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Artnova: Retail Profile

Furniture World Magazine


Anthony DaSilva is looking to surround and conquer his market with good planning, focused buying and targeted selling.

“At Artnova We Focus On Lifestyle Room Settings on helping customers visualize what the sofas, loveseats, chairs, tables, and so forth would look like in their own homes."

Right from the get go, Anthony was a force to be reckoned with. It was a busy morning in the store, particularly in the electronics section, and a customer was interested in a radio marked at a sale price. He offered $110. Anthony countered with $115. They settled for $114. Anthony was eight years old at the time.

Anthony, now 27, is the energetic General Manager of Artnova Furniture Plus, a 23,000 square foot facility located at Guelph, Ontario, the second of two family stores. As with most entrepreneurial endeavors, it's a great story.

The patriarch, grandfather Arnaldo DaSilva, was one of the first to immigrate to Toronto from Portugal back in 1954. Almost 20 years later, his son, Manuel, was one of Toronto's finest, a police officer, when Helena, his wife, became pregnant with Anthony. Two weeks after the happy announcement, two of Manuel's colleagues were shot and killed. The couple agreed that he should seek a different, less hazardous career, and Manuel joined the staff, part-time, of Rochester Furniture, a 16,000 square foot store located in downtown Toronto, at College and Bathurst. Within a very short time, it became apparent that a star was born. The part timer was outselling the full-timers.

In 1978, Rochester Furniture opened their Mississauga outlet and Manuel took over the downtown location. Helena then and now is the store's accessory buyer. She also masterminds interior decor. In the early '90s, the DaSilvas changed the name to Artnova. "Dad wanted to create his own identity. Now everyone knows Artnova and my Dad! "
Anthony attended Toronto's legendary St. Michael's College School, excelled in sports, then at the University of Western Ontario won honors in Business Administration. During high school years, he met Gwen, a student at Havergal College, also a graduate of UWO in Fine Arts. The sweethearts married in September of 1999.

Meanwhile, Manuel's planning couldn't have been better. He had been scouting the Guelph area (about an hour and a half 's drive west of Toronto) for a satellite store, and spotted the well-located Woodlawn Road premises. It had housed another furniture store that went out of business, but Manuel saw its potential and acquired the building in March of 1996. Said Anthony, “I finished school in May of that same year. It was perfect timing!

"We picked up some of the previous store's customers but we have evolved considerably in the four years since then. It was a price conscious, warehouse concept. At Artnova we focus on lifestyle room settings, on helping customers visualize what the sofas, loveseats, chairs, tables, and so forth would look like in their own homes."

Very important to Artnova's business operation is the thriving Cantrex Buying Group, steered by the dynamic Steve Braniff. "As a member of Cantrex's Furniture Plus, Artnova has the buying power of the 48 member group, more punch than some of the big stores like The Bay. My Dad is a believer; he was one of the first Cantrex members."

Not only is Artnova's buying power enhanced, but they share the benefits of the Cantrex design staff who regularly conceptualize ads, flyers and radio commercials based on meticulously researched national and international marketing intelligence. Anthony edits copy to suit his store's specific requirements.

"The Guelph demographic is blue collar. It's a factory town with a population of 96,000, and we're surrounded by a strong farming community and a number of prosperous southwestern Ontario centers like Owen Sound to the north, Peterborough to the east and Chatham to the west. We compete with 11 other home furnishings stores in Guelph. The majority of our customers come from Guelph, and 35 to 40 percent from the Kitchener/ Waterloo/ Cambridge region, about 18 kilometers away. It's a very different market from Toronto.

"For us, radio is the strongest medium. Kitchener's CHYM-FM dominates the area and reaches all our most important communities. It's the very best way to spend our advertising dollars. We're also involved in print advertising with The Guelph Mercury once each month that complements twice-issued 44,000 flyer inserts covering Guelph and the surrounding areas.

"Direct mail to preferred customers has had excellent response. We have 7,000 names now. Every time someone makes a purchase, his or her name is added to the list. These are the very best names, the people that trust you, that have already done business with you and will come back. We have bought lists, too, from Toronto, consumers within our demographic."
Anthony told us his target customers are women since they "make 95 to 98 percent of the purchases", their ages ranging from 25 to 54, typical incomes from $35,000 to $70,000. "Men buy the electronics and women buy the wall unit to put them in!"

There have been occasional events, some sports related with high profile players in attendance. One such brought out 1200 customers to meet, mingle and buy. And there are periodic sales. The Boxing Week (the week following the Christmas/New

holidays) was very successful, particularly in promotionally priced chairs, El Ran's motion chairs in particular.
Both DaSilvas do most of their buying at the two Toronto Home Furnishings Markets at the International Centre. "I make 70 percent of my purchases at Markets and 30 percent from reps. At High Point I get ideas rather than product, other than some casegoods for exclusivity. But all our upholstery comes from Canada."

Gwen attends the big Toronto Gift Shows twice each year with him. "She is my very important sounding board," said Anthony, "and she helps with accessorizing the store."

His "top suppliers are Decor-Rest and Sklar. They fight each other for top place at my store. Decor-Rest leads for fashion-forward styling, comfort and fabrics. El Ran is my motion supplier, and Trendline fills our contemporary needs."

Anthony has been a Trillium Awards Judge for the past two years and has found it to be "very educational, a real learning experience. It has given me the opportunity to meet many new suppliers, people I certainly would not ordinarily meet." We interviewed him last year for our annual review of Trillium winners and happenings* and he provided us with his predictions for the year 2000. "I did hit my goals this past year, although it has been a little bit hit and miss. The economy hasn't been as solid and the U.S. market has been uneasy. Then, of course, we had two elections, the U.S. and our own. People are talking recession and I don't think we'll have one but we will, perhaps, have a lower increase in sales than usual. Last year the industry increase was nine percent; this year it will probably be more like three or four percent. Any growth is good growth. All the Trillium Judges think similarly," he confided.

There's no doubt that Anthony and Gwen will not be tempted to move to the Big City. Their hobby farm home is set on two acres with 11 more in pasture to make welcome some horses down the way. Gwen is a busy salesperson for Oland Specialty Beer Company, a Division of Labatt's when she's not advising Anthony about accessories, and she is also an accomplished equestrienne.

His crystal ball? He grinned, "I'm going to surround and conquer this market. If you're going to do something, do it well! Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge is a significant area for growth. In the future, we might expand to some more locations."