Retail Profile: Bay Design Store, Naples, Fla.
Susan Dickenson -- Home Accents Today, 3/1/2013 2:00:00 AM
Susan Bay, CEO of Bay Design Store, will celebrate 10 successful years in Naples' downtown historic district thisyear. The ageless interior designer and savvy businesswoman started her business 35 years ago in Ann Arbor, Mich., in a small 800-sq.-ft. showroom and design studio. Several years later, she bought and totally renovated an old Mercedes and BMW dealership, moving Bay Design Store into the main level and converting the lower level into rental offices.
"Bay Design started out as a design store, then became retail; the store grew out of a desire to provide great accessories and unique finds to clients," she told Home Accents Today in a 2006 interview. In 2003 she opened the store in Naples, where she owns a second home.
"The Naples store evolved out of my love for Naples, its warm, tropical climate, the water and the wonderful light levels of this delightful coastal area," she said of the decision. "I had purchased a home near the downtown area a few years earlier and finally gave in to my increasing desire to create another store. We were able to find a location in a then-quiet part of old Naples within two blocks of the beach. This store's interiors would reflect our town's coastal elegance, with an inviting ambience, quiet colors and a unique collection of furniture, lighting, fine prints, original oil paintings and beautiful accessories."
Since opening, the Naples store and interior design studio have undergone three expansions, and the showroom is now double its original size. Except for the year of the Gulf Coast (BP) oil spill, said Bay, sales have risen each year, with one of the most dramatic sales increases occurring over the past year.
Last summer, Bay was presented with an opportunity to sell her building in Ann Arbor. "After a great deal of soul-seaching, I decided to close the (Ann Arbor) store so I could focus on our growing business in Naples," she said. "As a result, I've had time to expand the interior design studio and warehouse facility and concentrate more on almost every aspect of the business."
Bay's business partner is interior designer James Kunstel, who first came to work for her in 1991 when he was a design student. Over the years, their shared styles, attention to detail and finishing touches have created a loyal following. "Our style speaks of the ‘New Traditional' and reflects what coastal sophistication is all about," Bay said. "We don't design by the rules, but we do live by one: Balance, the key element in all of our design schemes."
Describe your store: When our customers walk into Bay Design, it doesn't take them long to realize that we are a store unlike any other. Customers are greeted by an inviting atmosphere filled with an eclectic collection of home furnishings, all of which are beautifully displayed in individual room settings. One of our basic techniques is to place bright, color-splashed art, accents and accessories in settings with shades of off-white upholstery.
We place a great deal of care in each of our displays. It's the way we place and group even our smallest accessory, and the fact that our merchandise changes daily, that inspire our customers and clients to visit us weekly and often several times a week as they search for the perfect accessory or chair, or ask us to design a room, or their next house. We sell everything right off our floor, with a limited supply of back-up inventory. Every morning, our stock crews remove all sold goods and immediately replace them with new furniture, mirrors, art, etc. Our accessories, lamps, toss pillows, throws and other small items are replaced immediately following a sale. Our floor is always fresh and presentable at opening time, and remains so throughout the day.
This store doesn't feel like a big furniture store, but rather a hidden shop you might find while traveling somewhere special.
How's business? We are experiencing another very strong season already, and our designers are seeing a substantial increase in booked projects for completion next season. Our downtown location has seen a few new boutique design stores open this year and a new large retailer is making its presence as well. I believe the end result is beneficial to us - it has helped to increase the traffic to Old Naples, which has become more of a "go-to" destination for home furnishings.
Describe your customer: Our average customer is in his/her 50s, affluent with a residence or second home in Naples, sophisticated and experienced in home decorating.
What's hot? This year it is all about color - vivid and lively, colors used together unexpectedly - ranging from hot tangerines and oranges to citrus greens and chartreuses, some golden yellow. The Gulf blues are the ever-favored colors, ranging from soft spa blues to aquamarines and turquoises.
How do you reach your customers? Direct advertising, catalogs, mailings, our website, spec homes and models, and word of mouth.
About what percentage of your sales are home accents? 65%
Size of store: The Naples store is 7,500 square feet, including the interior design studio
Key vendors: Bradburn Company, Carvers Guild, Currey & Company, Ferguson-Copeland, Henredon, Hickory Chair, John-Richard, Lillian August, Lo Forti Fine Prints, Maitland Smith, Modern History, Mr. and Mrs. Howard, Paul Robinson, Sherrill, Theodore Alexander, T. Botero, Trowbridge, Wendover, W.K. Ambler. We also seek out individual artists and artisans from within our state.
Tradeshows/markets you attend: High Point and Atlanta, twice a year. I am also beginning to explore other markets abroad.
Are you experimenting with any new retail technologies? All of our staff and our warehouse manager have iPads and/or iPhones and we're now doing mobile transactions.
Best in-store event you've ever hosted: I think our best in-store event will be later this year as we celebrate our 10th anniversary with the opportunity to thank all of our clients and customers for our first decade in Naples!
Address: 326 13th Avenue South, Naples, Fla. 34102
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- Jun 25, 2013