs, wall décor and bedding in an aesthetic described by Marketing Manager Clayton Gibson as "warm contemporary."
Gibson shared more about LOFT Home's aesthetic, owners and growing business, with Home Accents Today.
Describe how the store is merchandised: Kelly (Schwartz) merchandises the whole store personally, so it's really her vision that resonates so strongly with customers when they come inside. We love varying textures in a space, mixing stone, weathered wood, bronze, iron and zinc, soft linens, buttery leathers and burlap. The more varied the textures, the more interesting the room. We also believe in keeping large furniture fairly neutral and adding color in contrasting patterned pillows and accessories. We show rugs in our room groups on the sales floor, and display other rug samples along our back walls. Our store feels open and uncluttered, but also layered; there's always something new in every corner.
How's business? We've seen a steady increase in business from the depths of the recession to recently having some of the highest sales months in our history.
What makes you different from the competition? We do modern you can live with. Kelly curates an ever-changing collection of upholstery, case goods, accessories, lighting, pillows, bedding, rugs and more that is never cold and always comfortable.
We also offer complimentary in-home design consultations - one of our design consultants will come to your Austin-area house and then create a custom plan of how to manifest your vision for your home. One hundred percent of the consultation fee goes toward your order.
Our staff's friendliness and commitment to magical customer service also differentiates us from the competition. Last summer, we sent out a secret shopper to a dozen other Austin furniture stores. In 10 of those stores, no one even spoke to our shopper. In another, the salesperson harassed the shopper so incessantly that the shopper left the store. At LOFT Home, we hold ourselves to a higher standard, and our customers can feel the difference.
LOFT Home also works hard to stay part of our customers' lives. We cultivate relationships with current and future customers through Facebook, Houzz, Pinterest, email, direct mail, and thank you parties. Luxe Magazine co-sponsored our most recent party featuring a book-signing by Dwell Studio founder Christiane Lemieux, where we gave away $3,500 in shopping sprees.
Describe your average customer: None of our customers are average. LOFT Home customers are pretty extraordinary people - as successful at home as they are at work. These are people who enjoy being alive, people who want to taste everything, know everyone and go everywhere, and then be able to come home to elegant, comfortable rooms that express their personality and their journey. They're confident and stylish. They're beautiful at every age, from 20-something singles getting their first place to couples celebrating their first 50 years. They are not average and they don't want their home to be, either. That's why they shop at LOFT Home.
How do you reach your customer? LOFT Home does a combination of outreach to current and future customers, including print advertising, direct mail catalogs, TV commercials, special events and online.
Best in-store event you've ever hosted: LOFT Home regularly hosts really fun events, including book-signings by Mitchell Gold and Christiane Lemieux, holiday parties and events to support local animal shelters (we and many of our customers are pet owners and animal lovers).
Home accent categories you carry: Accent furniture, table lamps, chandeliers, wall décor, rugs, decorative pillows, bedding, throws, mirrors, permanent botanicals, tabletop, candles and fragrance, decorative accessories
Key vendors: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Dwell Studio, Noir Furniture, Global Views, Jaipur, Precedent and more, as well as our own LOFT Home white label upholstery and case goods, which allow us to offer superior value to our customers.
Are you experimenting with any new technologies? Our design consultants use Ipads on the sales floor and on complimentary in-home design consultations. Ipads help us find the right furniture, lighting and accessories for each client.
What are your hopes/plans for the next 12 months? We are focused on getting better at what we do. LOFT Home plans to raise the bar even higher for each aspect of the customer experience, from marketing and shopping experience to special order process and delivery. For example, we recently developed a proprietary system to automatically update customers on their special orders so they never feel out of the loop. We were honored by our peers as the best independent furniture store in the country; we want every customer to be so happy she tells her friends it's true.
Size of store: 5,000 square feet
Address: 3306 Esperanza Crossing, Austin, Texas 78758
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