Monday, July 26, 2004
Just saw this article about the Queer Eye guy trying to save Pier 1.
TO: Pier 1
FROM: Procrastination Nation
RE: Your stores
I saw that you changed ad agencies recently in addition to changing your spokespersons. Ditching Kirstie Alley for Thom Filicia is a definite improvement; classic addition by subtraction.
However, your problem is not the ads or even the spokersperson. Your problems are price and design.
First, your stuff is overpriced, though that only matters to cheapskates like me. You've probably been overpriced for decades, but it's a problem now that more people are settling for Wal-Mart decor. Come up with something unique about your design that sets you apart from that crap, yet also sets you apart from your traditional wicker origins.
This is where problem two comes in: your stores are a total clutter fest. How can a design store exhibit so little sensitivity to design in the layout of its stores? I've been in Wal-Marts that have less crap crammed into the aisles than Pier 1. A couple of things here. First, keep some stuff in the back. I'll take your word for it that there are 20 plates of the same type available. This may mean reducing some retail footage at some stores for back of the house storage, but it'd be worth it, especially if you could improve inventory and shipping so that there are no real time delays when somebody buys the last armoire.
Also, really, some of this stuff--does anybody buy it? Cut some of the more ridiculous clutter junk out. Your competitors are not just in substitute products but in complementary products. Have you completely missed the trend of organization-specific stores, de-cluttering magazines and t.v. shows, and a general trend toward to simplification. Your stores are a nightmare shopping experience for these folks.
Which leads me to the bigger problem, design. Create spaces that show off Pier 1's design sensibilities. For starters, divide the space up some. One of the things that keeps Restoration Hardware from being a total disaster is that they group their items into separate spaces, yet because their wall dividers do not go all the way up or all the way around the "room" the spaces feel more open. What would be really cool is to have a system of screens (like at a portrait studio) or folding panels that would allow you to change room colors to basic palettes to help the less visionary among your crowd. This also gives you a way to differentiate yourself from RH--which doesn't create vignettes so much as stopping areas for customers--and other up-scale places by showing off design, which makes the rooms more accessible to buyers. Hire some designers to redeploy your inventory in the store. You can hire one team to standardize all your stores, or hire regionally to emphasize things special to different areas (outdoor fireplaces are probably not necessary in New Orleans and Miami).
Also, has there been no innovation in the world of wood-based furnitures? Your niche is for classy casual comfort, and a certain amount of wicker and bamboo is to be expected. Still, you may want to consider adding some designs that are true to Pier 1's style yet different enough to be eye-catching to people who are bored with Pier 1 and feel like they "know what I'm getting." Wake them up!
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