Creating a home from home is paying off for interiors stores that make the space for room sets. Sharon Dale reports.
It’s not unusual to see someone relaxing on the sofa in front of a roaring fire at Richard Grafton’s interiors store. They may even be sipping a cup of coffee and watching a bit of telly while other shoppers admire the glamorous but cosy sitting room and adjoining dining area.
Richard and his business partner, Andrew Freestone, are enthusiastic devotees of room sets as a retail tool and have just created two more on the ground floor of the Harrogate showroom.
“We are selling a lifestyle. People often say, ‘I could move in here’ and that’s exactly the reaction we want. It’s like walking into a room except everything has a price tag on it,” says Andrew.
“It also helps if someone isn’t interested in shopping as they can sit down and watch the rugby while their partner has a good browse.”
Over at The Factory, a building at the rear of Stephen Neall interiors in Harrogate, the entire building is devoted to a series of room sets that sport products by top brands, including Poliform and Artemide.
Stephen Gee, who masterminded the look, says: “I think a lot of interiors stores put too many things into a display space. It means a customer can’t visualise what an item might look like in their own home. Here you can stand back and look and there is no distraction. We also put a minimal finish, like a black paint, on the walls for that reason. If you used a patterned wallpaper it will detract from the furniture.”
Creating life-size room sets is something that Ikea pioneered in Britain when it opened its big yellow doors in 1987.
“The experience was immersive and inherently engaging. It was saying, ‘Your home could look just like this. Or this. Or this’, “ says shopper behaviour specialist Tony Nunan, managing director of Leeds-based Visuality Group.
He says that the home from home - only better - idea works well for those retailers who have the space and interior design skills to get it right.
“Firstly, the rooms give us ideas, which is terribly important for those of us not born with the imagination of an interior designer.
“Secondly, they bring a wide range of options together in a single place. This means we have to do less homework before we go to the store, which is increasingly important in a time-poor world.
“Thirdly, they reduce risk. Furniture is a high ticket item and so mistakes can be costly and there is a widespread understanding, bordering on cynicism, that items that you see in magazines, catalogues and on-line will have been photographed in the most flattering way. Even products that we can see and touch on a shelf represent some level of risk. Will everything go together? The room set puts our mind at rest. You see what you get. There are no nasty surprises.”
* *Richard Grafton Interiors, Harrogate, www.richardgraftoninteriors.com; The Factory, Harrogate, www.thefactory.uk.com; Visuality Group, Leeds, www.visuality-group.co.uk