• Susan Dickenson

Retail Profile: Simplicity Decor, Kirkland, Wash.

Simplicity DecorAt Simplicity Decor, gifts and small items are displayed on the first floor in a marketplace-type setting; furniture and larger accessories are on the second floor.
WHEN SURAPHONG LIENGBOONLERTCHAI opened Simplicity Decor in Kirkland, Wash., it was the realization of a lifelong dream.
     Liengboonlertchai, better known to his friends and customers as "A," said even as a young child in Thailand, he loved to look at interior design and architectural magazines. After years of practicing law, he decided to pursue his dream and applied for a scholarship to come to the United States to study. He received another bachelor's degree (in theology), then went to work for Crate & Barrel until he was ready to "take the leap."
     In February 2006, Liengboonlertchai opened Simplicity Decor, where "East Meets West Meets Simple."
     "To me, simplicity is the key to a happy life," he said. "Take, for example, my name - A. Or perhaps my brother, B, or my youngest brother, C. There's no doubt my mother knew the art of keeping life simple."
     Today, Liengboonlertchai oversees a successful retail and interior design operation that has been recognized locally and nationally for its merchandising/marketing, contributions to the community, recycling and wastereduction efforts. Earlier this year, Simplicity Decor was named to Home Accents Today's Retail Stars list.
     "As a small business owner I have my hands on everything," he said. "Fortunately, I have three wonderful staff members who have been such a big help that I can still have a life outside of work."

Describe your store: We have two floors. Small gifts, jewelry and accessories are displayed on the first floor, and furniture and larger accessories are on the second. We try to merchandise in a way that gives our clients ideas about how to use the products in their own spaces.
     We are an expert in small spaces, showing customers how to right-size their furniture and accessories. Our use of colors in the store and displays has earned us a reputation in the community as color experts. The smaller items are presented in a marketplace-type setting. Our displays always look plentiful, fresh and attractive. We use lots of signage to help our customers navigate and to create a friendly environment.

What makes you different from the competition? Fresh, colorful, inviting displays. Unique product assortment, community involvement and excellent customer service. I strongly believe that I am here not just to make a living, but to try to make a difference in the lives of others. I am here to give them my love, my passion and, most of all, myself. This is the driving force behind my actions at Simplicity Decor.
     I love to see our customers smile, and I always try to give them something to talk about. For example, this holiday season, one of our highlights is the snowfall in the store. We are also collecting non-perishable foods for the local food bank, and customers who participate have a chance to win fabulous prizes from our store.
     My customers often tell me that Simplicity Decor is one of their "must-visit" places when they entertain friends and family from out of town. I know my customers by name, what's happening in their lives, and I care about them and their families. I pay close attention to the details so we can talk about them the next time they visit me at the store. Many of my customers have become very good friends and part of my family and, for that, I am so thankful.

How's business? The retail side is steady, but the interior design business is way up.

LiengboonlertchaiLiengboonlertchai, known to friends and family as “A,” feels simplicity is the key to a happy life and thrives on giving back to the community that has helped the retailer earn recognition at both the local and national levels.

Have you done anything different as a result of the sluggish economy? I pay more attention to inventory levels. We opened the Simplicity Decor Design Center to focus more in the interior design business. We've reached out to current customers and gained new customers with our monthly newsletter and rewards program. The Simplicity Rewards Program gives shoppers, at the end of each calendar year, a store gift certificate equal to 10% of their Simplicity Decor purchases made during the year.

What are your prospects for 2011? We definitely expect to improve, especially in the interior design business. We're currently working with a local builder, decorating all their model home interiors and using them as "satellite showrooms" to showcase our work and merchandise.

Describe your average customer: Local professionals, families and grandparents. We also have kids and teenagers who say Simplicity Decor is their favorite store.

How do you reach your customer? Word of mouth, press releases, social networking, community outreach, philanthropy/ fund-raising projects, special events. We use Facebook to communicate with our fans -- posting messages about events, products, tips or even teases. I look at Facebook as an addition to my customer service. It's an inexpensive, easy way to reach many people at once.
     Every winter and spring, we offer The Simplicity Home Series, a month-long program of free classes designed to "help beautify your home and simplify your life," hosted by home, lifestyle and financial experts.
     Simplicity Decor's Annual Giving Project takes place each holiday season. Last year, 10% of purchases went to local area Hopelink programs for homeless families and families in need. The previous year, 10% of purchases benefited an orphanage in my hometown, Bangkok, Thailand. Thanks to our customers, we were able to present the orphanage with much-needed funds and gifts including food, clothing, furniture, kitchen products and laundry items.

Do you see any trends emerging or remaining "hot" in home accents for your area? Customization, and a desire for value.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job? Getting to know customers, being creative and giving back to the community. This job allows me to be who I am and to do what I love, which is to serve and help others. I can't ask for more!

Size of your store: 1,900 sq. ft.

About what percentage of your sales are home accents? 60%

Average annual sales of home accents: less than $1 million/year

What categories of home accents do you carry? Decorative accessories, accent furniture, wall decor, mirrors, lamps, lighting, pillows, throws, mirrors

Trade shows/markets you shop: Las Vegas, New York, Seattle, Thailand

Who are some of your home accent vendors? Roost, Imax, Lazy Susan, Gold Leaf, The Homeport Collections, Umbra, Tag, Design Idea

Web site: www.simplicitydecor.com

Susan DickensonSusan Dickenson | Editor in Chief

Susan Dickenson is the editor in chief of Home Accents Today, where she has spent more than a decade covering trending topics, best practices and news items pertaining to the manufacturing, retail and interior design segments of the home furnishings industry. A graduate of UNC, Dickenson spent 15 years in the Washington, D.C., area, writing and researching in both the public and private sector. After relocating to her native North Carolina in 2003, she freelanced as a writer of general interest, business, garden and home items for local and national publications before joining Home Accents Today in 2006 as retail editor.

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