|STEP INSIDE THE STORE OF THE FUTURE: THE SHOWROOM @ FURNITURE ROW
The lodge-inspired architecture of The Showroom @ Furniture Row welcomes Denver consumers and interior designers to a luxurious 170,000-foot home furnishings shopping experience.
By Carol Tisch
HIGH POINT, N.C. -- The upscale home furnishings store of the future is here, and it promises to change the retail landscape in the furniture business. So says Connie Post, founder and CEO of Connie Post Affordable Design Solutions, in Greensboro, N.C., and designer of The Showroom @ Furniture Row -- a ground-breaking new haven for luxury home furnishings in Denver.
RugNews.com caught up with Post at last month's High Point Market to learn more about her newest homage to retail entertainment, and to ferret out consumer, retail and visual merchandising trends in the furniture industry that will be impacting area rug suppliers in the years ahead.
As its name suggests, the 170,000 square foot mega-store blurs the line between trade-only showrooms and typical furniture stores, targeting upscale consumers and interior designers with 30 top tier branded lifestyle galleries from Christopher Guy to Baker and Theodore Alexander. There's also a 7,000 square foot design center with a mind-blowing sample library, a lighting gallery and an 8,000 square-foot Rug Market (read full story).
The Showroom @ Furniture Row is upscale and sophisticated, mirroring progressively more sophisticated consumer tastes in interior furnishings triggered by social media, TV decorating reality shows, and up-styling by the industry in general.
"The Showroom @ Furniture Row is 170,000 square feet of pure magic. And it's doing very well!" -- Connie Post, founder and CEO Connie Post Affordable Design Solutions
"Sophistication has changed the industry. The Showroom @ Furniture Row is more sophisticated because I've grown too," says Post, who stunned the furniture industry when she installed a carousel and other kids' entertainment at Jordan's in Boston in 1987. "I've put carousels in five stores around the country, and I've since designed 22 million square feet globally.
"The Showroom is the pulse of what the consumer wants now: It's totally female-driven in its approach and the embodiment of entertainment retail. But we wanted it to be so much more," Post explains. Indeed, non-furniture departments like a pet boutique, jewelry boutique and an art gallery for shows by local artists give customers a reason to shop more frequently. And while there are plenty of instore diversions for the entire family, it's almost as if the entertainment elements of the store's design were the least challenging aspects of the project.
There's something for everyone in the family at The Showroom @ Furniture Row, which launched this fall with 30 upscale designer furniture galleries.
Furniture Row, the parent company, charged Post with creating a "showroom" that would appeal to professional interior designers as well as high-end consumers. Like many of the home furnishings' industry's bricks and mortar retailers -- and their vendors -- Furniture Row sees increased sales to interior designers as a growth opportunity.
With The Showroom's dedicated design studio, the retailer hopes to capitalize on the high-end market's growing appetite for customized or personalized products. "The design center is 7,000 square feet because today special order is a big deal," Post affirms.
Hundreds of samples are available at The Showroom's Design Studio for use by the store's design consultants in meetings with customers and with interior designers and their clients.
"Furniture Row wanted to create a high-end manufacturer-driven galley store. It took us a year to finalize which manufacturers were going to be in the format. It was like Jell-O on the wall for almost a year," she says. "Woody Boyd, the COO of the company, and I worked closely on the visual concept from the start. As he was presenting to manufacturers to see who was going to come in, I was envisioning how I was going to pull all these different manufacturers together. We ended up with 30 branded galleries.
"Almost three-quarters of this store is a large open area that's 30 feet high because it had been a warehouse. I tried to think about all the different elements that we could incorporate in this space, and I presented them to the family - Barney Visser, Woody and the family members, explaining what I thought needed to be included," Post continues. "After they approved it, we presented to the buyers. They all loved the concept and then just let me do my job. Everything about it is just what they wanted, but didn't know how to get. It is doing phenomenally well. Woody and Amy [Foster], the lead buyer for The Showroom, have said the response has been unbelievable."
FRAMING THE CONCEPT
A central hub at The Showroom @ Furniture Row, the Pink Palace, is punctuated with a Chihuly-style chandelier over a large pink daisy. From that point radiate the jewelry and pet boutiques, a café, library and the aisle leading to store's vast Design Studio.
"The big question for me was, 'How are we going to capture her imagination, her fantasies and dreams?' I thought we should make that connection between fashion and home for the consumer and create a totally different shopping experience. It needed to be totally female driven in the design. It also had to be a 'wow.' We installed a dedicated 90-foot runway with mannequins posing with furniture in high-fashion, color-coordinated stories."
A central hub called the Pink Palace is the heartbeat of the entire store, Post says, explaining that the 30 galleries and aisles radiate out from the Pink Palace's huge Chihuly-style pink chandelier, which crowns a big pink daisy on the floor. "I wanted this to be a place that women could migrate towards -- come in for lunch, grab a gift. I thought we needed a café offering gourmet salads and soups, boutiques that sell purses or jewelry, a coffee bar -- things women like."
The Showroom plays up the increasingly apparent connection between home furnishings and apparel fashions, with a runway curated by lead gallery buyer Amy Foster, in color themes portraying on-point correlations.
A gourmet café at the center of The Showroom @ Furniture Row entices customers to linger at the store or make a special trip for a meal with family or friends.
Customers can read design books in store at the library or check them out, another enticement to come to the store for coffee, a snack and retail entertainment.
The Showroom @ Furniture Row embraces the growing trend across America for 'She-Sheds' with two fully decorated for women outdoor sheds, one in Boho Chic style and the other in Shabby Chic.
Also in the center of the store are two "She-Sheds," Post explains, "They're a phenomenon. Women are taking ordinary outdoor sheds and transforming them into fantasy spaces where the mom of the house can go and read, drink a glass of wine, do crafts or whatever. They've taken the industry by storm, and they're decorated in different ways. We had two sheds brought in, and we decorated one in a Shabby Chic theme, and the other was Bohemian.
"The cool thing is that you can register to win one of these sheds. When the store gives those away, we'll bring in two more that the consumer can get completely decorated."
PLAYING UP DENVER'S STYLE
"Another feature in this center hub is a gallery of walls where we show all kinds of artwork. It's designed to bring local artisans in and perhaps hold weekend shows," Post adds.
"It's celebrating the craftsmanship of locals. Colorado has tons of crafty-arty people. The total area attracts artists. These are all the nontraditional aspects of a furniture store."
Area rugs are merchandised in vignettes throughout The Showroom @ Furniture Row, which paired a distressed Persian design with a badminton table in The Retreat, a haven for retail entertainment.
Dubbed 'The Retreat', the men's retail entertainment center at The Showroom @ Furniture Row, features games, actual NASCAR racing cars, a theater, snacks and all the furnishings required for an upscale Man Cave.
"Aside from that, we have a mountain lodge that we built because it is Denver, after all. But it's a lodge with a modern twist. For the men we built a 5,000-square-foot man cave complete with the Furniture Row racing cars and a racing pit, a home theater and a Harley Davidson café. In fact, there are three themes: one designed around the Broncos, another around a hunting cabin and another around fishing. They can even play ping-pong and shuffleboard," Post continued.
Guys can play with all the games at The Retreat at The Showroom @ Furniture Row if they prefer not to shop, but the retailer lures them in by offering everything for sale in vignettes like this.
The Pet Boutique at The Showroom @ Furniture Row entices Millennials and Baby Boomers to visit the store for trinkets for their pets, and home decor featuring their favorite pet breed.
"I was looking for sophistication in the Pink Palace. The runway is 90 feet. We have the She-Sheds and a pet boutique which are entertainment factors. There's no other furniture company in the world that could do the NASCARs.
These are all things you wouldn't expect.
The Showroom's parent company, Furniture Row, sponsors its own racing team, which drew customers to the the store's grand opening for a closer look at its renowned car No. 78, and more.
"It's 170,000 square feet of pure magic. And it's doing very well. The Showroom @ Furniture Row concept is something that they are entertaining doing again in another big city. I'm hoping every one of them will get a little more fabulous," Post concludes.