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Store Profile

  Breaking new ground at terrain

Urban Outfitters expands its reach to the garden center, with stunning results.

by Cynthia L. McGowan

    Specialty retailer Urban Outfitters, Inc. has taken its hip, innovative merchandising concepts to the garden center, inspiring customers with a treasure trove of unusual plants and delightful home décor, and offering surprises around every turn and behind every oversize garden door.
     Urban Outfitters, a Philadelphia-based clothing and lifestyle company with $1.5 billion in sales in 2007, announced last year it was adding terrain, its first garden and lifestyle brand, to its Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People banners. It acquired the locally well-known, 118-year-old J. Franklin Styer’s Nurseries in Concordville, Pa., in January and launched the new garden center as terrain at Styer’s in April.
     John Kinsella, terrain’s managing director, explains that Urban Outfitters tailors its stores to court a certain demographic, and the new garden-center brand enhances its ability to reach another segment of those customers. The Urban Outfitters customer “is an affluent, educated woman; she’s at different phases of her life. With Urban Outfitters, she’s in her 20s; in Anthropologie, she’s in her 30s,” he says. For terrain, “we’re targeting a woman more in her 40s, 50s or 60s, and our research shows that she’s making the high percentage of the decisions in the garden and certainly in home décor and lifestyle, and we thought that she was being underserved in the garden-center industry.”
     To capture that lucrative demographic, the company applied its merchandising sensibility to the garden center. The company calls its ability to connect with customers on an emotional level the reason for its success, and Mr. Kinsella says that by offering a compelling environment, high-quality, interesting products and excellent service, terrain is making those connections.

  terrain at styer's

 
 
LOCATION Concordville, Pa.
PARENT COMPANY Urban Outfitters, Inc.
SALES Urban Outfitters had sales of $1.5 billion in 2007; sales for terrain at Styer’s were unavailable
OPENED April 2008
BRANDS Urban Outfitters also owns 132 Urban Outfitters, 115 Anthropologie and 21 Free People stores
SIZE 11 acres total; 3 acres of gardens; 3,000 square feet of plants under glass; 8,000 square feet of home-décor space; 1,000-square-foot café
EMPLOYEES About 75 during the peak spring and summer seasons
MANAGING DIRECTOR OF TERRAIN John Kinsella
WEB SITE www.terrainathome.com

 

 

LOCATION Concordville, Pa. PARENT COMPANY Urban Outfitters, Inc. SALES Urban Outfitters had sales of $1.5 billion in 2007; sales for terrain at Styer’s were unavailable OPENED April 2008 BRANDS Urban Outfitters also owns 132 Urban Outfitters, 115 Anthropologie and 21 Free People stores SIZE 11 acres total; 3 acres of gardens; 3,000 square feet of plants under glass; 8,000 square feet of home-décor space; 1,000-square-foot café EMPLOYEES About 75 during the peak spring and summer seasons MANAGING DIRECTOR OF TERRAIN John Kinsella WEB SITE www.terrainathome.com

the environment
     The shopping experience at terrain is “about the sense of discovery and the inspiration,” Mr. Kinsella says. Throughout the garden center, the plants and lifestyle items are artfully combined for a beautiful presentation. In one greenhouse, a tree stump, surrounded by moss, is the base for a large stone table holding a mixture of live products and hard goods that change with the season. Diners in a sunny greenhouse café, which serves organic, local fare, are transfixed by a “living wall of herbs” that looks like a work of art. A similar wall of moss is a focal point in the building that houses personal care items. In the wood-planked “Amish Barn,” permanent flowers—which look almost fresh—are displayed in metal buckets, European-market style, on rustic wooden shelves.
     Outside, customers strolling on curving walkways come upon 20-foot-tall, 300-year-old wooden doors from India that serve as entrances to the various “garden rooms.” Plants are displayed on unconventional merchandisers including an antique rain gutter from India, a feeding trough, benches and wood wagons. Throughout the garden center, customers find miniature Tibetan prayer houses, a bubbling Zen fountain carved from Indonesian stone, oversize metallic lanterns and whimsical sculptures. Not surprisingly, Mr. Kinsella remarks, “We’ve got customers who stay three to four hours when they come to our store because there’s so much to discover.”
     Kip A. Creel, president of StandPoint Marketing Research of Tucker, Ga., which specializes in home and garden trends, visited terrain’s open house in May and was impressed by the merchandising. “It really made you feel good about being outdoors and how enjoyable that experience can be,” he recalls.

the products
     About half of terrain’s sales come from plants, Mr. Kinsella says, with home décor and lifestyle products rounding out the rest. At its core, he emphasizes, terrain is “very much a garden center,” with a full selection of plants, tools and all the necessary products to beautify outdoor spaces. Underscoring its commitment to sustainable and organic gardening, most of terrain’s plants come from nearby growers who deliver fresh products at least weekly, and the garden center sells only organic pest-control products.
     Terrain boasts an inventory of thousands of annuals, perennials, shrubs, groundcovers, vines and trees. Offerings range from flats of bedding plants to what Mr. Kinsella terms “high-end, more unique products.” Recent selections included Vanda, Phalaenopsis and other orchids, rare varieties of Begonias and elephant’s ear plants (Alocasia), bear’s breeches (Acanthus spinosus), Japanese painted ferns (Athyrium), bromeliads, ornamental grasses and much more. Containers in all sizes offer creative combinations of plants, allowing customers who want instant beauty to decorate indoor and outdoor spaces. Terrain doesn’t sell cut flowers but sometimes displays them in vases to help drive sales.
     Mr. Kinsella says displays change often—“every week, there’s something new”—and new seasons offer special opportunities. “There’s a real emotional hook for a lot of folks around the changing of the seasons,” he observes, “particularly around the holidays, and so we want to try to make sure we make the most of that.”
     Accessories in the 8,000-square-foot Home and Décor center include artisan vases, handcrafted tableware, decorative lamps, botanically based personal care products, note cards, antiques and found objects. Terrain’s team of four buyers have visited Europe, Thailand, Egypt, India and South Africa to find products that will excite and inspire customers.
     Lauds Mr. Creel, “I found home décor and outdoor living items unlike any I’ve ever seen.” He also praises terrain’s wide range of price points. “Most anyone could find something aspirational that they could still afford.”

  keys to success

 
 
MERCHANDISING The creative merchandising at terrain at Styer’s offers a treasure trove of exciting products for customers.
PRODUCTS Customers can find locally sourced plants ranging from everyday selections to unusual varieties. Terrain’s buyers travel the world to find eclectic and fascinating home and lifestyle products.
CUSTOMER SERVICE The employees, many of whom have backgrounds in horticulture, have excellent customer service skills.
LOCATION Urban Outfitters, Inc. chose J. Franklin Styer’s Nurseries in Concordville, Pa., as the location for its first terrain because of its good reputation, demographics, size and its half-hour distance from Philadelphia, Urban Outfitters’ headquarters.

 

 

the service
     Terrain seeks employees with both excellent customer service skills and backgrounds in horticulture, which Mr. Kinsella acknowledges can be a “tough mix actually, but we’ve got a good staff.” Urban Outfitters offered all the employees at the former Styer’s Nurseries positions, retaining their horticultural knowledge. That’s been a boon to the company, which has learned since its April opening that dealing with live product has its challenges. “In addition to being great with sales and customer service and merchandising, we’ve got to be able to be really smart about how we’re managing the product,” Mr. Kinsella explains.
     Terrain’s customer service includes landscape design by four “college-trained designers and registered landscape architects,” the company’s Web site, www.terrainathome.com, details. The site also quotes each designer on his or her style.
     The garden center also expresses its commitment to customer service through consumer education. Weekly, complementary classes give advice on such topics as the best plants for the season and garden design. A calendar on the Web site gives daily recommendations for garden tasks each month.

customer reaction
     “We’ve been very pleased with the customer reaction to what we’re doing,” Mr. Kinsella remarks. One customer told him he comes every other week just to see what’s new. Others bring friends with them on their second trips to terrain. Some have brunch in the cafe and spend the entire day strolling the grounds. “It’s a pretty inspiring spot to be in, around these beautiful plants and the home décor,” Mr. Kinsella affirms.
     Mr. Creel says the products will keep customers’ interest piqued. “Like most masterful retailers, I fully expect terrain to keep its product assortments fresh and exciting. That’s what keeps people coming back,” he remarks. “Not to mention that it is indeed a place you’d want to take someone visiting from out of town.”
     That’s the reaction Urban Outfitters is aiming for as it perfects terrain at Styer’s and looks to expand the concept. “We’re using this first store as a laboratory to learn a lot, and then our hopes are to open one or two stores next year and then keep building,” Mr. Kinsella explains.
     New locations could be partnered with existing garden centers, as terrain at Styer’s did, or be built from the ground up, depending on the location, he says. They will be on the East Coast to capitalize on the vendor base terrain at Styer’s has established.
     In the meantime, Mr. Kinsella, whose background in specialty retail includes senior management positions at Williams-Sonoma, Smith & Hawken and Banana Republic, will continue seeking to inspire customers at terrain. Mr. Kinsella, who is a master gardener, comments, “It’s really nice to be able to do something that feeds my passion, too.”

Reach Editor in Chief Cynthia L. McGowan at cmcgowan@superfloralretailing.com or (800) 355-8086.


Photographs by John Armich/Courtesy of Garden Media Group (GMG)

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