Retail Profile: J. Banks Design, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Susan Dickenson -- Home Accents Today, 4/1/2013 2:00:00 AM
Joni Vanderslice has owned J. Banks Design Group since 1986, when, as a young up-and-coming designer, shepurchased Decorators Unlimited - and changed the name.
Today, J. Banks Design, on South Carolina's Hilton Head Island, has 32 employees; residential and commercial projects throughout North America, Europe and the Caribbean; an upholstery and case goods line with Stanford Furniture; and a retail operation that was honored with this year's ARTS Award for Best Home Accents Store, East/Atlantic U.S. J. Banks Design has also been recognized as one of Interior Design's Top 75 Hospitality Designers and Top 200 Interior Design Giants.
Vanderslice's 18,000-sq.-ft. building (the island's first LEED-certified structure) is home to the J. Banks design studio, offices and retail showroom, the latter of which she opened five years ago. "Often our interior design clients wanted to maintain their connection with us long after their homes were decorated," she said of the decision. "They also needed additional items such as linens, flatware and tabletop - all profitable categories - and this played a large role in deciding to open our store. I also wanted the fabulous items that we have access to from our travels and foreign markets to be available to everyone in our community."
Those travels have also inspired The J. Banks Collection, a line of chic, transitional upholstery and case good pieces designed by Vanderslice and manufactured by Stanford Furniture since 2007. The Stanford website describes the collection, which is showing at 435 North Wrenn at this month's High Point Market, as "clean-lined, elegant furniture ... combining distinctive shapes, fashion-forward lacquer finishes and luxurious textures ... fit for any vernacular or design style."
Anna Ruby, J. Banks' vice president of creative, helps manage the J. Banks Design brand, participating in everything from new business development and contract negotiations to marketing, public relations and buying for the retail operation. Earlier this month, Ruby discussed the J. Banks operation with Home Accents Today.
Describe the J. Banks store: Joni describes it as an international marketplace. You can't pinpoint any one look, except that people are always commenting, "it's very J. Banks." We are constantly evolving and influences can be seen based upon whatever project we are working on, or whichever market we visited, or wherever we last vacationed. Because we design for a multitude of styles and preferences, there is always a unique blending of old and new - with a bit of whimsy thrown in for fun.
How's business? We are seeing a huge upturn in sales. We just had our most successful sale in the history of J. Banks Design. It's clear that the market has opened up and people are ready to make home improvement expenditures.
How much of the operation is retail vs. interior design? Interior design is our primary business. Our retail store is a great companion to the design and actually allows us to convert more people into design clients. Based on numbers, the retail store accounts for around 12% of our annual revenue.
How do you reach your customer? Events are a normal occurrence - trunk shows, art exhibits, book signings, artist demonstrations, seminars and special shopping events. We use email campaigns to announce company news, new product arrivals and special events, and advertise in a few of the high-end local publications.
Can you talk a little about J. Banks' philanthropic focus? We recognize that our success is fostered by the continuous support of our clients, friends and community. Giving back is an integral part of our culture, which is why we have donated over $275,000 in merchandise and monetary contributions over the last five years. Members of our staff are involved in numerous philanthropic organizations, serving on committees and boards.
For the past seven years, Joni has joined her husband Rick on mission trips to Tanzania, where they've spent a great deal of time interacting with the students at a primary school in Dar Es Salaam. They observed that the children were bright and energetic in the morning, but saw their energy decline into lethargy as the day progressed. The headmistress explained that many of the children, more than 180 of them, could not afford lunch.
So, for the past three years, our company has fed a child lunch for the school year in each of our clients' names as their Christmas gift. In addition, Joni, Rick and a group of Hilton Head Island residents are committed to building an orphanage in Buza, in the Temeke District, Dar es Salaam region in Tanzania. More information on this ongoing project is available at www.valentineproject.net.
About what percentage of your merchandise are home accents? 85%
What categories do you carry? Everything. We offer sophisticated home décor, artisan-inspired gifts and eclectic little luxuries, from crisp linens originating from Italy to handmade dinnerware from France.
Key vendors: The J. Banks Collection by Stanford Furniture, Currey & Company, Made Goods, Visual Comfort, Arteriors, Jamie Young, Zodax, Bliss, Dransfield & Ross, Mr. Brown, Halo, Sarreid, Stanley, Michael Aram, Vagabond House
What's hot? People want to see something different - fantastic lines, great detailing, mixed finishes and textures. Color is also back. The ethnic chic look has also carried over from seasons past and remains a must-do.
Tradeshows/markets you shop: High Point, New York International Gift Fair, Dallas, Atlanta, Maison et Objet, Arezzo & Parma in Italy
Can you provide an estimate of annual sales of home accents? Greater than 3 million.
Do you use social media to promote your business? We love social media! Instagram is our new favorite, but we are very active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Houzz. It's no longer about only reaching your local community; now you have the power to be global.
Best in-store event you've ever hosted: Our 25th anniversary celebration was beyond anything anyone had ever done on Hilton Head. It was a very special party that honored our supporters - our ultimate thank you for being part of our success.
What are your plans for the next 12 months? In addition to new introductions in the J. Banks Collection, we have some exciting new projects in Mexico, the Rockies, Florida and within the Lowcountry. We are also looking into online retailing and are working on a book - stay tuned!
Address: 35 Main St., Hilton Head Island, S.C. 29926
Photography by Andrew Branning
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- Mar 27, 2013