The Hub Cool News

West Elm

West Elm believes that a retailer’s best customer “could be a person who has never bought a single thing,” reports Danielle Sacks  in Fast Company  (April ’14). “You have to throw out the classic retail metrics,” says Abigail Jacobs, brand-marketing vp of West Elm. This new retail arithmetic is premised on the idea that, in a digital world, a bricks retailer’s edge is in its relationships.  Says West Elm president Jim Brett: “I think brick and mortar is an amazing opportunity to use our stores and our store staff as a vehicle to truly engage with the community in a way no other retailers are doing.”

In short, West Elm envisions a return “to a simpler time when you knew your shopkeeper and knew how and where your goods were made.” Accordingly, store staff is trained to “look for ways to enrich the interaction — directing them toward a nearby flower shop, say, or recommending a great local tapas restaurant.” Or, as Abigail says: “Most people have an affinity to a person who’s constantly introducing them to new things … That’s the kind of friend we want to be.”

This ethos manifests itself both in the store and in West Elm’s “home-decorating service, which sends design experts to customers’ homes — at no charge,” and helps them find what they need regardless of whether West Elm sells it. “If they find a dresser at a flea market that trumps ours, they’ll come back to us for a chair,” says West Elm’s Brad Odom. Taking it a step further, West Elm is engaging with local craftspeople to fashion custom-made pieces for customers. “We’re trying to truly scale local,” says Jim Brett. “I want West Elm to be known as the brand that does local better than anyone else in the country.”