Focus - March 2011

Selling That Extra, Special Something
By Emily M. White

Bryce & Co.’s Livingston throw is a super heavy four-ply, offering a visual texture and super-soft hand.
Far Right Mata, a bedding collection from Yves Delorme, features an image of designer Evelyne Julienne’s watercolor of an orchid. Below Rajboori has made a name for itself with vibrant and modern luxury pillows and coverlets.

A look inside what modern luxury consumers want, and how luxury manufacturers are working to match their needs

Traditionally, “luxury” had a simple definition. As Bob Hamilton, marketing director, Christy, explains, “Luxury used to mean something scarce and expensive, or slimly distributed. Today, this isn’t always the case, but it has to be something above the norm.”

Here, luxury manufacturers reveal how they supply that “something above the norm” to keep the modern luxury consumer engaged and satisfied.

Selling An Experience

Besides selling premium linens, product aside, Jean Baptiste De Jaham, ceo, Yves Delorme U.S. Division, has found that offering that extra, special something is creating a unique buying experience. He notes that for Yves Delorme, quality customer service has their customers responding favorably.“It’s not only the product we sell, but the way we sell it,” says De Jaham. “The high level of customer service we provide has been instrumental in keeping our customers happy and helps us to stand out from the crowd. Each store manager in every location is given the freedom to tailor the Yves Delorme experience so that suits their unique regional customer base.”

In a similar vein, Ogallala’s customers also look for a promise of quality, with top-notch service. “Maybe it’s our innovative Hypodown blend of pure Hungarian goose down and Syriaca clusters, or our pure cotton fabrics or our famous Three Generation Guarantee of our unrelenting drive to provide our customers with the world’s most comfortable sleep, but a satisfied consumer goes a long way,” says Herb Knudsen, president, Ogallala. “In addition to our product, we are still very much like a mom and pop operation, and we ask, ‘When and where do you want it?’ when a customer needs something, and ship within 72 hours. That attention keeps the customer happy.”

Providing consumers with choices is also what Rosemary Bigelow, president, My Grandmother’s Lace, uses to keep her luxury customers satisfied. “We make all our products here in West Virginia and that allows us to give our customers choice because they can customize their orders, for example, special sizing for duvets and coverlets, dust skirt drops and a variety of fabric and trim choices,” says Bigelow. “We just introduced two new collections at the January Atlanta Market—Big Sur and Suzani. Both collections embody our basic design philosophy: put together a selection of fabrics that includes multiple prints, solids and textures in several colors, display a suggested bedding, pillow and drapery grouping, then step aside and let our customers go at it, selecting which fabrics they want to use and how they want to combine them.”

Offering custom work is a sure way to attract business in the luxury sector. Anali’s capabilities, such as custom embroidery options, meet a specific need for her customers.

“The luxury consumer wants something that is special, that not everyone can get,” says Anna Wallace, sales director, Anali. “People buy Anali simply because our embroideries are the best and like nothing else out there. Our best sellers are different all over the country because our embroideries tell many stories. Our shell patterns have remained strong sellers for years, and in bedding, our TailorMade line is doing very well because we offer the opportunity to customize the patterns.”

Custom options and customer service is also a way for customers to see an added value. Due to the recession, no matter if it’s good, better or best, all consumers are looking for this added something, even in luxury. Peacock Alley strives to add value with strong designs and ways to lower their carbon footprint.
“With the Internet, anyone can compare pricing, and the luxury consumer is always looking for deals, quality and a great price,” says Jason Needleman, ceo, Peacock Alley. “For us to stay competitive, we’ve spent time working with strong designers, who have become advocates for us in the market, and we are looking for opportunities for American manufacturing of imported fabrics, with less of an environmental impact, which will provide our products with an additional value.”

But as Christoph Kull, president, Schlossberg observes, while focusing on pushing value, luxury companies should not give in entirely to, what he refers to as, a “discounting game.”

“The luxury buyer is looking for deals more than ever before, an attitude that is not exactly helping the luxury goods industry,” says Kull. “The biggest mistake, in my opinion, is to give in to the discounting game. This is a short-term game with no winners. Our products have a certain quality level and a corresponding price. After a while, the retailer and the consumer do understand that it isn’t a commodity they are dealing with. Luxury is about more than that, including high-level customer service, at all levels.”

Offering That One Perfect Item

Madison Avenue, a 300-thread-count sateen in 100 percent cotton from Royale Linens, is adorned with a Manhattan cityscape motif. The sheets are dotted with tiny city windows.
The Brush Creek Collection is 100 percent cotton jacquard, a popular look from Raymond Waites. Far Below The Contessa pillow and comforter from Cloud Nine Comforts.

Even if some luxury consumers are looking for a deal, everyone in the sector can agree on one thing: even in tough times, the luxury consumer will still buy luxury, as long as their interest and needs are matched, but as Douglas Bryce, founder, Bryce & Co., notes, they are just pickier than ever before.

“In this new economic climate, the customer still wants their luxury items, but being as they are inherently discretionary goods, they want something that is a bit more unusual than before,” says Bryce. “Where they might have bought three items in the past, now they are spending extra time searching for that one perfect item.”

Cloud Nine Comforts has found that even if a product isn’t in a popular price point, if it offers the luxury consumer a product they can’t find anywhere else, they will part with their dollars.

“Our best sellers are definitely not our most popularly priced items,” says Alex Castro, president, Cloud Nine asserts. “Our Contessa comforter and pillows, as well as our luxury mattress pads, seem to be in the highest demand—which are all made from European goods. These items are not our best price points, but our customer is looking for the best products available in the U. S. market.”

Frank Snow, vice-president, merchandising and sales, Royale Linens, also finds that appearance of the linens is one of the most important traits for selling, since one person’s luxury is another’s necessity.

“Since the purchase of a sheet is an infrequent one and she [the consumer] is not fully knowledgeable on the details of sheet making (thread count, single pick, yarn sizes, warp and weft constructions, etc.), she will opt for what she does know, see and touch.”

Snow says Royale Linen’s bestsellers are three programs that cater to this need: the 300-thread-count sateen produced with 100 percent cotton, which the consumer likes for its soft, flexible hand, additional luster and is wrinkle-free; the 300-thread-count percale in 100 percent cotton, which is a little more rigid and is brushed for a cool and crisp look; and the 250-thread-count 100 percent percale which is also wrinkle-free with easy-care.

Speaking of appearance, besides the hand of the linens, looks that cater to comfort and simplicity are strong sellers, explains Sam Samani, senior vice-president, Pacific Coast Home Furnishings.

“I believe the new definition of luxury is also what makes you be comfortable,” says Samani. “Today, what feels right and gives you good vibes is luxury. The more recent best sellers in the line have been some of the more simply styled collections.”

For Rajboori linens, Mitun Chakrabarti, co-founder and ceo, Rajboori, also sees success in her simple designs.

“Our buyers find most of the 2010 introductions to be easy to fit into their decor if they love a punch of color but a simplistic design aesthetic,” says Chakrabarti. “Others prefer the intensity and detail available in our debut collection. The coverlets are an all-time favorite as they are of a perfect weight that can be used year round and are available in six colors to suit all tastes and preferences.”

For the modern luxury consumer with more traditional tastes, Raymond Waites has found some of their strongest sales are from their cotton beds that offer a timeless look.

“Kashmir is a beautiful rich vermillion red vintage paisley frame printed on 300 thread count cotton sateen, and Genevieve is a gorgeous white 300-thread-count cotton sateen bed with an intricate summer floral embroidery garland,” says Stacey Testa, senior vice-president of design, Raymond Waites. “Both these beds embody a uniqueness and attention to details on quality goods that our customers tend to appreciate.”

In addition to offering exactly what the luxury consumer is looking for, in tough economic times, Tess Mix, showroom manager and director of interior design accounts, Anichini, notes that perhaps the best thing a luxury supplier can do it to not lose sight of their mission.

“Instead of altering our product, we have continued with its level of excellence rather than change our product to remain more profitable,” says Mix. “This has been difficult but we truly believe you cannot alter your mission. Standing our ground and continuing to evolve in the direction we have always wanted to have kept us competitive and definitely made us stand out.”

Overall, it seems that the key ingredient in making these luxury suppliers successful, even in hard times, is that they stay true to their core—in service and product.

Resources

• Anali, 425-558-4316, Anali.com
• Anichini, 800-553-5309, anichini.com
• Bryce & Co., 917-365-8776, bryceandco.com
• Christy, 0845 758 5252, christy-towels.com
• Cloud Nine Comforts, 323-887-8000, cloudninecomforts.com
• My Grandmother’s Lace, 304-258-9378, mygrandmotherslace.com
• Ogallala Comfort Company, 800-658-4370, ogallalacomfortcompany.com
• Pacific Coast Home Furnishings, 323-838-7803, pacificcoasthomefurnishings.com
• Peacock Alley, 800-496-2880, peacockalley.com
• Rajboori, 866-610-4311, rajboori.com
• Raymond Waites, 212-447-8700, raymondwaites.com
• Royale Linens, 201-997-3700, royalelinens.com
• Schlossberg Switzerland, 908-238-0006, bonswit.com
• Yves Delorme, 800-322-3911, yvesdelorme.com


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