Retail display and visual merchandising guru Connie Post has been specializing in custom solutions for home furnishings retailers for 30 years, and one of her longest-running gigs has been with Cardi's Furniture & Mattresses, a chain of 19 stores in southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Although known for its 'big box' stores in West Warwick, Rhode Island., and Attleboro and Swansea, Massachusetts, the Cardi brothers -- Nick, Ron, and Peter -- set the retail design community abuzz with the May, 2016 debut of its new small-footprint location in Wareham.
||"Cardi's felt they could do the same amount of business with area rugs in this small footprint store." -- Connie Post, Affordable Design Solutions
In this exclusive RugNews.com interview, Connie Post, founder and CEO of Affordable Design Solutions, based in Greensboro, North Carolina, explains how she transformed a 62,000-square-foot former Walmart store into a decorating haven for hip Millennials -- and why area rugs are merchandised so differently in Wareham than at any of the chain's other locations.
What was the design mandate for the new Cardi's location?
CP: I've been working with the Cardi brothers since 1989 with various projects and updates along the way. This is the first store format that differs significantly from the others in terms of a smaller footprint. My challenge was to take a 120,000-square-foot concept and recreate it in half that space.
Cardi's strategy in Wareham represents the future: Times have changed and overhead costs are significantly higher. It all comes down to the 80/20 rule. Most companies do 80 percent of their business off of 20 percent of their goods.
Cardi's Furniture in Wareham, Mass., was designed by Connie Post to reach sophisticated consumers with compelling visual displays, merchandised with massive fireplaces, area rugs, and in this case a wall of natural wood.
Who is Cardi's targeting with the Wareham store?
CP: The store draws everyone from Baby Boomers to Millennials from a large demographic area. The Wareham location is near major highways and draws clients from Cape Cod, southeastern Massachusetts and the South Shore. It's perfect for customers who don't live near their other large-format stores, and the design is much younger, hipper -- and definitely more Millennial-driven.
Providing expansive open sight lines, a center aisle is delineated with a grand entry with circular blue cornice, large drum shade pendants and curved white screens.
What are some of the most significant changes you made in Cardi's design and why?
CP: The key to this project is the large-scale graphics, coupled with expansive open site lines. Dramatic lifestyle presentations are specific to the Wareham location's customer base, with life-size architectural elements indicative of a beach house and an urban industrial warehouse setting.
Tell me a little about how you treated the rug category.
CP: Because Wareham has a much smaller footprint - almost half the size of the balance of the stores in the Cardi's chain -- we needed to significantly change the product presentation, along with the manner in which we portrayed the Cardi brand.
Cardi's wanted a younger look to appeal to Millennials, and they felt they could do the same amount of business with area rugs shown in the vignettes in this store. Unlike their other stores, which have dedicated rug departments from 3,000 to 5,000-square feet in size, they made the decision not to have a dedicated rug department in this store, again, due to the smaller footprint we were working with.
Connie Post creates a wow factor before customers enter the main store space, with a coastal cottage vibe and rugs and accessories.
Were there any reasons other than space limitations for the shift away from a rug department?
CP: Really, this is definitely a reflection of new shopping environments that are more heavily skewed toward hard surfaces because that reflects what's happening in new home construction. It's a design trend driven by HGTV and consumers' desire for wood floors and other hard surfaces like tile, vinyl and exposed concrete.
We're seeing an evolution in what people want in their homes, and hardwood floors are in the top five most desirable features along with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, walk-in closets and double sinks. This means you're only going to see more and more of this approach in furniture stores. You need an area rug to complete the room settings; otherwise, the vignettes look cold and incomplete.
Larger than life posters at the Cardi's location are a nod to nearby Cape Cod, and wood floors reflect what's happening in new home construction.
What inspired the super-size graphics and posters?
CP: The look is young, artistic and energetic, and lends a sense of the fantastic to the shopping experience. In developing the concept, I was inspired by presentations I viewed at the most recent Maison & Objet and while shopping in Paris, where the trend in new retail is definitely toward enormous graphics that set the scene for sofas and more.
What pleases you most about the finished design?
CP: The shopping experience here captures your attention at every turn, and it's a magnet for younger customers, yet the Cardi brothers tell me customers from all demographics are finding the shopping experience incredibly satisfying.
The Cardi's Wareham location appeals to a broad customer base with both beach and urban vignettes, including this traditional leather furniture display anchored by a color coordinating rug.