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Susan Dickenson

RETAIL PROFILE: Nandina Home & Design, Aiken, S.C. and Atlanta, Ga.

Susan Victor, Jim Victor and Sue Shannon, owners of Nandina Home & Design, opened their first location in Aiken, S.C.Nandina Home & Design, Atlanta, Ga. and Aiken, S.C. in 2006 as a local resource for furniture, accessories, rugs, wall décor, tabletop, soft goods, fabrics, lighting and interior design services.

Named for the hardy evergreen shrub, Nandina's brand statement "Real Life, Real Style," expresses the philosophy that kids, dogs, parties and life happen, and no one needs to skimp on glamorous living because of them.

A heavy focus on customer engagement through community involvement, in-store events, professional sales training and multimedia marketing has helped grow the business dNandina2uring a tough economy. Since the beginning, the store has averaged an event a month, a practice that continues at Nandina's second location, which opened last summer on North Highland Avenue in Atlanta's Inman Park.

Susan Victor directs and integrates the stores' marketing and PR efforts, and says it's her favorite part of the job. "I love engaging with the customers on all levels. This year we've taken on the challenge of incorporating social media into our marketing mix and have invested more time and money in that area." Part of that challenge means ensuring a consistent brand and message are being communicated across all the different channels. "We have a blog that we post to a minimum of three times a week. Our blog feeds to our Facebook and Twitter account. We update product on our website to coordinate with blog and Facebook posts. ONandina3ur video productions are used for cable advertising and YouTube streaming and are posted on our blog. Even our print media coordinates with our blog, print, TV and Facebook."

For one of the Atlanta store's monthly "Wine and Design" events, a "Be Bold, Be Brave, Design With Pink" theme recently recognized Breast Cancer Awareness Month. "The event benefited a team walking in Atlanta's Susan G. Komen 60-mile Walk for the Cure," Victor said. "I wrote a blog post that related to my own experience with breast cancer, we posted several Facebook notices and tons of photos, printed postcards and posters, and tweeted about the event. This was a wonderful way to tie-in to a cause we feel deeply about, but with a purpose that related to our core business. Marketing across all channels Nandina4made this a tremendously successful event."

The strategy appears to be paying off. Nandina's Aiken store is nearing the end of one of its best years to date, and the design business is helping to drive retail sales and build the store's brand in the highly competitive Atlanta market.

Describe your store: Nandina's two locations combine full retail, offering everything from furniture and accessories to cards, gifts and jewelry, and a full-service interior design firm, withNandina5 licensed designers that assist clients with everything from paint choices to full construction management. We are a lifestyle store, with each vignette telling a story, and are meticulous about updating and changing our floor settings, windows and merchandising layout. We heavily accessorize, but always with a theme in mind. It's not uncommon for our regular customers to say they're just stopping in to see what's new, because we change so frequently. Both stores have extensive design centers integrated into the general floor plan. Our customer service defines us. One mistake in this area will negate 10 great marketing and public relations initiatives.

Are you exploring the use of any new technologies in your store? We attempt to be as technologically savvy as possible, within budget. We use a computerized room planning system and Basecamp, a cloud-based project management system. We've purchased several iPads and are starting to research how we might use them in our design business.

Describe your average customer: Female, between the ages of 30 and 55, educated, busy, stylish and informed. A person that wants a stylish, livable home and would like to engage the services of a Nandina6professional designer, but doesn't have a $20,000-per-room budget.

Any emerging or "hot" trends for your area? Color is coming back in a big way! I also think the economy has forced our market to become more aware of value and product that will last.

What is your outlook for the next 12 months? Perpetually optimistic. This is a tough economy, but service, innovation, great product mix and a commitment to employee training will help us come out on top when this "Great Recession" comes to an end!

Nandina7Approximate size of your stores: 3,500 square feet

About what percentage of your sales are home accents? 30% to 40%

Tradeshows/markets you shop: Atlanta, New York, High Point

Who are some of your favorite home accent vendors? Global Views, Arteriors, Currey & Company, Surya, Palecek, Barbara Cosgrove, Safavieh, Four Hands, Ryan Studio, Design Materials, Robert Abbey, Cyan Design

Address: 158 Laurens St. SW, Aiken S.C. 29801; 245 N. Highland Avenue NE, Suite 120, Atlanta, Ga.

Website: nandinahome.com

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