Oh, yes, I was about to explain where I've been. Actually, I've been in Santa Barbara most of the time, focused on our business. Of course I've traveled a few times up to our Mill Valley store for meetings or to help out when needed, as has Caroline, and we even evacuated our selves to San Francisco to escape the recent wild fires that ravaged the countryside in and around SB (as in "OC" but we're in the "SB"!).
Fellow high-end retailers such as Saks 5th Avenue, makes it very difficult for us to compete (and for their direct competitor Neiman Marcus) when they discount the top brands early in the season. Taking early mark downs, Saks went directly to 70% off on some current season merchandise, bypassing the customary 20% sales which grow to larger percentage discounts as the season nears its end.
It's a tough road to take, but we cannot run our business at a loss. Other businesses can't either, though I've always wondered how a business stays in business when they report yearly loss after loss, but yet are still going concerns. I didn't say profitable concerns, but they are still going, still in business somehow.
Take our freight costs for instance, to get merchandise delivered from the manufacturers in North Carolina all the way to the West coast, freight rates were typically between 14-18%, now their 20-22%, plus the addition of new fuel surcharges, making the effective shipping rate a whopping 25% of the costs of the goods shipped! Yikes!
Then, there are the unending notices of price increases from our Vendors, some of which haven't had a price increase in the last two years, but they've already had two price increases this year!
I better have another bite of my orange.
In fact our business has risen slightly upward, steadily every single month since year end Dec/2008.
Where's the business coming from? Fortunately, we've seen at least one major interior design and furnishing job come through our doors each month. The jobs are furnishing a large part of, or the entire customers home .
They "need" us to furnish it from the floor up, they have a need! Praise the lord...a customer who needs to buy furniture!
During this economic downturn, we've actually kept our advertising budget on par with last year, as I do not believe this is the time to have less presence in the market place, though others may be trimming their advertising budgets. In some cases, we're focused on placement rather than frequency.
Example: Last month we took a full page ad, on the back page of one of the more prestigious local weekly newspapers. The ad ran in a space that is usually taken every week by one of the hottest "see and be seen" restaurants in Montecito, CA. We rely in great part on word of mouth to augment our advertising, and after the ad ran, a "big hitter" (from Texas) who had recently purchased a second home in Montecito came into the store because they had seen our ad. They purchased $3,600 worth of lamps (quite a nice little lamp sale). It wasn't word of mouth that got them here, because they didn't really know anyone here yet, it was the ad, and I'm convinced the placement of it on the back cover.
Where else is the business coming from? Of course we're fortunate to have the repeat customer, GOD love'm! We're also working in a way, staging houses for sale, though not in the conventional way.
We also worked with their real estate broker to insure that we all had the same understanding of the customer for which we had furnished this home. I had specific talks with the broker/Realtors (remember, I'm retired from a twenty year career in real estate!) about getting away from the old way of selling a home based on "price per square foot". It's cliche, and my belief that nobody bases their purchase of a new home solely on price per square foot. Sure it's a factor, a guide if you will, in their decision making process, but it's the house itself, and everything it entails that establishes the value.
It's the customer considering the look, the feel, the way it fits their needs, and their dreams that drives them to select one house over another. That's the way to sell in today's economic climate. Forget the numbers! If the numbers where that important, then no one would ever purchase a house again--they would rent!
The look? Well, I must say we restrained ourselves from the Paul Bunyan look! No red plaid fabrics, no stitched deer-hide lamp shades, no antlers or horns on the walls (we prefer those on our Cadillacs in Texas). We passed on the typical hair-on cowhide upholstered furniture.
Instead of rustic spilt-log furniture, we opted for antique, primitive rough-hewn Chinese alter tables; naturally woven linen lamp shades instead of the deer-hide versions; we used a naturally woven grass rug instead (see the Merida Meridian rug, pictured below, and at the Cabana Home stores in Santa Barbara or Mill Valley, CA (http://www.meridameridian.com/) of a more expected braided rug; an upholstered headboard of raw silk instead of a more traditional wooden bed.
We used a subtle creme and tan hounds tooth pattern fabric in lieu of a the more typical bright red and green plaid, and bent just about every current rule for mountain-house design that is currently so obviously popular--and overdone to death! See more pictures, below.
From the Bengal Collection of 100% Jute woven rugs from MeridaMeridian available at Cabana Home Stores. Left: Style Reef; Right: Style Bora Bora.
Oh, and one more thing...we did not set the Dining table to look like someone was about to eat. If the idea is to set the table to make the house looked lived in, then to me a set dining table looks like the owner is about to have a dinner party and we better cut our appointment short so we can get out of the hosts way! We put a lovely centerpiece on the table in a wonderful clay container and called it a day! Leave the Martha Stewart details to the potential Buyer. Let them visualize themselves setting whatever table they envision as they stand in the beautiful Dining room contemplating the purchase of this home.
Re-positioning this spec-house in the marketplace was a well thought out decision by the Owners, and the Realtors, we were simply the facilitators. And, once the home is sold, if it doesn't sell furnished to the new Owner, then this homeowner will use the newly acquired furniture to upgrade and augment what she already has, and pass on the former to her kids, friends and relatives. All in all, everybody wins with this scenario.
More about Staging (in order to sell your home)
Statistics for your consideration of whether or not to stage your home are plentiful on the Internet (as are the "stagers" themselves). Basically it boils down to this: A vacant home that has been properly staged sells faster and for more dollars, than a non-staged home. Likewise, homes that are occupied that are staged, sell faster and for more dollars.
Curious as to why one would stage a home that is lived in? Consider this, we all have our homes decorated and furnished to suit us, and our lifestyle, but does it suit or fit that of a potential buyer?
Answer: Usually not. we may have too much furniture in a room, such as an extra large dining table with multiple chairs in a space that is far too small to accomodate it. Perhaps we have a need for the large table and the chairs to accomodate our large family, but if your home is on the market, it conveys to a potential Buyer that the Dining room is too small, and then just maybe that the house is too small as well.
Enter the Realtor!
In preparing to place a home on the market, more often than not, the Realtor has to tell the homeowner that they need to consider removing some of their furniture, accessories, or art, form the house, which is most often met with a stinging response from the sensitive homeowner.
Classic homeowner responses: "It works for us, and that's just the way we live"; or "they'll just have to get over it" or even ; "if they pass on our house because the dining room is too small, then this house wasn't for them."; or how about this, "they can see past that, if not then this house isn't for them", or, "I like it like this, it's why I bought this house".
Shivers go up my spine as I look at the responses above, having actually heard them myself. The worse the homwowners reaction to my suggestions, the lower the price they would eventually get for the house. The more cooperative, the more money they would get for their home. It happened everytime, over and over again.
So dear homeowners, please know this, the Realtor knows very well that it's your home. They are more sensative to that fact than anyone else who will be looking at and/or decides to purchase your home, so lighten up. Remember, your the one who has deciced to sell your home, whether you wanted to or not, and it is up to you to hire the person that you think can do the best job at marketing the property, negoitiating the terms of the transaction, and getting the transaction closed. The person who knows how to do these things also knows exactly what it will take to bring you the highest dollar your home will bear in the current marketplace, and they know exactly how to postion and stage your home in order to do so. So once you've picked the right guy or gal agent, once you've done it, get out of the way and listen carefully to their suggestions. While your home is on the market, it's not about you, or at least not until there is a written offer from a Buyer on the table. Until then, its about the Buyer, and making the house as appealing as possible to the broadest range of potential Buyers.
Best tip for any homeowner: Never create an adversarial reatlionship with your Realtor, they're out in the public on your behalf, fighting to get your home noticed and sold. Make them want the best for you by listening carefully to what they're telling you. It would be a rare bird (Realtor) indeed that wouldn't have your best interest at heart.
Other links for getting your home ready to sell:
From the National Association of REALTORS: "Field Guide to Preparing and Staging a House for Sale": http://www.realtor.org/library/library/fg303
Check out : "How to Prepoare your House For Sale" at: http://homebuying.about.com/od/sellingahouse/ht/homeprep.htm
Also, this site has some good but basic ideas for selling a home:
Or, follow this link for ideas about getting your home ready to sell:
Or, this link to avoid the "Seven Costliest Mistakes seller Make":
All for now! Next up on the Design Guy blog: Part III of recent European travels!
PS: I have no idea who this kid is in the above pictures, but he is darn cute! I found these picutes on the internet so if he's your kid thanks for letting me use the pic's!