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Retailer-driven design debuts in Avon's 'Lab'

Recognizing the value of involving its customers in all design aspects of product development, Avonhome has evolved its format from just a showcase of finished product into something it believes will be a true differentiator.

Dubbed "Style.Lab," Avon's bright new sunlit penthouse space is in suite 1712 at 295 Fifth Ave., a 5,500-square-foot corner showroom. Lined with 20 12-foot tall windows, it fuses a traditional showroom environment with a product development studio.

"The two are no longer separate," Chris Mooney, vp, marketing and design, told HTT. "We've analyzed the marketplace and found that for us to remain relevant to retailers we need to become more important to them. You can clearly see assortments are suffering as a result of retailers sourcing themselves. We need to jog their memory and remind them of all this creativity out there for good product."

Traditionally a supplier of table linens, Avonhome recently embarked on an expansion of its offerings to include more coordinated products, such as decorative pillows, kitchen textiles, scatter rugs and throws.

The Style.Lab complements that growth. Mooney said the new space has multiple artwork stations and pin-up areas, and is equipped with a library of documents, artwork, product swatches, archival references and periodicals, as well as various traditional table linen product presentations.

"In our new environment, matriculated right within the showroom environment will be all the tools usually separated off in a distinct studio," Mooney explained. "The Style.Lab allows us to sell everything that is finished product as well as future projects still in the works but in more rudimentary stage. The buyer also becomes more a part of the process and is more committed to seeing the development through in this fashion."

The space also features a full-size 24-foot planogram run to aid customers in visualizing actual merchandising concepts.

During market this week, Avonhome's Style.Lab is carrying the company's spring 2004 line of finished product and artwork, as well as a sampling of seasonal and holiday 2004 collections on display in the large pin-up area. Its initial spring 2005 ideas are in the presentation area of the offices.

"The strategy for Avonhome is to reinforce the notion that we have considerable creative abilities to add to the product development and sourcing equation," Mooney said. "We're essentially shifting ourselves from a table linen manufacturer to a purveyor of creative merchandising ideas with an emphasis on table linens."

Also setting the right vibe for design, Mooney noted, are the many quotes from merchants adorning the walls. Among them, Edward Filene who said in 1907, "It is economic treason to shop carelessly."

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