• Clint Engel

Louis Shanks goes for lighter, brighter look

Louis ShanksLouis Shanks of Texas went with a lively modern look in the entryway of its remodeled Houston store with this sofa from Bernhardt’s Interiors program.
HOUSTON - Louis Shanks of Texas went more to the lighter, brighter feminine side with a major remodel of its store here, and the work is paying dividends.
     The Austin, Texas-based Top 100 company remodeled roughly half of its 125,000-square-foot Fondren Road showroom, adding new exterior signage a new entryway, featuring a light ceramic tile floor and other updates, including LED lighting throughout.
     Previously, the store featured a sidewalk of sorts that enabled consumers to zip through fairly quickly, said Mike Forwood, president of upscale three-store retailer. The new design is more open, and while there are still some straight shots through the store, the retailer created an environment that invites consumers to slow down, wander and discover.
     "That store was built in the early
Louis ShanksLouis Shanks brings attention to Stanley’s European Farmhouse collection by setting it apart in a casual traditional lifestyle room setting.
'70s and it was high time to bring it up to date," Forwood said. "We really opened up the space quite a bit."
     To the left of the entryway, Shanks carved out about 6,000 square feet for a Tommy Bahama store-within-a-store concept. The space features both Tommy Bahama Home and Tommy Bahama Outdoor Living collections by Lexington Home Brands as well as a the Tommy Bahama accessories lines "to give a complete feel for that well-recognized brand," Forwood said.
     The remodel also features what Forwood calls a broad promenade. Extending from this are about 20 fully furnished rooms featuring high-end and upper-middle priced goods from the retailer's key vendors and including styles that are lighter and more feminine than the looks consumers may have come to associate with the company.
     Shanks is devoting about 836 square feet to each room setting, showcasing various lifestyle looks that will range from a French formal Henredon collection to more causal contemporary.
     "Everything is tied into (each lifestyle look), from the floor to the wall to the accessories," Forwood said.
    Two rooms are devoted to Sherrill. They're both inspired by the manufacturer's showroom presentations that Shanks saw this past April in High Point, including a light blue room featuring transitional upholstery. Shanks worked with a Sherrill team to replicate that market showroom feel at the store.
Louis ShanksLouis Shanks was inspired so much by the fashion-forward looks at Sherrill this past April market that it replicated this setting in a dedicated area of the remodeled Houston store.

    "Typically we don't go quite that avant garde as far as color," Forwood said, adding that the blue room has a lighter, more feminine feel, while the retailer is known more for less exciting browns, beiges and rust colors.
     "We sell a lot of (the browns), but it wasn't very fashion forward as far as color and style," he said.
     Some of the new rooms are more "on edge," he said, adding that Shanks plans to switch out the Sherrill rooms every six months in order to showcase the latest looks from the supplier in High Point and make a big fashion statement.
    "We've had tremendous response to it." Forwood said, noting that on a recent weekend the store sold two complete settings out of the blue Sherrill room.
     Shanks has managed to breathe fresh life into older merchandise, too. A new Stanley room, for inst
Off the front entrance of its Houston storeOff the front entrance of its Houston store, Louis Shanks created a Tommy Bahama store within a store, featuring a large assortment of both the Tommy Bahama Outdoor Living and Tommy Bahama Home collections by Lexington Home Brands.
ance, features the vendor's European Farmhouse collection, which the retailer has carried for a while, but by dressing it up and setting it apart, the collection is popping again for both customers and sales associates.
     "It looks like a million bucks," Forwood said. "It made the sales staff look at it in a whole new light.
     "And revitalizing our staff is half the game," he added. "There are so many times you get complacent in business, and you see the same thing in the same way.
     "We're selling some of the same product; it just looks so much newer and fresher. The lighting is better and the sightlines are more open. It just gets everybody jazzed up - consumers as well as the staff. It makes me glad we spent that money when I see the results."
     Shanks closed the Houston store for a week in March, which "pained me deeply," he said. Then it began the renovation work, which took about five months to complete.
     Forwood estimated the investment at "north of $700.000," and while he wouldn't disclose sales, he said the store has seen double-digit increases since the work was finished.
    Shanks has been running a grand reopening sale in Houston as well as at its Austin and San Antonio stores. Among other things, customers are invited to register for a weekend getaway for two to a California resort.

Clint EngelClint Engel | Senior Retail Editor, Furniture Today

Please feel free to email or call me with all of your retail news and tips, including expansion news, successful merchandising and marketing strategies and anything else you would like to see covered by Furniture/Today.  Contact me directly at cengel@furnituretoday.com or 336-605-1129.

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