How Interior Define’s secret sauce saved it from supply chain meltdowns

A direct-to-consumer furniture seller opening stores? Check. Seen.

This DTC retailer is expanding its assortment and moving into larger physical locations? Check. I went there, it’s done.

A furniture retailer not getting tripped up by supply chain and inventory issues? Wait, that’s something we haven’t seen much before.

Being a custom upholstered furniture retailer has proven to be the secret sauce to Interior Define’s recent success and continued expansion into physical retail. Since it has no inventory of finished goods and caters to a customer who understands the time constraints of special-order upholstered products, the 8-year-old company has cleverly stayed away when it comes to It’s about managing inventory logistics.

Andrew NeonCourtesy of Inside Set

As the company explores domestic manufacturing, it currently sources from factories in China and Vietnam. Given its make-to-order model, the brand hasn’t suffered from the shortages brought on by the pandemic, or the more recent excesses experienced by many furniture sellers. “All our furniture is made to order, so our customers are used to long delivery times”, Andrew Neon, vice president of finance and growth for Interior Define, tells Business of Home. “Supply chain delays have not been an issue for us.”

As a growth executive, Neelon has certainly had his hands full lately. Interior Define was launched in 2014 as an online-only seller of custom upholstery fabrics. Company Founder Rob Royer, who left the company in 2020, opened the brand’s first test store in Chicago a few years later, then gradually expanded. “It’s always been obvious that this category needs stores,” says Neelon, explaining that while the final purchase may not take place at the physical location, the brand quickly realized that Buyers had to see the product in person before placing their order. .

As of 2020, the company had stores in eight major metropolitan areas, all modest in size at around 2,500 square feet. Even when the pandemic hit, limiting in-store activity across the home sector, Interior Define continued to grow, reaching 14 locations by the end of 2021. Along with this expansion came a larger footprint – some of the new outposts have doubled in size, to an average of 5,500 square feet. New stores, including stores in Minneapolis and Baltimore opening this month, have enough space to house work areas where shoppers can sit around a table and compare fabrics, wood finishes and other upholstery components.

This year, the number of Interior Define stores is expected to double again, to at least 30 (and possibly as many as 33 locations, depending on leases and store layouts). That total could be even higher, although Neelon cautions that “we don’t open stores just to chase numbers.” Larger-format stores, potentially as large as 10,000 square feet, are another option, although nothing has been confirmed yet.

How Interior Define's secret sauce saved it from supply chain meltdowns

A collection of Interior Define pieces, including the Hollis dining chairCourtesy of Inside Set

Regardless of size, brand stores have popped up in high-level shopping areas. “We think you fish where the fish are,” says Neelon. A recently opened store in the Dallas market, for example, is in the furniture-centric Knox-Henderson neighborhood, not far from retailers like RH, Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn. Similarly, the Brooklyn store is in the trendy and expensive neighborhood of Williamsburg, in other words, where the “fish” are.

Interior Define continued to work on its e-commerce presence while using online ordering algorithms to map its next physical locations. According to Neelon, tracking the volume of business done online versus in-store commerce has become largely meaningless given the omnichannel nature of the buying process. Instead, opening a physical store drives sales in that community across the board. “We know that as the number of our stores grows, our e-commerce business also grows,” he says. “When we add a store to a marketplace, our business explodes.”

Interior Define has further enhanced its omnichannel capabilities by launching its first print catalog this spring, layering the direct mail lookbook with its social media advertising and promotion activities. Taken together, all of these changes contributed to what Neelon says was double-digit growth in May, even as some of the largest publicly traded retailers reported slowdowns. “The new stores are doing incredibly well. We are surprised at how well they are doing,” says Neelon. As a private company – it has secured venture capital funding from several backers, including Pritzker Group, Listen Ventures, Breakout Capital, Fifth Wall and Peterson Ventures – Interior Define does not publish its financial results.

Ultimately, Neelon says there is no blueprint to go public or cash out. For now, growth seems to be how the company, true to its name, defines itself.

Homepage Photo: Largest Footprint of New Interior Define Stores Allows for Spacious Workstations | Courtesy of Inside Set

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Warren Shoulberg is the former editor of several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at Columbia University Graduate School of Business; received honors from the International Furnishings and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; and was quoted by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading industry expert. Its Retail Watch columns offer in-depth information on key markets and product categories.

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