Interior expertise provides upscale design for retailer’s patio niche
By Marnee Smith -- Casual Living, 4/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
The 93-year-old Robb & Stucky, founded and headquartered in nearby Fort Myers, earned its prestigious reputation by furnishing the southwest Florida summer estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.
Purchased in 1979 by the Mariner Group, CEO Clive Lubner’s vision was to set Robb & Stucky apart through visual “lifestyle merchandising” rather than the customary grouping by manufacturer.
The company has set a healthy pace ever since, opening three showrooms in Arizona, including a 113,000-sq.-ft. store in Scottsdale, the largest of its kind in the Southwest. Robb & Stucky also has a showroom in Dallas, and a new 95,000-sq.-ft. location in Las Vegas.
Robb & Stucky has innovatively used Florida to strategically test store models then incorporate the success stories throughout its showrooms. To its Fort Myers location, for example, a dedicated design studio was added in 1977, and subsequently was rolled out at each Robb & Stucky location.
Today, all of Robb & Stucky’s showrooms are enhanced with niche divisions that have proven profitable, including Robb & Stucky Interior Design, Robb & Stucky Culinary Center, Robb & Stucky Boutique, and its popular Patio division.
Sarasota’s Robb & Stucky Patio is adjacent to the elegant, Mediterranean-styled main showroom of Robb & Stucky on the retail rich, highly trafficked U.S. 41, otherwise known as Tamiami Trail. From the moment one walks into the showroom, the connection to its interior and furnishings counterparts is obvious. Throughout the room, furniture groupings are more than coordinated – they are accessorized with rugs, artwork and accessories. Even more telling are customers, engrossed in conversation with sales staff about materials and fabrics, colors and textures, and the best ways to seamlessly blend an already complete indoor room with its outdoor counterpart.
Jon Rubenstein, vice president of Outdoor Living for Robb & Stucky, confirmed this is exactly what sets his company apart from the competition. “We have always specialized in the complete customer experience, from their first encounter with Robb & Stucky through our white-glove, in-home delivery service that they can count on with each purchase of our fine products,” he said.
Integral to that experience, Rubenstein said, is the expertise of the Robb & Stucky staff in helping customers with design advice, space planning and layout. “Like no other resource, we are able to offer the full services of our interior design team and exterior design specialists,” he said, “which our customers especially value when making important decisions about the look and feel of their own personal living spaces.”
Robb & Stucky Patio’s customer base in Sarasota is more affluent and less impacted by the tenuous economy, Rubenstein said. “Our business is strong because our customers are still spending,” he said. “Whether they are furnishing their primary residence or their second home, which is common in this market, our customers are looking for that higher level of quality and service that we provide.”
Robb & Stucky’s brand selection includes Brown Jordan, Lloyd/Flanders, Woodard, Cast Classics, Pride Family Brands and Sunbrella fabrics. Some of the most popular product lines selling at the Sarasota showroom include dining sets, deep seating 'chat sets’ and 'conversation groups’ with big, comfortable all-weather cushions and pillows.
Rubenstein also noted a high demand for bar and counter height furniture to accommodate balcony spaces, which speaks to the coastal area’s burgeoning mid-rise and high-rise condominium market. “Taller furnishings allow you to see over the balcony railings in order to take in the full view,” he said. With some of the world’s top-rated beaches, miles of scenic bay front, exclusive golf course communities and a growing downtown skyline, the Sarasota area offers desirable views from every perspective.
Robb & Stucky Patio’s numbers are bolstered by its sales of all-weather rugs, lighting and other accessories. “We sell a lot of outdoor rugs with our groupings,” Rubenstein said, “and a recent trend has been in wall art, particularly decorative clocks.”
Beyond reputation, Robb & Stucky attracts customers to its main showroom and its patio showroom with a media mix of newspaper and television advertising, direct mail promotions and catalogs and Internet advertising. Working closely with the local real estate community and top interior designers is another strategy that is working for Robb & Stucky.
“Our success is in our ability to maximize our core strength, which is interior and exterior design,” said Ryan Vulcan, the company’s public relations specialist.
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