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Pier 1 Betting on Contemporary Looks

Fort Worth, Texas — Out with its signature wicker wares, in with sleek wood and metal furniture pieces, said Pier 1 Imports during its third quarter earnings call on December 15.

Looking to compete in design and quality with popular mass retailers and in price against better catalogs and specialty stores, Pier 1 said it will move forward in 2006 with a new merchandising initiative that drives it away from the wicker and rattan looks it has long been known for and moves it into a more modern, contemporary direction.

Come spring, Pier 1 stores will be stocked with the new merchandise, preceded by a new catalog — the third of its kind since the rollout of the company's first in September — to 10 million customers.

“[Relative to Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn], we hope to be probably at 70 percent of their price, down 30 to 40 percent, and still have as good or better quality,” said Marvin Girouard, chairman and CEO. “We will move Pier 1 away from the mass retailers by offering unique furniture and decorative accessories with Pier 1's well established quality and value, compared to high end retailers.”

Girouard explained the new products will have “clean, simple silhouettes and fewer embellishments,” and will be focused on wood, metal, glass and ceramic constructions.

“We think this new merchandise direction can best be described as stylish, comfortable and better quality, with a compelling and modern slant,” he continued. “In house we refer to it as 'Modern meets Pier 1.'

The pricing for this new strategy calls for stronger emphasis on full and regularly priced product, away from promotional price points. But Pier 1 will still offer promotional categories “at strategic times to enhance sales. We must again establish a sense of urgency and uniqueness with customers today because items may not be there next time they come in.”

This strategy will also prompt some in-store changes, such as minimized stacking of furniture and more lifestyle presentations.

The company also discussed its holiday sales to date, which have been soft the first two weeks of December.

“We're seeing good sales in candles and pillows, and we expect home decorating to get stronger during the rest of December and certainly in January,” Girouard said. The company projects accelerated sales volume, noting that from Dec. 14 to 31, Pier 1's pricing will be “very promotional.”

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