Patio.com: A marriage of e-commerce and storefronts
Courtney Paschal -- Casual Living, September 1, 2007
Patio.com is a family business owned equally by three brothers who cater to the entertainment needs of other families, with a twist.
The entrepreneurial spirit of David Ross spearheaded what would become Patio.com. As a high school student, Ross started a pool service company with just $50. The company focused on pool chemicals, tools and some patio furniture. When the first Patio.com retail location opened in Ross's hometown of Westport, Conn., his brother Philip joined in the venture. Mitchell Ross also joined the business after graduating from medical school and further expanded the patio furniture category. An Internet business followed.
"The retail landscape continues to change drastically affecting every aspect of shopping," Mitch Ross said. "Patio.com is the first entry in the retail world where its domain name is used on every storefront. This symbiotic relationship between e-commerce and true brick and mortar is felt by many analysts to be the paradigm of future retail."
Today, 13 showrooms are found in the Northeast, including four in Connecticut, five in New York and one each in Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and the company has experienced double-digit increases over the last two years.
Patio.com's showrooms currently carry anything a family could possibly want to entertain indoors and out, from casual furniture and billiard tables to grills, ping- pong tables and even video games.
Eighty percent of sales are generated from the stores, while 20% are Internet sales.
"This is due in large part because we do cater to families," said Steve Rubin, controller for Patio.com, based in Stamford, Conn. "You can't gather the family around a (computer) monitor. Also, online customers tend to purchase one thing and then get out. We started selling on the Internet because the stores are only open a few hours; it's the convenience."
The Rosses shop premarket and the Casual Market to stock the 86,000-sq.-ft. Stamford showroom, which also serves as the company's headquarters. Major outdoor vendors include Woodard, Winston, Lloyd/Flanders, Laneventure, ScanCom, Suncoast, Tropitone and Homecrest, to name a few. Grills from Lynx and Viking; hammocks from The HammockSource and billiard tables from Brunswick Billiards round out the furniture.
The majority of sales are generated from casual furniture, with all-weather wicker and teak furniture being top-sellers, followed by billiards, grills and Christmas/holiday products.
The company focuses on several avenues of advertising, including newspapers, magazines, cable television, direct mail and radio. "It's very competitive," Rubin said. "Everyone here sells patio furniture — grocery stores, Linens 'N Things, Sports Authority and even the local CVS."
But being able to cross-market for the stores and Internet business allows the company some advantages, Ross added. "Many advantages are offered by this combined 'click and brick' approach. Customers will be able to choose the method of shipping with which they are most comfortable. The showrooms' existing network allows Patio.com to offer quick shipping and full customer service, including complete delivery and assembly of furniture."
Rubin also said Patio.com has an edge because of its employees — many sales associates with more than 10 years of experience in the industry — the quantity of product from which to choose from, price and the fact the company can deliver immediately (most of the showrooms, including Stamford, have an enormous warehouse on the property).
"It's an inexpensive way to expand your house," he said. "We offer one-stop shopping and can give customers the whole package."
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