an excerpt from Home Furnishings Business Monthly (8/22/14) Evolution Theory by Powell Slaughter
Contents Interiors in Tucson, AZ. --A focus on full design service, strong partnerships—social and business wise in the community and a search for products nobody else carries has.
Owners Carol Bell, president, and Tamara Scott-Anderson, vice president, built on a strong foundation after acquiring the store 13 years ago, and developed it from a furniture store into a soup-to-nuts design center for contemporary and traditional southwest home owners.
The new owners formed a business plan, found financing and started building their staff in a very short amount of time. The new showroom opened with new owners in March 2002. “We were fortunate to buy an established business with a good reputation,” Bell said. In addition to a good name locally, Bell and Scott-Anderson benefited from years of networking in the Contemporary Design Group, of which Contents Interiors was an early member. The partners have divvied up responsibilities: Bell is chief buyer and runs the business side of the operation; Scott-Anderson is lead designer and manages the showroom floor and a staff of five design professionals.
While Bell and Scott-Anderson bought an established business, they had their own ideas of where they wanted to take it. They expanded on selling quality home furnishing to include more interior design services. Contents Interiors is one of the few local retail interior design/furniture showrooms in Tucson to hold an Arizona Contractors license; and is licensed and bonded to do non-structural interior design work both residentially and commercially. “When Carol and I took over we decided we wanted to offer more services and products—window coverings, wall-to-wall carpeting or tile," Scott-Anderson said. “We got our contractors license. … That’s one of the things that makes us different from a lot of other stores. … I can help pick out lighting, plumbing and other fixtures, and work with another licensed contractor (for installation). ”The partners also set aside part of the showroom to showcase resources and work on projects in a 400-square-foot design resource center.
When it comes to the floor, Contents creates a lot to look at. “People tell us we don’t look like a lot of furniture stores,” Bell said. “We’ll change things out: One year we focused on ‘contemporary Southwest.’ “We have what we call our ‘Tucson traditional,’ It’s a hacienda feel with a touch of Tuscan. The front of the store is where we keep the contemporary and softer traditional looks. We do a lot of what we call ‘organic contemporary’ with reclaimed woods.”
Contents web site is very useful in giving shoppers a sense of what they need to look for in the showroom through an online “style test.” The detailed quiz helps customers drill down to which lifestyle sections in the store are most simpatico with their sensibilities. From general styles of casual, contemporary, traditional, eclectic and southwestern, the shopper’s responses steer her toward the store’s “contemporary,” “comfortable desert living” or “Tucson traditional” settings. “People can go to the site and pick their look,” Bell said. “They can take the test and feel confident saying ‘I’m Tucson traditional.’”
The key is creating an impressive visual display of products customers might not see anywhere else in the market while avoiding clutter. “It’s packed full of accessories and artwork,” Scott-Anderson said. “We have at least three items on each table; and we showcase local artists on a regular basis. We have an art show of Arizona artists, and the ones who sell, we’ll show year round.” “It’s our way of staying in touch with the local arts scene, and it’s good business,” Bell added. “The showroom always looks fresh. If something doesn’t move, the artist always is ready to trade out for a different work. We also have a strong stock in production art work as well.”
What else makes Contents Interiors different from other home furnishings retailers in the Tucson market? Contents Interiors’ “Master Plan,” sort of a house call on steroids, is big differentiator for the store. “It’s not just a house call, we do an extensive interview to pin down likes and dislikes, the customer’s goals for the home,” Scott-Anderson said. “We have a graphic artist who produces floor plans to scale with rugs and furniture included, and we deliver that in a formal presentation.“We’re about being professional designers and giving people a program they’ll be happy with, that fits their home, and avoids buying mistakes.”
For the most part, Bell and Scott-Anderson, find advantages in running a women-owned business. Still, furniture remains a boys’ club in some ways. Scott-Anderson believes that two women bosses create a different—in many ways better—culture in the store. “I believe we’ve built a company that’s like a family,” she said. “Of our 10 employees, half have been with us for eight years or longer. “I believe it’s helped create a nurturing environment for our employees.”
IIf you're in the Tucson, AZ area--make sure to stop in and check out Contents Interiors at 3401 E. Ft. Lowell in the Ft. Lowell Furniture District. www.contentsinteriors.com
Read the full article at: http://furniturecore.com/hfbusiness/CurrentIssue/CurrentIssueModule/ArticleId/11371/evolution-theory.aspx#sthash.bHfcXCaL.dpuf
Contemporary Design Group is a national association of independent contemporary furniture retailers.
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