Soft Surroundings (800-240-7076, softsurroundings.com), mailed its first catalog in 1999 and opened its St. Louis, MO flagship store in 2005. Today, it operates approximately 50 stores across the country with more on the way, in addition to catalog and online businesses. Merchandise ranges from women’s clothing and jewelry to bedding and home goods. Rick Torres, senrior buyer—bedding and home, Soft Surroundings, discusses elements of this omnichannel retailer’s success.
How do you decide what’s sold where: stores, catalog or online?
“Once we have settled on a theme(s), we go about deciding our feature beds—then everything just starts to fall into place around them. When considering placement, we have a discussion within the Home Team that takes into account everything from pricing to color palette. The retail buyer chooses products that she feels her in-store customers will like the most—it is a mix of product that has been chosen for the catalog and web channels, plus some items that are store only. There is overlap, as we are an omnichannel retailer.”
Do you work directly with factories or with a range of suppliers? Are designs exclusive?
“We do both—direct and a range of suppliers. We have a mix of exclusive and market items—we feel that gives us the best assortment.”
Elaborate on the brick-and-mortar and online dynamic.
“Over the past couple of years, our brick-and-mortar retail footprint has expanded dramatically. We are opening 16 new stores this year, our largest year of retail growth yet. We recently opened our 50th store—the vast majority have opened within the past three years, and we anticipate that trend will continue going forward.
“There is a very strong dynamic between brick-and-mortar and online customers. A lot of people today do their searching and fact finding online, and then come to the stores to physically touch and see. We also have many customers who are in the stores shopping and then we let them know that we have expanded online assortments in many product categories. Our online business is very good.”
What sets you apart from competing retailers?
“Our focus on our customer and what she wants. She is a busy person and after taking care of everyone else, she might get a few precious moments to relax and recharge. We have to make sure what we offer is going to help her do that—soft-to-the-touch fabrics, beautiful designs, lots of details, a feminine touch, sophisticated and casual looks.”
Shown: Soft Surroundings’ Patara quilt and Oceana pillow.