New Orleans-area linens shop a survivor
Retail Editor 3 -- Home Textiles Today, August 31, 2012
Metairie, La. - You might say Lee McKee's luxury linens shop, The Linen Registry, could take the proverbial bullet.
Marking its 15th anniversary this year, "we've survived a lot," said founder and owner McKee, whose upscale shop is located on the main artery of this suburban New Orleans community. "Between some competition in our area, some financial troubles in our past, 9/11, Katrina and the oil spill, to name a few things that might rock a business, we've overcome a lot, and we're still here."
When McKee started the business, her neighborhood already had another prominent linens shop. She wanted to carry Palais Royale high-end linens, but the other store already had the exclusive for the area.
"So I had to figure something out," said McKee, whose shifted from graphic design to retail work for Scandia Down shops for several years. She also worked in several department stores before deciding to open her own business.
"I started to call other brands looking for other [high-end] linen lines, and that got me into cross-merchandising. It forced me to find others, like Garnier Thiebaut because Le Jacquard Francaise was part of Palais Royale. It made me learn to come up with a new bedroom look using a variety of brands and looks. And it's been my saving grace because my customers today know they can come to me for a wide array of products and price points, from an entry-level Matouk top-of-bed collection for $500 to $600 through $7,000 for a Home Treasures or SDH collection."
The Linen Registry's customers know the store as a traditional linen shop, McKee said. "I have a very small stock of product here. Everything is on the floor. And our offices and bathroom area is tiny."
Almost all of the 1,547-square-foot space is used for showcasing products.
Four display beds anchor the store, and on them McKee cross-merchandises an assortment of branded lines to create unique looks and offer décor ideas.
"It's not unusual for us to feature as many as five different brands of manufacturers on a single bed," McKee explained.
Major brands on its home textiles roster include: Scandia Home, Ann Gish, SDH, Sferra, Peacock Alley, Nancy Koltes, Yves Delorme, Matouk, Home Treasures, Anali, Home Source International, N.C. Souther Linens, Bagni Volpi Nueme (BVN), Le Jacquard Francaise, Iosis, Garnier Thiebaut, Chelsea Textiles, "etcetera," McKee said.
The store's main categories are bedding, coordinate pieces, and utility/down. "Anything that you would put on a bed, I carry."
Other home textiles offerings include bath, table linens and decorative pillows, especially in connection to top of bed looks, as well as throws.
Auxiliary categories include soaps, and silk flowers; "great little Chinoiserie figurines" and objects, frames, and other home accessories.
McKee said she works hard to create a serene store setting. "We want to create a peaceful place for them to come in to shop, and help them find what they need to make their bedrooms soothing, too, and not high energy."
There's another word McKee used for her store: "Haven."
It's what she called her store post Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans in 2005. The storm flooded her home and did worse to most of her friends and neighbors in the area.
"But I was very lucky," she recalled. "It's one thing when one's home gets flooded. But if my home and business had both been damaged, it would have been a very different dynamic for me emotionally. This store served as the normal environment for me and many of my customers during that difficult time."
As its name suggests, registries make up a component of the store's business. Bridal, for example, comprises about 10% of sales.
"I encourage my bridal customers not to worry about their beds right away," McKee said, adding that she offers gift cards as part of her bridal registry package.
"I urge them to first, finish planning their wedding, then go on the honeymoon, and then come in to the store so we can work together on their bedroom once things have had a chance to settle down."
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