Learn more about Room and Board’s Business Interiors division and how they are making a name for themselves in the commercial furniture industry.
As the boundaries between workplace and residential design elements are becoming more blended, we wanted to continue our exploration of how consumer-facing, retail entities are now engaging with more commercial clients. What is interesting is how each company has integrated this constituency into their business plans. We recently connected with Nicole Gaynor, who leads Room & Board’s Business Interiors market segment. We have noted over the past year or so, in our project profiles, that more product credits are going to retail resources. Nicole graciously gave us insight into Room & Board’s unique spin on how they approach commercial customers and are working to expand this part of their business.
The trend to include more residential product in contract design, especially the workplace has been accelerating at a rapid pace. When did you start to think about how to incorporate this as a business strategy?
Here is how Business Interiors was born; a local Minneapolis customer came to us back in 2005 asking if R&B could provide pieces that would help give their boutique hotel a more comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. A little more than a year after that project, our Business Interiors division launched. It wasn’t a decision we made lightly. As a company that believes in standing behind its products for every customer, we did our research to make sure our products could withstand the contract and hospitality environment. Our quality standards are high for the residential side of our business, so most of our furniture is already suitable for commercial spaces. Some items we upgrade structurally for commercial clients while still staying true to our modern aesthetic.
Where did you start seeing those changes occur and how did they manifest themselves?
Growth was very organic; we had multiple existing residential customers who started purchasing our furniture for their businesses. They loved the design, appreciated the quality and value of our product as well as the relationships and experiences they had with Room & Board as a company. Our goal has always been to deliver the same high-touch service we offer our residential customers to our Business Interiors customers.
Are there any trends or groups of products that lead the way for your push into the commercial market?
Our Top + Base table and desk program is a commercial customer favorite. We stock a vast number of base designs, top materials and sizes. In addition to all the design options available, our lead time for in-stock items can be as fast as six days for clients near our stores. Things we believe in for all our customers–offering lots of options, working within the U.S., keeping pieces in stock–really resonate with contract customers, too.
How do you differentiate from dealing with commercial clients as opposed to residential customers?
We support an omni-channel experience for all our customers and have many business customers who purchase through our showrooms and the website. We allow our customer to choose which option works best for them unless they have special requirements that would steer them to our Business Interiors team. (Payment terms, POs, special delivery requirements, etc.) We have experienced staff and the capability to scale project support to our commercial customers’ requirements.
Are you creating different market segments and changing up product lines and advertising for example to meet the different market needs?
We know from our 13 years of experience with Business Interiors that our product quality is up to the challenge of high-use spaces, but we’d like to build even more confidence in our customers by expanding our commercial testing. Several of our products, like our office chairs from Humanscale and Okamura and some dining chairs, pass BIFMA standards and we’re looking to add more. We also just started testing all of our fabrics to the Association of Contract Textiles performance guidelines, which allows us to direct commercial customers to the best fabric for their specific requirements. We think our residential customers will appreciate having a better understanding of our fabric standards, too, since commercial fabrics are also great for families with kids and pets.
What are the top sellers for contract projects?
Our Parsons and Portica Top + Base tables and desks, Montego outdoor furniture, Callan lounge chairs and our Slim accent tables lead the way on contract sales. These are all time-tested Room & Board designs with broad appeal and great durability.
What kind of internal team(s) support commercial clients?
We have a dedicated team that works out of our Minneapolis central office who work exclusively with business customers. The Business Interiors team is made up of Project Coordinators who can help with project management, space planning, payment terms and coordinating large quantity purchases. They are an experienced team who tailors their services to whatever our commercial customers need in the moment.
Are there any challenges with setting up logistics for contract clients/projects?
Contract clients expect to have “quick ship” options to keep their project timelines on track. One of our challenges is communicating that our standard delivery process is what many other retailers would call “quick ship.” For locations near our stores, we offer white-glove, flat-rate delivery in as few as six days. Plus, our custom lead times are typically only 4-8 weeks because we work with American manufacturers which reduces the shipping time significantly.
All images are courtesy of Room and Board.