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Hearth & Home July 2014

The unveiling of the new store (Hearth & Home, July 2013).

Outside in Style: One Year Later

By Richard Wright

Giving your store a total makeover is far more difficult than you might think, says Karen Galindo – “It’s like giving birth and raising a child.”

A year after rebranding her stores and giving her Austin flagship location a total makeover, Texas casual retailer Karen Galindo is convinced she made the right decision.

Outside in Style officially launched in May 2013. The new brand succeeded Greenhouse Mall, which for more than 30 years had been the name of the family-owned casual furniture and greenhouse business.

Galindo admits that changing the name “was an emotional thing to do.” But now, she says, “We are very pleased. We feel like the brand is consistent with what we want it to be, and customers love it.”

Galindo says her biggest fear was that she would look back after all the effort and expense and say that the ordeal wasn’t worth the trouble.

That hasn’t happened.

“We’re very excited that we did it,” she says. “This year has been great.”

Galindo said in 2013 that the rebranding and makeover was a long-term investment. She did not expect to recoup the dollars spent in a single season, and that remains the case. She says that only in the fall, after the height of the 2014 casual furniture season, will she be able to tell if sales this year grew at a rate greater than normal. That will be one indicator of the makeover’s true impact.

Galindo and her team continue to learn how to make the remodeled flagship’s spaces perform optimally. “There are things that didn’t turn out the way we thought they would,” she says. “And then you go back to the drawing board.”

A smaller gallery at the flagship store, initially conceived as a showroom for wood furniture (including Gloster and Jensen Leisure products) didn’t meet expectations. The space has been reset as a more contemporary gallery, Galindo says, “and now we absolutely love it.”

Another positive innovation was the introduction of design  centers, spaces where Outside in Style staff can sit down and work side by side to create and furnish Outdoor Rooms. The design centers “turned out better than we thought,” Galindo says. The experience is just not the same as working across a sales counter with swatch books and brochures.

“We’re all clerks at sales counters,” she says. In the design center, casual furniture experts help customers solve problems and achieve goals.

The rebranding/remodeling project forced the retailer to make a clean break with its legacy image and reemerge looking “like a 21st century store,” Galindo says.

When she looks at before and after photos, she says the difference is shocking. National chains redesign the look and feel of stores regularly, Galindo points out. She recommends that special retailers make and review store photos on a regular basis. The practice, she says, forces the owner to see a store through a customer’s eyes. Photos also make it possible to compare the current iteration to how a store looked in 2009, 2004 and even earlier.

If there’s not an obvious evolution in the showroom’s appearance, Galindo says that’s a symptom of complacency. In all likelihood, customers don’t find that store’s environment fresh, exciting and competitive in the 21st century.

“Take photos inside and out, and look at them with an objective eye,” Galindo recommends. “That’s how your customer is seeing it.”

She says veteran specialty retailers should take a hard look at their brand and overall retail presentation, asking if the status quo is state-of-the-art and competitive in today’s marketplace. Will it be competitive five years from now?

If not, perhaps a remake is in order – but only if a retailer is willing to make the sacrifice. Galindo compares the makeover experience to that of giving birth and raising a child.

“It was so much harder than I thought it would be,” she says. “Don’t underestimate how difficult and time-consuming it is.”

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