If the rise in popularity of HGTV’s entire programming schedule hasn’t made it obvious yet, more and more of today’s consumers are thinking beyond the sofa or dining table when they are shopping for their homes. They want a room that’s decorated, preferably in a unique way that reflects their individuality. Furniture retailers have been catching on to this reality for years, adding more and more accessories into the mix. After all, selling accessories makes it easier on the consumer and if they want to purchase the whole room that makes an easier, and bigger, sale for the store.
Doing well with accents
For some furniture stores, selling accessories isn’t a new idea. Katie White, who juggles multiple roles from buyer to sales at her family’s store, Boone’s Furniture & Gifts, in Gibsonville, N.C., explains. “For as long as I can remember we have had accessories,” she says. “And we’ve done well with it.” White notes that the volume of business has increased in recent years.
Pat Talbott, accessory buyer for Sherwood House in Danville, Va., says she has definitely increased accessory buying for the store. “We’re putting in a tremendous amount more than we had before,” she says. The increase came from listening to what customers were saying. “It’s all they are after. They want different, they want things they haven’t seen. Women like to put their hands on it, and they don’t want to order it,” she adds. Now Sherwood House aims to stock as much as they can and provide their customers with as much variety as possible.
White says the rationale for her family’s business is twofold—add-on sales to a major furniture purchase and a means to draw people into the store for smaller, more regular purchases. She adds, “It sets us apart from big box stores because it gives the ‘wow.’” White finds that including accent items in the store displays helps customers envision how things will look in their homes.
Moe Samieian Jr., president of Moe’s Home Collection, comes to the home accessories conversation with a unique viewpoint. Moe’s Home Collection is a manufacturer of accent pieces, in addition to running four company-owned stores and one licensed store. “From the wholesale side, we’ve noticed more and more furniture stores trying to fill in with accessories. The bigger stores definitely have buyers specifically for accessories, and sometimes it can be difficult to marry furniture with accents, especially when there are different buyers. We really push the idea to our customers, to buy both furniture and accents from us, because we make sure they go together.”
Samieian also feels that the rise of home accents in furniture stores can be linked to consumers wanting to refresh their surroundings without spending a lot. “Accessories help reshape the room a bit without having to go through the big expense of changing furniture pieces.” Another benefit is they offer the aforementioned add-on sales, without eating up a lot of square footage.
Focusing on the trends
Understanding the trends in home accents is important as well. For White, that currently means a focus on items that provide a way of bringing the outdoors inside, whether it is birdcages or wall décor with floral imagery or artificial flowers. She also cites an interest in what she described as an “old farmhouse look.”
Another interesting trend is the increased focus on lighting. Teresa Costa, owner/designer for Luna Bell, shares, “As a lighting and furniture designer, I’m seeing people using lighting much more as an accent than before.” Regardless of whether it’s lighting or another type of home accent, Costa sees an interest toward more architectural looking designs, as well as pieces that are larger in scale. “It’s not the knickknacks you had once upon a time.”
In terms of colors, neutrals remain popular. Colin Riggs, owner/product development at Abigails, says they can’t introduce enough ceramics in white. An offshoot of the neutral trend is found in Abigails’ Splash collection originally done in blue and white, now with the addition of gray and white. “It looks like a splash of paint, and each piece is different, so it makes it very interesting,” Riggs says.
Connecting to the trend of bringing the outdoors in, as well as Pantone’s announcement of its color of the year (Greenery), Riggs recently returned from the Frankfurt market, where she noticed a resurgence of a tropical theme, complete with oversized leaves and flowers. To tap into that trend, Abigails has its Palmetto collection, which features large hand-painted leaves, and their Snake collection, which is adorned with hand-applied squiggles in a rich green. Sherwood House’s Talbott definitely sees an interest in tropical items with their customers. “We are actually doing a lot more in the field of tropical than we’ve ever done before,” she says.
Riggs finds furniture retailers want product that differentiates them from the larger stores and lets them stay competitive. “They’re looking for something their customer can’t find in a big store, and that’s why we work hard to find something that’s good quality, affordable and different for them.” Costa adds, “Tastes have become more sophisticated, and people are demanding product that’s a little bit more interesting.”
“Consumers are going more towards lifestyle looking furniture stores,” Samieian feels, citing the success stores like West Elm have had. “That kind of store has accessories mixed with furniture; we think that makes a store much more presentable, brings it to life and is the way people have it in their homes.”
Making it work for your store
If you haven’t already made the leap into including home accents in your store, or you would like to ramp up your efforts, White recommends checking out both furniture markets and accessory markets. She also suggests, “Listen to what customers are asking for, and Pinterest is a wealth of knowledge as far as what people are looking for.”
Samieian finds it takes a combination of shoppable accent displays as well as accessories mixed in with furniture vignettes. “We have a wall in our stores that displays featured accessories.” But he stresses that it’s also important to have items included in a display “to bring the pieces to life, otherwise it looks dead and flat if you just have furniture.”
For Boone’s Furniture & Gifts, White has found that sticking with minimums and never reordering more than three times are the keys to their success with accents. “We find if we reorder more than three times, it is played out, and you don’t see a lot of duplicates on our floor. We’re always trying to find things that are new and fresh.”
Talbott likes to explore beyond her area, visiting stores both large and small. “I like to get out and look. I go anywhere I see someone’s got a lot of product, and I talk to the retail people there, see what they are showing, what they’re selling and then I jump in and do my own thing.”
Sherwood House’s owner, George Perry, concludes, “Fact of the matter is, you can’t have a half dozen items and say you’re in the accessory business. When you see these magazines, you couldn’t live in the room because it’s filled up—it’s a little bit like that—you just can’t have enough. I truly think it’s how it’s displayed. It’s different from a typical display 20 years ago, now you put pieces in places you never thought of, you’re taking an accent piece and putting it in a position that’s out of character for it and that is what the customer is looking for—that’s the ‘wow,’ or the ‘I never thought of that!’”