Investing in variety
By Matt Bolch -- Casual Living, 8/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
While Pool Patio & More can be described accurately as a mom-and-pop business, the company's two stores in California's Silicon Valley sure don't show it.
"By the look of our showrooms, you would think we were a division of Crate & Barrel," said Steve Cohen, president of Season's Leisure Inc., the parent company. "We are truly specialists when it comes to outdoor furniture."
While enjoying a California morning in the back yard of the home he and wife Ginger had just purchased in the San Francisco bay area, Cohen elaborated about what makes his stores succeed.
"Given a choice where price and selection are similar, consumers would rather shop in a store that's well-appointed and run by knowledgeable salespeople," he said. "We make a real investment in merchandise, buying deep, so we have the furniture when customers want it."
The merchandising philosophy at Pool Patio & More is to show the widest array of goods possible. Due to high real estate costs, this is not always an easy task. Although every set is stocked with all the accessories, multiple tables and various finishes, each collection is displayed only once. Successful marketing requires effective point-of-sale techniques, merchandising and constant interaction with consumers to guide them through the showroom.
Extruded and cast aluminum continue to represent the majority of sales from manufacturers including Tropitone, Brown Jordan, Cast Classics, Kessler and Hanamint. "We sell a lot more sling than in the past, but our biggest gains are coming from both the teak and woven categories," he said.
The stores stock teak from Rock Wood and Gloster. Woven manufacturers include Vineyard, Laneventure and Ebel. Other vendors include Woodard and Meadowcraft for furniture, Basta Sole and Treasure Garden for umbrellas.
Although furniture sales comprise 88% of the company's business, the 12% that giftware and Christmas represent also is important, Cohen said. In addition to coordinating the showroom floors and picking the furniture colors, Ginger buys the giftware, which includes serving platters, dishes, glasses, statuary, wind chimes, pottery and serving trays. The Atherton store, located near Stanford University, also sells barbecue grills and fireplace items.
Christmas is a blowout event at Pool Patio & More, Cohen said. Featuring more than 35 themed trees with all the holiday trimmings, the stores dedicate more than 75% of the showroom space to this magical winter wonderland. "It's extravagant, I'll have to admit," Cohen said. "We get 400 to 500 people in each store every day during Christmas."
The company also has made a significant investment in its stores, relocating the Campbell store in Silicon Valley into a new three-story showroom across the street that includes a roof garden. Cohen calls it "a great fair weather store" that includes 10,000 square feet of total showroom space, 60% of that under cover. It features a 25-foot, indoor waterfall with an elevator to the roof garden.
The store has boosted revenue by double digits since it opened in May 2003, Cohen said.
More recently, Pool Patio & More also renovated its Atherton store. "This store also is 10,000 square feet, and it's a great old building — you'd never build a store like this," Cohen said. "It couldn't be any more different from our other location, but both of them work well for us."
The Atherton location, which the Cohens purchased in 1994, was previously the home of a noted furniture store called The Franciscan Forge and Interiors. At one time Shirley Temple Black was affiliated with the store, a ranch-style house with a heavy shake roof, high ceilings and large rooms that lend themselves well to displaying furniture vignettes. The building surrounds an atrium with koi pond, a waterfall and a 400-year-old sprawling live oak that grows through the center of the building.
Steve Cohen was a wholesale grocer and Ginger was a corporate commercial banker when they started Season's Leisure in 1988. Although casual furniture might seem a far stretch for Cohen, his father owned a furniture store in Stockton, Calif., for more than three decades. Ginger handles the financial matters and picks the furniture colors and accessory items. "She's got a real eye and has been a huge part of our success," Cohen said.
The Cohens' son-in-law Joe Martella also is working in the business, bringing a second generation into the family-owned enterprise.
Cohen attributes the success of Pool Patio & More to their dedication to the casual furniture industry, merchandising philosophy and focus on high-end products.
"We keep focused on our core business and are constantly trying to make that core business exciting and different year after year," Cohen said. "Clearly we are proud of what we have accomplished, and our pride is reflected in our stores, which shine in the marketplace."
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