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L to R: Paul and Karen Galindo

Opportunity Seized

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO

Karen and Paul Galindo open a Designer Showroom 600 miles
from their main operations in Texas. 

Exteriors Designer Showroom Santa Fe

In 2013 Karen and Paul Galindo undertook a major re-branding and re-design of their three patio stores in Texas (two in Austin, one in San Antonio). The old name – The Greenhouse Mall – was put out to pasture, while a new one – Outside in Style – was introduced.

Maxine Lauer, head of forecasting company Sphere Trending, was hired to help direct decisions not only on a new name, but also on a new look. It required a gutsy call by the two principals to spend the seven figures required for a complete redo.

Now they can say that it worked, and they are already into the next project – a Designer Showroom in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the couple purchased a home a few years ago; it’s called Exteriors Designer Showroom Santa Fe. They have the experience of having created a designer showroom alongside their Austin store a few years ago, and saw the need for one in Santa Fe.

Hearth & Home: How did your first full-year go, after going through a rebranding and massive re-design?

Karen Galindo: “It’s been good. We’re up quite a bit, especially in Austin, and we’re looking for a good year next year. So we’re excited. We’re glad we did the big renovation; that was a big question mark. Now everything is going well and we’re excited about opening a designer showroom in Santa Fe. So I believe we’re poised to have a good year.”

What about traffic? Previously, you mentioned that traffic was down in 2014.

Galindo: “Well, it is, but big sales are up. The number of consumers coming in is down, but they make up for it with the size of the sale. That’s not necessarily a good trend.”

How is your Designer Showroom in Texas doing?

Galindo: “We don’t see a lot of variance from year to year. It pretty much plods along, but I believe we’re getting a sector of business that we wouldn’t get if we didn’t have it.

In what year did you open that showroom?

Galindo: “In 2009. Every year it’s been up a little bit. It’s not up by a large amount, but it’s steady or slightly up.”

At least it gives you a solid footing in that channel, correct?

Galindo: “If we didn’t have it, we would probably lose the majority of that business – not all of it, but the majority of it. There are people who never did business with us before and if we didn’t have it, I think they wouldn’t do business with us again.”

Exactly what does the Designer Center provide that designers couldn’t get at your other stores?

Galindo: “They don’t want to be in a retail store with all the sales, sales, sales signs and the prices listed. They don’t want their clients being exposed to that. They don’t like the lack of secrecy in terms of how the stuff is priced, and they also don’t like the products as much. Most designers are a lot more contemporary and a lot more design-oriented. It’s a different model.”

What do you give for a discount to your designers?

Galindo: “We give them anywhere from 40 to 45 or maybe up to 50 and then they have to pay freight. The margin suffers by eight to 10 percent, but we barely spend any advertising money on the Designer Showroom. So the extra eight to 10 percent we’re not making normally would be an advertising cost to us.”

How do you attract designers without advertising?

Galindo: “With the Internet and E-Blasts. We spend a little on advertising, but it’s pennies compared to what we have to do for retail, and of course networking is a big thing. Our employee who runs the Designer Showroom goes to all the designer meetings. We host events at the Designer Showroom. It’s much more a networking effort than advertising.”

What do have for square footage in your Designer Showroom in Texas, and what will you have in Santa Fe?

Galindo: “We have 5,500 sq. ft. in Austin, and in Santa Fe we’re going to have approximately 2,700.”

How long have you been going to Santa Fe?

Galindo: “The first time was in 1988 and I loved it, and it hasn’t changed much since then. We’ve been going back ever since, and finally bought a house there three years ago. We got involved in the community there and found that people were upset because they couldn’t get outdoor furniture very effectively.

“We thought about opening a retail store, but the retail base just isn’t strong enough. There are a lot of second homes and retired people, but the overall population doesn’t have the disposable income. But the people that do have the money typically will use a designer. They’re either second-home owners who need the help in procuring the goods, or they’re wealthy people who would typically use a designer anyway.

“Although we felt the market wasn’t there to support a retail store, we do think the market will support a designer showroom. We only need one person to run the store, and our ad budget is less that one percent. It’s just a whole different way of doing business.”

So you’re doing a soft opening right now, is that correct?

Galindo: “We’re about to bring the furniture in. We’ll use that for a word-of-mouth soft opening and then we’ll have a big party introducing ourselves to the designers in Santa Fe at the end of March.”

How has new construction fared in Santa Fe over the past six months or so?

Galindo: “New construction is okay. It has improved this year over previous years, but there is a ton of renovation going on that wasn’t going on before. Renovation is way up.”

A bit over a year ago you invested heavily in a re-branding and re-designing of your three stores in Texas. This year you’re opening a Designer Showroom in Santa Fe. You’re not waiting for growth, it seems, you’re going after it.

Galindo: “Yes, that’s right. You can’t sit still. We’ve asked ourselves many times, ‘Are we glad we made this massive change?’ And all I can think of is that we’re doing better than we were, in an environment where not everyone can say that.

“I think of Montgomery Ward and Radio Shack and all the companies that eventually go by the wayside. Before they do, you can walk in some of those places and feel that, ‘Yeah, they’re going to go away.’ You can feel how stagnant they are. Being stagnant is like the kiss of death for a retailer, and I don’t plan on having that happen.”

Visit the Outside in Style website.


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