retailNEXT: Moe’s Grows

A retail licensing program supports the wholesaler’s brand and product expansion
April 13, 2017Joanne Friedrick

By Joanne Friedrick

MoesfurnituredinningMoe’s furniture is a mix of rustic, industrial and modern styles.
With one licensed store already operating in Victoria, British Columbia, and another slated to debut in Sioux Falls, S.D., next month, Moe’s Home Collection is steadily building its retail presence, but without the overhead of owning more outlets.

The wholesale supplier of home furnishings owns and operates four Moe’s stores—two in Vancouver and one each in Seattle and Tukwila, Wash. In August, Curtis Vertefeuille, a former Moe’s store manager, became the company’s first licensee doing business from a 2,300-square-foot storefront on Vancouver Island.

At 50,000 square feet, the Moe’s flagship store in Vancouver is a showplace for all of the Moe’s furniture and home accessory products. Vertefeuille’s store, however, is a much more curated version, offering top sellers, such as beds and upholstered items, and “bits and pieces of different collections” that are rotated almost weekly, he said. He also uses an online catalog to show customers other styles and colors from Moe’s that he can order or bring over from his warehouse.

Having worked for Moe’s in Vancouver for 10 years, making the leap to becoming Moe’s first licensee wasn’t that difficult, said Vertefeuille. “It took the fear out of opening the business because I knew the culture of the company. It has been a great fit,” he said.

MoeSamieian SaraSamieianPresident Moe Samieian Jr. and his sister, Sara Samieian, general manager of retail for Moe’s Home Collection.
The Victoria store is actually on the small side of what President Moe Samieian Jr., and his sister, Sara Samieian, general manager of retail, envision for licensees. “Ideally, the size will be about 10,000 to 15,000 square feet,” said Samieian Jr., who noted the Sioux Falls store will be 5,000 square feet, which is in line with the Seattle location.

But the look and feel is the same as any Moe’s store from the signage to the concrete floors and high ceilings. And there will be plenty of open space to create vignettes with the furniture.

“It’s a lifestyle store,” explained Samieian, “with upbeat music and outgoing staff.” And while Millennials are a key demographic for the company’s modern, rustic and industrial looks, so are professionals 35 to 50 and even retirees, she said.

Which is why Sioux Falls was an attractive market. “Sioux Falls is affluent and has been growing quite a bit,” said Samieian Jr. “We were looking to partner with the right person and in a geographic area that made sense.”

Moe’s also has active, large wholesale accounts in the area and the licensee already has a lifestyle store, said Samieian, which helps with the transition. Vertefeuille has been in contact with the Sioux Falls owner as well, sharing ideas on planning and opening the store.

MoesVictoriaAt the Victoria store, furnishings are changed out often to give customers a taste for the entire Moe’s collection.
Licensees can get as much assistance with their stores as they need, said Samieian, from help with choosing business cards, tags and bag designs to aid with developing the floor plan and design build-out. “We put them in touch with our POS software company and facilitate that whole process,” she said. “Really A to Z.”

Samieian Jr. said while growth of the licensing concept will be “organic,” they are planning on having four stores by the end of 2017, including one in Vancouver, and “maybe another 10” in 2018. Moe’s wholesale side supplies more than 1,000 stores, but the Samieians don’t see the development of the licensed brand interfering with their wholesale business.

For one thing, said Samieian, licensed stores are required to follow the same pricing structure as the wholesale customers, so prices will be competitive.

In fact, said Samieian Jr., a strong retail presence has proven to be a boon for the wholesale side, as evidenced by what happened in Victoria. “We had no wholesale customers there,” he said, “but now [that the store has opened] we have inquiries from some wholesale customers.”

Growth through licensing is about increasing brand recognition, he said. “We made the decision that rather than open more stores, we would bring on people who could do that part of it. This helps us grow our product line.”

Accessory Pod Concept

Product diversification is part of the plan, with continued expansion into rugs, lighting and even throws. “We’re looking at more items that are complementary to the bigger furniture pieces,” said Samieian. One of the ways in which Moe’s is achieving this is through its accessory pod concept, which it developed in concert with Connie Post, a retail design and product development strategist. Moe’s launched six pods at October’s High Point Market and is now adding another three based on the positive response, said Samieian Jr.

The idea is to create 800-square-foot home accessory centers within a store so customers can easily find coordinating pieces, like the Gold Dust selection, featuring black and gold pieces. Each pod includes one or two pieces of wall art, an open shelving unit and accessories like pendant and floor lamps and accent pillows. Sometimes a bed or sofa is added to the scene to demonstrate how to mix in the accessories, he said.

“It’s great for larger stores where the accessories can get lost,” said Samieian. “This way customers who may be focused on gold and black, for example, can easily see it.”

One thing the industry won’t see from Moe’s is a direct-to-consumer online sales presence. They’ll leave that to customers like Wayfair. “We don’t want to sell our furniture directly to consumers online,” said Samieian Jr. “We prefer for stores to sell it.”

But they will see an evolution in materials, colors, even the countries from which the Samieians buy. “The trends are constantly changing, so we’re always changing,” said Samieian. “That’s one of the things you can count on about Moe’s.”

Joanne FriedrickJoanne Friedrick | Contributing Editor

Joanne Friedrick is a contributing editor for HFN with more than 20 years of retail and housewares business reporting, writing and editing. For the past 15 years she has been operating her own business with clients that include Convenience Distribution, Seafood Source and Zest, a Maine-focused consumer food and lifestyle magazine.

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