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Retail Sustainable Success Story: "The Arrangement"

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 148 NO.2 March/April


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Texas retailer provides “The Best of the New West” with an elevated design sensibility, a commitment to customer service, sustainability and conservation. 


The Arrangement sprang into action more than three decades ago, led by Katherine Snedeker, founder, president and interior designer. Winner in 2016 of the National ARTS Award for Best Furniture Showroom in the United States, The Arrangement, in the fall of 2017, then achieved the Sustainable Furnishings Council’s coveted #GetYourGreenOn accolade, the Sustainable Design Excellence Award.

This spring Katherine was responsible for the renovation of one of the Platinum Level clubs at the American Airlines Centre in Dallas, executed entirely with sustainable and environmentally responsible casual luxury furnishings, all designed by Snedeker and crafted from natural and reclaimed materials. The Centre itself, home base of the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars, has won many architectural and design awards.

 

At The Arrangement’s two locations, Dallas and Houston, each with 15,000 square feet of showroom space, Katherine and her Team offer her own line of the truly unique, a distillation of western heritage once “mom and pop” home furnishings elevated to exciting, bespoke high-end, elegant interpretations of interior spaces and furnishings. What Arrangement calls, “The Best of the New West”.

Inspired Sustainable Design

The link with SFC totally compliments Katherine’s philosophy and commitment to recycling and responsible design. “The spirit of all the visual elements of the American West are pure inspiration and the message of The Arrangement. Modern, clean lines with fundamental rustic materials creating a noteworthy visual impact is our daily mission, we’re committed to sustainability and conservation, reducing our carbon footprint at every possible turn.”

Funny and Enjoyable

The people of The Arrangement are “Proponents of healthier, happier, sustainable interiors. We spend a lot of money educating our clients. We invite them to lectures and classes and events so that they can learn more about the sustainable movement. We call it ‘Saving the Universe one beautiful, sustainable room at a time’. That’s our mission and we take it seriously, but we make it funny and enjoyable. We don’t beat them over the head with it!”

Since the very beginning, Katherine has been seeking that inspiration and the superb craftsmanship of regional western artisans and others from around the world. She works with small guilds designing top quality one-of-a-kind pieces. She designs and curates every item in The Arrangement’s showrooms. The furniture mix includes reclaimed woods from England, Brazil and the American West. Recycled wood from old demolished Brazilian factories are fashioned into living, dining and bedroom pieces. Beams are harvested from castles. Roots are dug up after trees have been cut down. Sometimes buying salvaged materials involves rummaging through piles of debris, digging to find the best pieces! The result, furniture with stories to tell, intrinsically a part of history.

 

Said Cheryl Davis, Arrangement’s hands-on director of marketing, “Katherine is the sole buyer. She attends markets that focus on vendors who are members of The Sustainable Furnishings Council. However, most of our extraordinary product is found through her travels or is designed by Katherine and made to her specifications. As a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, Katherine makes sure that she is keeping our planet green by insisting on reclaimed wood, copper and other elements for her products.”

Katherine continued, “We’re focused on rustic modern furniture that is bolder and more custom than most. More than 40 percent of our offerings are verified sustainable. We love salvage, finding things and turning them into furniture. We don’t do cookie cutter. Our clients come in every couple of months to see what’s new.”

The 2017 SFC Award celebrated Katherine’s re-purposing of a 1978 storage warehouse for residential use. She chose to feature product lines from SFC members Feizy, Classic Home, Phillips Collection, Loloi and Vanguard Furniture.

Described as “open, airy and one-of-a-kind”, the site presented many unexpected challenges. Environmental soil testing and asbestos removal was necessary, as well as a customized retractable window shade system to block sunlight and to insulate in the winter.

“The upmost issue became the health and well-being of the inhabitants”, explained Katherine. “When we discovered asbestos on some of the building surfaces, we followed EPA hazmat standards for removal of the contaminated surfaces. The environmental footprint took on greater importance as we progressed, refining the intent of the project, and being as eco-minded as possible.

“The design aesthetics were critical, too, as open great room spaces are difficult to make intimate and welcoming. Muted colors of antique wool rugs were used as the foundation of the design. Responsibly sourced wood-and-steel live-edge tables are easily clustered together or separated depending upon the client’s needs. And the 12-foot wood slab sofas are backed by recycled metal and covered in low-emission fabrics with a high cotton content.”

Said Cheryl, “We have leveraged the SFC Award into a major marketing platform focused on disseminating the ‘what’s it made of’ pledge.”

Just in case you’re wondering about the origin of the company’s appellation, it developed from Katherine’s revelation that “the placement of pieces is what makes any room inviting and inclusive, hence the name ‘The Arrangement’.”

Cheryl described the Team’s special response to their clients. “The Arrangement provides concierge service to each guest. They are greeted promptly, offered refreshments and given a tour of the store while sharing a brief history of The Arrangement and its owner/interior designer. Design services are executed, including taping out the client’s space on the showroom floor and inserting furniture so the client can see a room as it would actually look in their home.”

 

(The showrooms’ eco-friendly status, “Since 2005, the showrooms went from incandescent to compact florescent to LEDs. At this same time, we also started using wind energy. So it’s a great environment in which to interact!)

“Once a purchase is made, an appointment is scheduled for The Arrangement to oversee the completion of the in-home installation. On completion, the room/home is party-ready for any event, or for the homeowners to sit back and enjoy their luxurious new space.

“We regularly make house calls to do complete installations or resolve any customer service issues. We also bring items that customers are considering so they can visualize them in their space before making a final decision.

“Our design services and installation services are complimentary. The Arrangement’s focus over the years has been to deliver products and a level of customer service that changes the game on how people shop for furniture.”

This coming year, The Arrangement is focusing on “streamlining the purchasing process for customers and increasing efficiency, starting by upgrading our technology with a new POS system that will allow us to create visual selling tools and better incorporate our e-commerce platform. This will remove a lot of friction from the buying process and improve customer relations. And we have hired a consultant to assist us in the implementation process to ensure a seamless transition.”

Katherine’s vision encompasses giving clients the ability to order custom furnishings that tell a story for them. She is a pioneer in the creation of a store environment that encourages clients to participate in the entire process.

 

Assembling just the right people as Team members can be challenging, but Cheryl said, “The Arrangement always has room for ethical, creative, hardworking, loyal talent. Although we use standard recruiting techniques, we do rely on our reputation to pull talent into our company. The Arrangement is known for its hardworking, fun-loving, well compensated loyal employees! This reputation brings excellent candidates to us, which makes the recruiting process very pleasant and effective.

“We provide exceptional benefits and bonus plans for our approximately 30 full time employees.

“Integrity and hard work are at the core of everything we do. Whatever it takes we do it together! We endeavor to go the extra mile and constantly strive to increase the scope of our influence both inside and outside of the company. We have a culture of celebration that drives a sense of belonging for anyone who chooses to join us. And we promote from within. We have had staff move from the warehouse to the sales team because they showed the desire and the natural ability. Humor is honored and encouraged each and every day. Enjoying what you do is a career, no matter what it is.

”Most of our employees have been with us five, eight, 13 years.”

“Our Design Team represents our dedication to creating a custom, seamless experience for each client. The Team attends design seminars on a monthly basis to learn new concepts, furniture and trends in the market.

“And our Stock and Repair team also attend training regularly to learn how to fix and repair merchandise in addition to learning how to set and stock the showroom floor.

 

 

Marketing for The Arrangement is broad spectrum and lively. Cheryl’s expertise, “Although The Arrangement uses multiple channels for marketing such as TV, social media, periodicals, direct mailing and monthly newsletters sent via email, our most successful marketing is done by our amazing clients referring family and friends. The Arrangement has generations of clients that shop with us now and have for the past 30 years. We have clients of all ages that come to us and exclaim, ‘I can finally take this off my bucket list! I’ve waited my whole life to have my home designed and installed by The Arrangement!’”

Some analysis. “Magazine and television advertising continues to drive our sales. Our customers’ appetite for visual images motivates them to routinely come into the store with the pictures on their phone or in hand. Our message is focused on how to make every space casual, elegant, sustainable and noteworthy. We are always highlighting what is new and reasons to stop by.

“Via snail mail, our target marketing for direct mail is new homeowners in metroplex areas. With each mailer we introduce ourselves to potential new clients and aim to cover all major categories, living, dining, bedroom and one accent statement piece from a top selling category. The response rate to our direct mailers is astounding; it has doubled our complete home sales per month. Customers have commented that they are so inspired by our mailers that they feel confident we can complete their entire project. Traffic across all channels increases dramatically once a brochure is sent.

“Our billboards. We have a targeted billboard advertisement in the exclusive Galleria area, located at our exit on a major toll road in order to capture immediate traffic. Our viewpoint for outdoor advertising is to introduce ourselves to customers as the ideal resource for uncommon décor. The message entices drivers sitting in traffic to come experience our exclusive, beautiful handcrafted furniture. We use lifestyle interiors, humor and heartfelt community messages to engage customers in their daily commute. Our clients regularly mention our billboards when working with our sales teams. We rotate our message at minimum sixteen times per year or more frequently for special events or social media campaigns.

“We made a push into social media and email this year rolling out a new email campaign each month with a 60 percent open rate and 24 percent click rate. We have an active and growing base of followers that we engage through visual stories on Instagram, blog posts with videos and tweets. Katherine hosted a series of educational videos designed to instruct people on how to decrease their carbon footprint, cut costs and create a healthier home environment by minimizing unhealthy materials in living spaces. The videos increased our following by 50 percent. We continually revamp our website as more customers are visiting us digitally.

 

“Our outreach, we work through multi-channels including hosting events.

“By co-hosting a booth at Earth Day Texas we engage consumers, educating them on cost saving opportunities that provide a health benefit in their home. Our marketing message was ‘Sinner or Saint’, what is your carbon footprint and ways to improve it. Attendees at the event loved the buttons and were highly engaged in finding out their footprint!

“Our resident team mascot, Dirty Monkee, attended Market at High Point, North Carolina, this year. Since he is very focused on deforestation, he is an official registered buyer at our showroom!”

Community Outreach

“The Arrangement in both Dallas and Houston is very active. From hosting events in one of our showrooms, donating items to auctions, to buying steers at the Houston Auction, The Arrangement gives back to the community and philanthropic organizations year ‘round. We’re committed to being a responsible neighbor.

“During the devastating floods in Houston last year, Katherine called each employee to make sure they had food, shelter and water. She then reached out to clients to make sure they were secure and safe.
“Her next call was to The Houston Furniture Bank, asking when she could start sending truckloads of furniture to help those in need. She continues to send furniture, and was recently honored by The Houston Furniture Bank for her generous, ongoing donations.

“Other organizations that The Arrangement partners with include The American Heart Association, Equest, SPCA, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Living for Zachery, American Veterans and Habitat for Humanity.

“Citizens for Animal Protection (CAPs) in Houston came to our attention via a client. They’re devoted to the care and fostering of all animals. We sponsored a fund-raising meeting providing music, catering and fun. The CAPs group sold bottles of wine, their goal was 30 bottles. Not only did the event hit the target but we exceeded the goal by an additional 20. And celebrity dogs attended the event!

 

“We also sponsored an event for US Vets Houston, funding the meeting and donating furniture for their community space as well as an auction item that raised $6,000 for the organization. This was inspired by our experience at the 2017 ARTS/IDS Conference. The community project included installing lighting, art and accent items for US Veterans housed at the US Vets Phoenix organization.

“And for the last 10 years, we’ve supported the Houston Livestock & Rodeo. Their auctions raise money to sponsor Texas youth that participate in Future Farmers of America in order to help them attend college. The participants work throughout the year to attend the auction and only 17 percent of students qualify.”
“Katherine has become a certified GREENleader, taking certification training courses annually. And she has shared this training with her staff. She also speaks on several panels discussing the importance of conservation and utilizing reclaimed materials.

The Sustainability Pledge

We remain committed to responsible design and conservation through creating sustainable furnishings and reducing our carbon footprint. We do so by ensuring our products do not have chemical off-gases and by promoting conservation at every point in our supply chain. We reuse salvaged elements in a re-imagined way to reduce our impact wherever possible.

“Our partnership with the American Airline Center is an additional marketing channel for us, an exciting opportunity as we are reaching new customer demographics. We have already received interest and orders since the soft launch.

“And we have increased our commercial design work, crafting inspiring lobbies, executive offices, athletic clubs and local banking chains. Our philosophy when designing corporate spaces is to revolutionize the commercial design concept, adding scale and creating environments that express the company’s culture through the dialogue of the furniture.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Commercial clients love our take on making their office space interesting, grand and expressive of who they are.”

Said Katherine, “The new consumer cares. I believe Millennials are looking for a reason to purchase and for them it’s about a lot more than price. At the same time, Houston was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey and our clients now are re-designing and re-thinking their homes, not just making them whole again. They are seizing the opportunity to update and change things, and I think we’ll see even more focus on sustainability in 2018.”

And Susan Inglis, Executive Director of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, added, “Katherine Snedeker at The Arrangement has made good use of SFC’s educational programming, herself earning GREEN Accredited Professional and also providing SFC training to her sales staff and buying team.
“Katherine is making a difference in Texas and throughout her complex global supply chain. Others will profit in following her example!”

Janet Holt-Johnstone is retail editor at Furniture World Magazine.
Read other articles by Janet Holt-Johnstone