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  • Susan Dickenson

Retailers, designers buying for savvier consumers

The well-informed consumer is influencing a lot of buying decisions this week in Las Vegas. Buyers interviewed by Home Accents Today said savvy shoppers are getting more and more of their product information and design inspiration from internet sources and design television programming. As a result, it's got to be unique, high-quality, and priced right. Here's more of what they had to say on business, buying and the year just ended.

We've been to every market since World Market Center opened. We are always looking for new contemporary lines

HoldItHomeMike McAllister, A Kanjanakaset, Dwayne Lutringer, Hold It Home
and introductions from our current vendors. This market, it's rugs, lighting and wall art - things that are unique and new for the second quarter and beyond. For us, the unusual and larger scale accessories are selling well. There are many retail outlets for the ordinary. We experienced an 11% growth in 2012. The most significant factor is that we saw our average transaction grow considerably, an indication that those that are shopping are spending more.-- Mike McAllister, A Kanjanakaset, Dwayne Lutringer, Hold It Home, San Diego, Calif.

I opened my store a year and a half ago on South Main Street in the 18B Arts District here. My husband was just elected president of the group. It took about four months to completely renovate the 65-year-old building, which is about 6,000 square feet and houses our office, design studio and retail shop. It started out in 1935 as an electrical contracting company, was then the Metropolitan Church for Gays and Lesbians, later an events planning company. I moved here in 1999 to work as a designer in the home building industry during the building boom. I've been to every single market since World Market Center opened, and I visit the design center often. I'm really excited about this market. I can see they've made big changes in the way the floors walk, there are a lot of new vendors, and some of the existing vendors really expanded their offerings. One of the things I love about shopping at this market is the art work. For many of these companies, the catalog and website images are flat - you can't really see the dimensions. I brought two phones, for pictures, a digital camera and an Ipad, so I'll have enough battery power to take pictures of each piece, and tag. Businesswise, we're doing okay. People seem to be starting to come out of the woodwork. My architect friends are starting to get calls, too. We started off unusually busy for January. This market, I'm looking for fresh and new, and for things to fill all my clients' needs. I do a lot of contemporary interiors, but next week I might get a call for Tuscan interiors, so I don't skip anything.-- Jill Abelman, Inside Style, Las Vegas, Nevada

We're a family-owned store in Havre, Montana, in business for 50 years. We started out as an electronic wholesaler and eventually added electronics, audio equipment, appliances, furniture, mattresses, home accents, kitchen and gourmet, so we're a true lifestyle store. My dad is the owner operator, and does a bit of everything. I (Kati) first started working at the store when I was 12, then full time after college when I saw a need for the store to change direction. We're looking for things in all categories - younger trends, but we also still cater to shoppers in their 40s, 50s and 60s. So, a lot of color, some gift items, functional pieces that are multi-functional, like storage ottomans... shelving units with desktops. Price points are key. Consumers are price conscious and they want quality. -- Kati Purkett and Kayleen Kockett, Northern Home Essentials, Havre, Montana

What's new since a year ago? Well, we still have the 5,000 -sq.-ft. Cathy's Marketplace showroom, but we converted our 5,000-sq.-ft. warehouse into another showroom, sublet some of the space to complementary businesses - upholstery, refinishing - and named it Restyle Hawaii. Hawaii is seeing an upturn in the housing market; it's not huge, but it's there none the less. The consumer is just so much more savvy. They are so knowledgeable about price and product, so you really have to provide good value. Whatever you're selling, they know what it is and what it should be selling for. Most of my growth has been in interior design. This market, I'm shopping for clients, several commercial projects as well as residential, and new items for the showroom -- not so many big pieces, but more affordable, fun accessories.-- Cathy Lee, Cathy's Marketplace, Honolulu, Hawaii

We have five stores - three in Portland, one in Agora Hills, Calif., and one in Las Vegas. We're also in Ladlow's Fine Furniture in Scottsdale. I've been coming to this market pretty much since it opened. I don't go to Atlanta anymore because they're all here. Our have handmade rugs, Persian, antique, Tibetan... we're in the serious handmade oriental rug business. We were up slightly last year. Traffic is still down, so that means we gave better service, sold higher-priced items. We have an enormous inventory, and excellent service - we're good at telling our customers what it is they're investing in or buying, we have the product on hand, give the back story. Our competition is our own mediocrity. We try to not rush our customers, don't shove a rug out the door for no reason, ask when they need the rug by, who else is involved in the decision... These days consumers are very educated so our website, blog, social media to help with information. I've got handmade, one-of-a kind, the kind of rug you "have to have." We can deliver, provide house calls, and we do a lot of work with designers. What can manufacturers do better? Deliver when promised. They can bring out 10 lines but if you can't back up and deliver, it's better to bring out just five lines. The window of time a consumer is going to wait for commodity priced merchandise is short. They're not going to wait for a shag.-- Mark Moran, NW Rugs, Portland, Oregon

Luxe Home Interiors is a group of 12 retail stores, located from Victoria, British Columbia to Melbourne, Florida. I'm the founder/owner/president. The company is based in Tulsa, and we own the Luxe store there, but we live in Texas. Our stores were all former Norwalk Furniture franchisees. We're pretty big in home accents because all the stores are design oriented; designers are a huge part of our business. We just launched a new online support community for interior designers at to provide broad based support including access to merchandise product, social media, print advertising, coaching, training seminars and webinars. It's being rolled out on a beta test, which we just started, and we'll be accelerating that roll-out over the next few weeks. We partnered with MicroD to bring images and pricing for our 30,000 items online. At this time, we're the only ones doing something like this for designers, on this scale, that we know of.-- Greg Wyers, Luxe Interiors, Tulsa, Oklahoma

We finished up (2012) a little over 2% from the year before, when we were up 14% from the prior year, so I'm happy about it. We opened a kids store in May and I've been dividing my time and attention between both. I began using Snap Retail last quarter and have had pretty good results. It's so professional and engaging, and it saves a lot of my time. Furniture seems to be picking up a little bit, and wall decor is doing well for us. Consumers are still a little reluctant, but they're spending. We had a strong holiday season and are here for everything -- replenishing stock, but also looking for something new. -- A Suraphong Lienboonlertchai and Brooke Wallace, Simplicity Décor, Kirkland, Washington


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