La-Z-Boy's new look
Furniture Galleries getting makeover
Clint Engel -- Furniture Today, October 13, 2011
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - La-Z-Boy has opened two new concept stores here, designed to mirror its marketing message, help consumers grasp the full depth of its product offering and ultimately lead to larger-ticket sales.
The Monroe, Mich.-based maker and retailer of home furnishings remodeled its 13,000-square-foot Warwick, R.I., store and opened a new 15,500-square-foot store in nearby Attleboro, Mass., in what previously was a sporting goods store.
Both of the La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries sport the new look - primarily an interior update to the "New Generation" format the company rolled out about 10 years ago, with furniture displayed by lifestyle. The youthful, modern design also offers more display flexibility, plays up the company's customization capabilities and features some technological touches including big-screen television monitors to highlight room planning and design features as well as commercials.
La-Z-Boy is continuing to tweak the design, which will be used for all new stores as well as older locations as they come up for remodels.
Kurt Darrow, La-Z-Boy president, chairman and CEO, declined to disclose early sales results, but indicated that the company is pleased with them.
"To me, the thing that's most gratifying is the consumer reaction," he said. Through its design consultant - Interbrand Design Forum - La-Z-Boy conducted post-opening focus groups and other research to gauge consumer response, and "their wow factor" and the amount of time they are spending in the stores have been positive, he said. Design Forum was gathering customer data even before construction began, "so we're fairly confident this is a research-grounded (design)," Darrow added.
"It's not just to have a pretty store," he said. "It's to have a store that provides more inspiration for the customer but is more economically viable."
In September, La-Z-Boy brought in about a dozen large independent gallery store dealers to tour the new format and all liked the main new elements, he said.
About six other dealers planning new stores next year also toured the showrooms, and Darrow said all of them want to use the new look when they open stores in markets that include Florida, Texas and Montreal.
Darrow said La-Z-Boy wants to open two more company-owned stores with some additional refinements and develop a history of data showing a sales lift before it pushes for a rollout to the dealer network. The locations haven't been finalized, but the company is looking at the Midwest and West Coast, he said.
"We look at this as a natural evolution," Darrow said of the new design. "We don't see it as something entirely different from what we were doing. Our previous store is still very viable and doing fairly well this year. But you're making real estate decisions about the next decade, and the last time we made changes was 10 years ago."
There new design has some fairly dramatic changes.
For starters, La-Z-Boy moved its central design center to the back left side of the store and opened up the center space to highlight some of its most fashion-forward furniture. The store also is now displayed largely by lifestyle - contemporary, classic (or traditional) and transitional - leaving only recliners as a category display.
But even there, La-Z-Boy has made changes. Recliners have moved from the back of the store to the front, and now they are arranged primarily by function - lift chairs in one pod, wallaways in another and so on. This way, it's easier for the customer to get to the type of recliner they want before they narrow down their selection by cover or other aesthetic features.
The new design also features movable vignette walls. And there are more graphics and color throughout the store - light colors on the walls, which help the bolder color of the furniture pop. As Darrow put it, the industry "went through this period of the beige-ing and browning out of America," which doesn't exactly excite the customer.
In November 2010, La-ZBoy rolled out a new brand platform aiming to better communicate that it offered a much broader range of products than just recliners. The branding highlighted customization options and showed the gallery stores as "a great place, a relaxing place, an inspiring place to shop," aiming to convince women that La-Z-Boy fit their lifestyle, said Doug Collier, chief marketing officer and president of La-Z-Boy International.
That message was conveyed in its marketing materials, including new commercials featuring Brooke Shields.
"These stores really are the physical embodiment of that brand platform," Collier said.
Mark Bacon, senior vice president and president of La-Z-Boy's Branded Group, added that while the existing stores already offer this experience, the new stores "just amp it up."
Asked about the cost of implementing the new design, Darrow said it will vary widely depending on everything from location to whether the store will be owned or leased, built from the ground up or started from a quality shell building. In a good 15,000-square-foot shell building, the new design could probably be completed for roughly $400,000 to $450,000, he said. A ground-up store could push $3 million by the time land is acquired and the store is built.
La-Z-Boy's goal, however, has been to come in at or below what it costs to build the older design, and it will hit that goal, Darrow said.
The company has said it will open 25 to 30 new stores over the next two years -company-owned and licensed stores combined - and all will feature the new design. It also will close about 15 to 20 stores, so the net gain will likely be in the range of five to 15 stores.
There are a little over 300 stores in the La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries network in the United States and Canada, and 83 are company-owned. The chain is No. 10 on Furniture/Today's Top 100 with estimated calendar year 2010 sales of $739.6 million at 278 U.S. stores.
In its most recent fiscal first quarter ended July 30, La-Z-Boy reported a 9.7% written same-store sales gain for its combined company-owned and dealer-owned stores.
One of the most striking features in the new design is the dramatic rotunda entrance, which brings consumers to the center of the store shortly after entering. One of the first things they see is the new recliner display.
"We really wanted folks walking in to understand that this is a big part of our business and we're not going to sidestep our heritage," Bacon said.
But from there, the store tells La-Z-Boy's full story as consumers' eyes move to a curved wall and fashion-forward room grouping, something the company has used in its commercial shoots with Brooke Shields, "that shows you we're more than just recliners; that we can do full rooms," Bacon said.
"That creates a powerful impact before you ever start your journey through the store."