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Barefoot Luxury

Nicole Crews -- Casual Living, July 14, 2012

Nicole CrewsNicole Crews
When I think about luxury the last thing on my mind is formality, ornate styling and complicated design. Luxurious living in my mind's eye means being pampered. That means fabrics with a soft hand, deep seating, a pleasing color palette, a place to put my feet up. That, to me, is a vacation in and of itself - and with the popularity of the staycation, I'm surely not alone.
     Marcia Blake, Casual Living design blogger and owner of California-based Outdoor Interiors agrees, "There is a large increase in the necessity of luxurious and well-designed outdoor spaces," she said. "It may continue to be an uncertain and crazy world out there, but on the home front, it's all about luxurious comfort and the building of a strong and fashionable foundation."
     So how are consumers getting their hands on outdoor goods that fulfill their desire for luxury? Some, as we are all aware, are seeking out the specialty casual retailer. Others are hiring designers or landscape professionals and letting them guide the way. But many, especially the under 40 demographic, are relying on e-commerce to lead them to the promise land of outdoor living.
     Flash sites like LuxeYard, HauteLook, Froogal, One Kings Lane, Gilt Groupe (Gilt HOME), Ideeli, Rue La La, Eziba, The Foundary, Joss and Main, Fab and London-based Achica are discovering that the outdoor category is a contender.Kecia Hessler
     Kecia Hessler, VP of brands, home for HauteLook said HL got into the outdoor business just last year and that outdoor was about 6% of the home business. "Year to date, we have already doubled that number and expect outdoor to be about 19% of the home business this year," she said. "We immediately saw our members respond to it which clearly illustrated that we needed to expand the offering across the category and it continues to do very well for us." (See full interview, page 74.)
     So how does the brick-and-mortar store compete when their normal channels of reaching potential customers don't have the same target impact as flash sites? Storefront retailers certainly have the personal service advantage, but Robert Williams, the self-described director of fun for brick and-mortar giant Gallery Furniture in Houston, believes that social media is the key component to customer service and relations in the modern retail world. "You can connect with someone personally, but constantly being a presence in their world via, say Facebook, keeps you connected," he said. LuxeYard, already ahead of the game with competitive pricing, is trying to replicate person-to-person connectivity with social media inspired features and a humanizing, giving back initiative, but is that enough? We'll see, but in the meantime, mom-and-pop casual need to look outside and be aware that somebody is already in their backyard.

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