By Lorrie Baumann
Merchandising your store’s brand as well as your products can go a long way towards making your store a destination, according to Beekman 1802 Founders Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell. The duo operates a retail store in their hometown of Sharon Springs, New York, as well as an online store, seasonal popup stores and the farm that supplies nearly everything they eat as well as ingredients for some of the products in their Beekman 1802 line of food, personal care and home décor products. The Beekman 1802 line has been called the fastest-growing lifestyle brand in the country, with food products in Williams-Sonoma and Anthropologie and home décor products in stores around the country. “A lot of lifestyle brands say they’re storytellers. Our brand is actually our life,” Kilmer-Purcell said in January during a presentation at the Las Vegas Winter Market.
The pair started their business as a way to pay off a million-dollar mortgage on the farm they bought in 2006, just before losing their New York jobs during the Recession. Beekman 1802 was originally just going to be an online business, but when business grew to the point at which they could no longer package and ship all their orders in the hallway at their house, they found an abandoned hotel building in Sharon Springs to use as a warehouse. It had an 8-foot by 12-foot room in it that they thought they could use as a retail shop. “That’s how our very first shop, 1802 Mercantile, happened,” Ridge said. “In a town of 547 people three and a half hours north of New York City, there’s not a lot of foot traffic.” The two of them decided to take cues from L.L. Bean and Stonewall Kitchen, both of which operate retail stores. “If you’re anywhere within two hours of them, you make a detour,” Ridge said.
That’s part of the reason for merchandising to tell a story about your store – it helps to make your store, not your products, the destination. “What we try to do throughout the store – and this is a trick we took from Disney. You know how when you’re in Disney, there are all these signs of Mickey that you just kind of happen on. Not everyone is going to notice it, but to the people who do notice it, it means everything,” Ridge said. “The whole philosophy of our brand is where the city meets the country. What we think is the future of retail is to make the store a gathering place for people to get a whole experience of retail. You really do have to offer that sense of theater, of discovery, to the people who come into the store.… If you can give them the moments of delight every time they come into the store, they’re going to keep coming into the store to see what you’re going to do next.”
Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell take an intensely seasonal approach to merchandising their store. Displays are themed for each of the four seasons plus the holiday season, and themes are decided and content is planned a year in advance. For instance, one winter the theme was “Cozy,” and all of the displays and featured products were organized around that theme. “Gardening” was a theme for one season, and “The Alchemy of Christmas” was a theme for one holiday season. Last year the theme was Christmas at Beekman Place, which was where Auntie Mame lived,” said Ridge. To make the Christmas tree, they found antique trunks and stacked them into the shape of a Christmas tree. To make the ornaments, they found old luggage tags online, copied them and hung them on the “tree.” We never spend a lot of money making any kind of display,” Ridge said. “It’s just about the creative energy that you put into putting it together.”
As they build displays, they make sure that their Beekman 1802 brand is included. “Think about your story and tell that story when you display the product,” Ridge said. “When they walk up to the display, they should get most of the story just from the display.”
That kind of storytelling approach to merchandising not only helps bring customers into the store and keep them there longer, it gives them a reason to take out their cell phones and photograph the display to post on their social media, Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell said. When that happens, you want your brand to be included in those photos.
“You can make a buying trip an opportunity to create content. ‘Joanne is at the show curating products for you.’ Give them a teaser about how you’re creating what will be in the store in three months,” Ridge said. “It takes so little time. You just have to think about what you want to present to your customer.”
This story was originally published in the April 2016 issue of Kitchenware News.