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Shabby Chic Brands Finds Success on Facebook

Retail Editor 8, Gary Evans -- Furniture Today, August 25, 2011

Shabby ChicShabby Chic has more than 22,000 fans on Facebook at press time, which its CEO says is about double the number the average furniture brand has.
LOS ANGELES - When you're selling a brand, you don't do anything halfway.
     That's the philosophy behind Shabby Chic Brands, which has seen its efforts in social media, principally Facebook, snowball into success.
     The Shabby Chic brand has created a following of more than 22,000 Facebook fans so far in the first year of its existence, said Ramez Toubassy, Shabby Chic's CEO.
     "That's about double what the average furniture brand has, and we're growing it by about 1,000 fans a month. There's been no slowdown," he said.
     Toubassy said Shabby Chic considers itself as much a media content company "in a loosely defined sense" as a brand that markets everything from upholstered and wood furniture to linens and baby products - all in founder Rachel Ashwell's ethereal laidback, comfy-cozy style.
     "We consider social networking to be the key conduit for us to the consumer," he said. "It's a very strategic initiative for us and so what that means is where a lot of people are doing it as an afterthought, we have dedicated team members who work on it."
     Social media are considered to be the most important of Shabby Chic's marketing mechanisms, he said.
     Since Shabby Chic has already defined itself as a lifestyle brand, Toubassy said the company doesn't have to create an image for its followers.
     "So what we're doing is (working) to get them more deeply entwined with the brand and to give them outlets to communicate with other friends of the brand and to communicate with us," he said.
     A recent post on the Shabby Chic Facebook page asked, "Did you catch our Shabby Chic wreath ottoman on the ‘Today Show' this morning?" with a video of the segment. Immediately a fan shot back, "Is that Shabby Chic?" Another fan, asking where to buy Shabby since retailer Robb & Stucky had gone out of business, got a store location from another follower immediately.
     On any given day, Shabby Chic's Facebook page has posts about new product, trade shows Ashwell is attending, photos showing the designer picking fabrics for future products, or her remarks about the royal wedding. Posts can receive dozens of comments from fans.
     Interactive communication "is the holy grail of marketing and technology is finally catching up and creating efficient ways for people to do that," Toubassy said. "Ultimately, it's a way to know the consumer."
     He said social media offer a way "to deepen the relationship with the consumer and ultimately build loyalty to the brand. I will write back to consumers if there are specific questions and concerns that they have."
     Shabby Chic uses its company website - what Toubassy calls "the old new model" - to tie in retailers to the brand, and is looking for ways to do the same on Facebook.
     "At the end of the day, all we own is the brand," he said, adding, "We want to make sure the brand stays valuable and compelling. If we get constructive feedback, we leave it up there; we embrace it. If we get an email, someone at Shabby will address it almost immediately."
     Measuring results with social media is pretty straight forward, according to Toubassy.
     "We measure success both by the number of people who chose to be part of our community in the short run and the interaction we can have. In the long run, it's by the amount of business. It's a great value proposition for consumer sales."

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