You are reading Why this Boston retailer added a coffee and flowers component to her shop

Post was last updated at 2022-02-02.  


In Business of Home’s series Shop Talk, we chat with owners of home furnishings stores across the country to hear about their hard-won lessons and challenge...

In Business of Home’s series Shop Talk, we chat with owners of home furnishings stores across the country to hear about their hard-won lessons and challenges, big and small—to find out what they see for the future of small industry businesses like theirs.

Elizabeth Benedict

Designer and shop-owner Elizabeth Benedict pictured in her Boston-based showroom, Elizabeth Home Decor & Design. Courtesy of Elizabeth Benedict

This week, we spoke with Elizabeth Benedict, whose career took her from the finance world to design, and from the U.S. to Asia and back. Her retail showroom in the Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill, Elizabeth Home Decor & Design, transformed as well: She expanded in 2021 to add an adjacent coffee and flower shop, Elizabeth Home Petals & Press. Here, Benedict discusses growth at a time of personal devastation, why coffee is good for selling furniture, and how she stocks the store during the supply chain crisis.

What brought you to the design world?
My professional background was originally in financial services. My first job after college was with Brown Brothers Harriman, and then I worked for a hedge fund. When we first got married, my husband got offered a job in Hong Kong, and I continued my career working for Credit Suisse there. But he was traveling all over Southeast Asia and I was missing the opportunity, not only to be with him, but to see the region. I left my job and took a part-time position at a little design studio in Hong Kong. The owner had a retail shop, and she asked me to source for the store when I was traveling with my husband. I didn’t know anything about design or how to source—or what brocade fabric was compared to a dupioni silk—so I joined the Hong Kong Textile Society. I took a bunch of classes, and I really dove in. I started to send things back to New York, and did a few trunk shows under the name Essential Asia. Most of it was soft goods and textiles. The partner of a friend I grew up with was the buyer for Dean & DeLuca in New York at the time, and he bought my whole line ahead of the holidays. That was really exciting. I felt like, “OK, this could be a great career.”

Then my husband’s contract was up and he had a job offer in Boston, so we moved there. At this point, I’m pregnant, and I’m wondering what I’m doing with myself, because I wasn’t going back to finance. Between having my kids, I took night classes at New England School of Art and Design and got my certificate in decorative arts. We lived in Brookline in a little apartment building, so I started with apartments and urban design. I met a contractor who was doing a big project in Beacon Hill converting some old apartments to luxury condos, and he was looking for somebody to do the common spaces as well as model units. I had never worked with a designer, I had no idea what I was doing. I think I only got the job because my design bid was ,000.

How did the store come about?
When I started my career, my studio was all happening in my house, in a home office, and it was awkward to have clients over. I started looking for a space—not even a retail space, more of an office. But this little retail shop became available two blocks from my house, and I said, “Okay, I’ll take that.” I just wanted to spread out a bit, but it had a storefront. The store is a sweet little house, a cottage. It’s actually the only retail space for like a mile.

I set up the space to feel more like a house, with a living room and a dining area. I used to invite my clients to meet there, and it gave me more credibility. I shopped for it the same way I would shop for myself or a client. Over the years the studio became more of a shop, and our whole workspace moved down to the basement, but we were still only half the building. The other half of the building was a yoga studio, and when COVID happened, she could no longer hold classes. It was then that I said, “I might as well take the whole building.” And then, when the whole world shut down, I lost my mom to COVID the first week.

Oh, I’m so sorry.
It was devastating. The office was closed, and my four kids and husband were all stuck at home. I would just come into the studio and putz around. None of our clients were doing anything, and I had no idea what was going to happen to our business. A friend of mine was an Illy coffee exec, and when [the yoga studio went] out of business, I said, “I think we should take the space and open a coffee shop, that way we’d be essential.” It would get people out of the house [if] they were tired of being home. So she got Illy to partner with me—it took a while to build because we had to get all the permits, but we have a courtyard and we decided to put in a to-go window. We expanded the design store to e-commerce as well, and it ballooned. Somebody came in the other day and bought a bar cart, but she initially came in for a cookie.

Do the spaces flow into each other? Can you take a cup of coffee and wander around?
I wanted it to be two separate spaces, two different identities, but they’re both Elizabeth Home. One is Elizabeth Home Petal and Press, which is the coffee and flower shop, and the other side is Elizabeth Home Decor and Design, the incorporated name I’ve had for 16 years. When you come through the front door, you can go either direction. If I want, I can shut down the Decor and Design side, and put up a “Call for an appointment” sign, but as long as somebody’s in the building, the whole thing is open.

Left: Interior of the Elizabeth Home Decor & Design showroom in Chestnut Hill, Boston. Courtesy of Elizabeth Benedict | Right: Elizabeth Home Petals & Press was added to the showroom in 2021 to heighten the retail experience. Courtesy of Elizabeth Benedict

Who is your typical customer?
Our strongest customers are the trade, but now word’s getting out. A lot of neighborhood people come in for coffee. We have one woman who comes every week because she says she’s only allowed to buy one thing a week. It’s fun to have regulars now. We don’t ever buy mass quantities of anything, and I’m really selective in what I bring in, so the stock changes. When something goes out, rarely is it restocked with the same thing. So every week, we really do have something new to offer.

Is there an item you can’t keep in stock?
For the Petal and Press side, our bestsellers are our white vases. We source them from a Canadian company called Torre & Tagus. They look great in a photo shoot, they look good in anyone’s kitchen. It’s a great gift, because it doesn’t have to go with anything, and with our cut flowers, it’s an easy grab-and-go. We can’t ever keep them in stock.

Is there a particular vendor you adore?
Our bestselling vendor is a ceramicist named Elena Boiardi, who we met at a pop-up a couple of years ago at the Boston Design Center. She does handpainted shagreen patterns on pottery, and now has a cult following. She only [sells] wholesale to four stores, and we cannot keep her stuff in stock for more than a week. For each of the stores that she sells to, she does something exclusive; for us, she makes creamer and sugar sets. She’ll drop off 20 items, and within a week we’ve shipped them all over the country.

What’s your favorite piece in the store right now, something that makes you smile every time you pass it?
I love vintage trinket boxes, Limoges-type of things. They’re so cute on a book or on the shelf. I found this little butterfly Cartier pill box recently—my grandmother had the same one, and I have hers, but this one’s been here for about three months. I thought someone would swipe it but it’s still here, and I’m almost happy—it makes up a whole vignette on that shelf.

What’s the advice you would give yourself if you could go back to opening day? Not to expect it to take off so quickly. And not to stray from the way I want to do it. I’m not a big-box store, so I’m not going to act like one. Every time I try to get on somebody else’s bandwagon, I realize it’s best to stay true to the way I want this place to function. When I try to bring in product I think somebody [else] would like, that stuff sits there longer. It really is an extension of my brand and my services, because I’m buying things that I would buy for my clients. I’m buying what I would buy for myself.

What’s your biggest everyday challenge, and what’s your biggest existential challenge?

It’s not staffing, because I love my team and I have a great group of people who work here, but it’s getting them to see the store through my eyes. I’m like the passive-aggressive parent who expects the kids to clean up their room or put it back the way that I would do it. I have [what I want] in my mind. When I come in sometimes it’s frustrating that the store’s not looking as tight as I want it to, or the vignettes aren’t quite what I would do. I’m still running my design business so I’m hardly here, and when I come in and the place is out of whack it’ll ruin my day.

And then existentially—will customers like it? Does my vision translate into a sellable vision? Am I going to stay in business? This is really only 10 percent of my business, but with COVID and supply chain issues, this should be 30 percent of my business. We have stock! This is all grab and go. What keeps me up at night is waiting nine months for things and then not being able to deliver. It’s feeling super vulnerable to these lead times, and delivering the bad news to the clients. So the focus on the shop now is the complete opposite: You can have it now. We only shop from people who have deliverables, who can ship.

Benedict elevates her consumers' retail experience with her coffee and flower shop.

Benedict elevates her consumers' retail experience with her coffee and flower shop.Courtesy of Elizabeth Benedict

How are you communicating these supply chain concerns to your customers?
We’re super transparent anyway, but it was letting them know. We started sending them all of the Business of Home articles [on the issue]! We were so thankful it finally hit national news, because [customers] are always a little suspect. “Did you really place the order? Why is it taking so long?” You never want somebody to doubt you. The price points online—I want [customers] to understand they’re not getting a deal, they’re just paying for shipping. Last week, I had four phone calls in one day with smaller vendors because the shipping fees are now coming in at 50 to 60 percent of wholesale. You can’t absorb that. It’s just an add-on: 24 percent of the product cost, then a drop-ship fee, a fuel surcharge is another 8 percent, and then you’re getting hit with a small-order fee because they can’t fulfill the whole order—they’re only shipping out part of it.. It’s crazy. I said, “If it’s a small order, this can go in a UPS box with some bubble wrap and cost !” But it costs because that’s their formula. It’s going to get to a point where people are going to wait or stop buying. I’m telling my clients to wait. I could be shooting myself in the foot, but it’s the right thing to do.

What’s a challenge unique to the Boston area that people elsewhere might not experience? That we’re frugal Brahmins. Where I am is very academic. There are a lot of people here on an expat package, two-year contracts, a lot of students, so I don’t think their houses are as important as, say, somewhere in the South. A lot of the layering doesn’t happen, so people have to be talked into the extra step. It gets better as you get further west and into the real suburbs, but in the city proper, they’re thinking, “Do I really need that?” If you’re in downtown Boston, you’re eventually moving to a house. They like their artwork here better than tchotchkes and accessories. On the coffee shop side, we feature one artist at a time—mostly emerging artists or local artists, so it’s like a little show. On the Decor and Design side, we have a collective of art, probably 100 pieces from artists across the country.

What is the future of small businesses like yours?

I wish there were more here in Boston. Like I was saying with the white vases from Torre & Tagus—I’ll walk into HomeGoods and sometimes they’re there. So it’s making sure you’re bringing in quality things that somebody’s not going to buy on the internet or at HomeGoods. More and more, people want the experience of going into a store. They appreciate seeing smaller venues from different points of view. When you come in here, there’s equal parts vintage and new, so it takes a while to stroll through and appreciate it.
Curating a collection that can't be replicated online or in commercial stores is integral to Elizabeth Home Decor & Design.

Curating a collection that can't be replicated online or in commercial stores is integral to Elizabeth Home Decor & Design. Courtesy of Elizabeth Benedict

Now, I just want to put my eyes somewhere that isn’t my home. I want to spend time in a beautiful place! Small stores are storytellers, right? There’s a reason behind what they bought, why they bought it and how they put it together. The coffee shop is a nice add-on, because it gives people a reason to linger. It takes time to make an espresso or cappuccino, and if you offer them a place to enjoy it, that also turns them into a client or a customer. So we’re open to all avenues. We lend to the trade. We have a coffee shop. We have flowers. We just try to round it out so it’s an experience

What’s a great day as a shop owner?

I really do love my shop. I love the mornings, when I look at our sales report. It’s fun seeing what people pick because it’s like, “Oh, they like me! They picked that.” In the sales report, I’ll sort of giggle, like, “Oh, my gosh, that really sold!” We bought these funny cowboy spurs for the back of your boots. I put them on top of a book, and they went out within a week. It made me want to know who bought it and what they were going to use it for. Do they have ties to the West? I bought it because I went to school in Colorado, but what’s their story?

Homepage photo: The interior of Elizabeth Benedict’s Boston-based showroom, Elizabeth Home Decor & Design | Courtesy of Elizabeth Benedict

DecoratorsBest dragged fabric makers online. Now the site is …

30-10-2019 · DecoratorsBest dragged fabric makers online. Now the site is their biggest customer By Kaitlin Petersen When Barbara Karpf ’s husband gave her a laptop for her birthday in 2004, the New York–based interior designer decided to figure out what she could do with it.


When Barbara Karpf’s husband gave her a laptop for her birthday in 2004, the New York–based interior designer decided to figure out what she could do with it.

“I did a lot of work in the Hamptons off-season so that the house was ready for Memorial Day, and I did a lot of work in New York so it’d be ready for Labor Day,” she recalls of her two decades as a designer. “It was not the most glamorous experience. So I started looking online to see what could I do—how could I take my little laptop, which weighed seven pounds, travel with it, and run a small business.”

After rejecting concepts like designing for clients remotely, she found a corner of the design industry where she could innovate: fabrics. “In those days, we didn't have all the tools that people have today,” she says. “I saw that no one was selling designer fabric and wallpaper online—so I was the first to do it.”

The result was the e-commerce site, which today carries not only tens of thousands of to-the-trade fabrics and wallcoverings by the yard, but also furniture, lighting, accent pieces, wall art and soft goods from notable showroom-based brands. Though the site serves primarily consumers, Karpf has seen a burgeoning trade audience in recent years.

At a moment when so many trade brands are wrestling with changes wrought by the internet (notably a demand for pricing transparency and frictionless e-commerce), Karpf's site has been quietly making it work for 15 years—at a profit. We caught up with the designer turned internet entrepreneur to find out how she balances the needs of consumers and the design community, where she sees opportunities for growth, and what she wishes the big fabric houses would do to position themselves for success in the future.

When you launched, were there already people selling fabrics and wallcoverings online?
There were, but they had neon-looking sites. They did not look upscale. I decided that I wanted an upscale-looking site that was very easy to use—and I wanted top-quality customer service. We were dealing with a luxury client who was doing their home, and they deserve to be treated with care and respect.

What was the initial reception?
Before we really launched, I had a few ads out. The website was barely up—within minutes, it was like one of those old ads where you see people going, “Oh, my God, we just got 100 sales.” I got sales instantaneously.

What were the initial brands you carried—and what was the process of building relationships with them?
I was very lucky—as a high-end interior designer, I had dealt mainly with Brunschwig & Fils and Scalamandré. But even though those were my go-to places, I didn’t contact them first. Instead, I reached out to Robert Allen and Ralph Lauren—two big ones [at the time] that got it right away. And because I could say, “Robert Allen and Ralph Lauren are in,” many others followed suit.

Were there any holdouts in the early days?
Some people were very receptive, and those were the ones we had on the website at the beginning; others watched. It took about two years to get one of the largest brands—two years! We’d meet every few months to discuss it. Years later, we’re now their largest single customer.

How does the process with the brands work, and how has that changed over time?
The industry played beautifully into the internet from an ordering standpoint, because you can order one yard, one roll. People could order very small quantities. There were samples—essential so that people could touch and see the fabric. It’s the same today. I don’t think I could have built the business in an upscale way without that ability.

Do you stock your own samples, then?
No. I have always done exactly what an interior designer does: We order as needed, they send out the samples for us, and all of our brands drop-ship for us. We have no inventory.

Do you carry an entire line? Is it about what the brand wants to put on the site, is it everything, or do you edit?
We just put up everything. Let’s say a company has four or five brands, they may give me one to start with—that happened often in the beginning. Then, as they felt comfortable, we were generally the first to carry their most high-end brand. We were the first to carry Brunschwig online, for instance. We were the first to carry many of the other companies’ product.

What are the quantities—what kind of projects do you think people are working on when they shop with you?
It varies. We can go from a order to a ,000 or ,000 order. People can be working on one small thing, or they can be working on a whole house. We don’t get to know the customers the way an interior designer does, but we work with people all over the country and from all walks of life.

We’ve been talking a lot lately about pricing transparency—and I feel like you’ve been leading the way for a long time on that front, saying, “This is how much these high-end things cost.” How has the conversation around pricing changed?
Very early on, we could price however we wanted to, but I would say in the last five or 10 years, we go with the manufacturer’s suggested pricing for online pricing. Sales reps have sometimes said to me, “Hey, Barbara, you know no one else is following our pricing. Why are you bothering?” I always say, “If I commit to doing something with someone, I try and follow that.” I want to be respectful of the brands that I work with. If other companies aren’t doing that, the brands should consider whether they want to work with them or not.

Are you getting undercut online by other brands who are listing lower prices?
All the time. The manufacturers have embraced selling online now, and they don’t watch it as carefully as they probably should.

What is the competitive landscape for you today?
There are more companies advertising online. Anybody can set up a website, but for the most part, we haven’t been terribly affected by it. As a small company, we're very nimble, so we can make adjustments as we see things. I want to be profitable in our advertising, in our marketing; it’s not just about dominating, it also needs to be profitable.

We have no debt, and every year have been profitable. I believe that our business model is one based on profit, not eyeballs. I’ve studied many startups in our industry, and I believe that our staying power is based on filling a need for a luxury client and understanding many aspects of the interior design industry.

What are some of the top-performing brands on the site today?
Kravet and all of their brands. We work very closely with our reps there, I speak with them at least once a week. They've really helped grow our business—they've tripled it in a five-year period. Fabricut and Schumacher are also both very strong. But really, they wouldn't be there if they're not going to do well. We can't afford to take up real estate space if a company isn't producing for us—and if they're very difficult to work with and not producing, they're not going to be on our site for very long. We need to work closely with people to build the business.

You mentioned that Robert Allen was an early supporter. Did the Robert Allen Duralee Group bankruptcy have a big impact on your business?
Oh, big time. That was thousands of dollars in revenue that we don't have coming in. On the other hand, we had a tremendous amount of back orders that luckily our other brands were able to fill, whether it was the same product or a similar product. We got just about all of our back orders taken care of, but it was very difficult. It really was. It's been very sad—for me, it was heartbreaking because Robert Allen was the first company that got behind us, so I was loyal to them till the end.

Have you reestablished a relationship with them?
I haven't spoken with them. They send us books. They try and market with us, but I think that it's just too far gone. I don't know. Maybe they will re-emerge, but we'll wait and see on that.

Where is the opportunity? Where do you see growth?
We're very optimistic about a lot of things. We're focused on a lot of the European brands right now that don't have exposure in the U.S. For customers who want something a little more exclusive, sometimes they look to us and we're focused on promoting these developing brands. I love taking a brand and really building it up [on our site] and letting it grow.

You serve an interesting mix of designers and consumers—how do you talk differently to each audience?
It’s mainly consumers, but we are getting more and more designers coming to us because they know that we understand their business. The team here is trained to understand what a consumer needs for their design project if they don't know—and for a trade person, they can speak to them on a professional level.

For designers, we're a virtual design center where they can not only view more than 259,000 products easily, but also order multiple brands from us. That has been a big asset for them because the paperwork is so extensive—and we offer free shipping. We also offer CFAs for them—everyone here knows what a CFA is and how important it is—and act as a back office, following up as needed for orders and samples. We give them the service that they need; we understand their needs and their timeframes. Designers can also text things in, which helps tremendously.

How has your team grown over time?
Well, it's actually shrunk, because we're more efficient. In the last three years we have tripled our sales and we reduced our staff by half.

Wow. How does that happen?
Well, it happens by being much more technologically savvy, first of all. We have EDIs for instance, electronic data interface. That was a godsend. Therefore we need fewer people processing orders. We have many more brands, but they can upload easier.

People always say, “Well, how large is your business?” I say, “The question really is: How efficient are we?” The manufacturers almost fell over. I was having lunch with the president [of a large fabric manufacturing company] and he said, “Yeah, well how large is your team?” I told him, “It's not that large.” We’re a team of five. When I said that, he went, “What?” No time is wasted here.

So many designers are protective of this notion of trade-only product. Does that make doing business with you—and therefore making themselves available to consumers—a complicated thing for some of the manufacturers you carry on the site? Do you see brands grappling with that?
Well, they used to. This was always a discussion in the beginning, and I felt I really wanted to work wherever their comfort zone was. In today's world, though, there's hardly anything you can think of that isn't purchased online—it would be counterproductive for these brands not to be online. It's the way of the future.

We find that many of the consumers we work with have an interior designer. They may even say, “Oh, our designer suggested we call you to order this.” The designer is providing their eye, their expertise, their way to execute a job, their resources for their wallpaper installers, all of their work rooms—all of the things that make an interior designer valuable. I think it's so much more than just providing a product. As a designer, I know how much work goes into a project. I have tremendous respect for designers, and it's certainly not my intention to ever take a job away from a designer. We haven't even had a call about that in about five years.

Why do you think that is?
The industry has changed: I worked on a cost-plus basis when I was a designer, but I don't know how many designers still work like that—they're working on a per-project basis or an hourly basis. If you put 10 designers in a room today, I would bet that you would have 10 different ways of doing that same project.

I think designers realize that everything is sold online today, and that clients can always go someplace. If they want to take the time, they're going to find something. So a designer needs to make themselves very valuable to that customer in many ways so that the client really trusts them. … That's a lot more than just buying something online.

In the conversations we’re having here at BOH, I get the sense is that it's a challenging time to be in the fabric business—but it sounds like you're growing. From your perch in the industry, what do you see that's happening?
I don't think enough has changed with the brands we work with, and that is the fundamental problem—they are not changing and adjusting to the times. They want to go backwards instead of forward.

It’s also how you think about your customer. With everything that we do, we consider the customer first. When we were creating our website, I wanted to make it as easy as possible to search for things in a multitude of ways—that was thinking about the customer first. Well, all of these brands have new websites now, but it's very hard to find things unless you know exactly what you want. They are thinking about their [own] needs, I think—they’re thinking about how to make money, but they're not streamlining.

What are the other fundamental changes you wish trade textiles brands would make?
It's hard to say in general, because each brand is unique, but I do wish they would go to more conferences to learn what's out there. It's a very insular little industry, and I think that they need to open their eyes, and maybe throw out some stuff and bring in new things, and they need fresh ideas coming in. They should also study what the interior designers need, and how to fill their needs. That's what we've been doing, and I think that's why our trade program has been growing exponentially.

You said you're a significant client for some of these brands—their biggest customer, in some cases. Do you have the sense of how important you are to those businesses?
I like to say, “Well, you know, how are we doing?” They will always say to us—if we're not number one, we're in the top three most of the time. They can't give us exact information, and of course I don't expect them to, but they will say that we are [a] leader.

I have strong relationships with almost all of the brands that we work with because they've seen over time that we represent their brand in a very upscale way—in any newsletter we do, in the photos on the site, in the way we treat customers, they feel comfortable working with us. That's extremely important. I see the presidents on a regular basis and we get quite a bit of attention from all of our sales reps—they generally call us within the hour.

You're still completely privately owned, correct?
Yes, it's myself and my younger daughter Ashley, who has been here now full-time for five years. She's a partner and she's been invaluable to the company. She pushed for our home decor section, and for texting—instead of chatting [for assistance], designers can text. She stays up on the things millennials want in their lives—a lot of them I don't quite get, but she does. So it's a very good complement to say, yes, I have good traditional business sense, but she's up on the daily needs of a millennial.

That’s a great resource to have.
Yeah, it is. The internet when I started was really in its infancy and now I'd say it's a toddler, maybe getting towards nursery school. There's such a long way to go, and I love all of the innovations and things that people are doing. The mindset of a millennial is fascinating to me. I raised two of them. Their approach and values are so different, and part of it is because of technology and ease of access for things. I'm just very grateful I've had the opportunity to be involved in something as fascinating as the internet and to make an impact with it as well.

I'm so glad you got that laptop when you did.
Yes. I have it in the office. My seven-pound baby.

You kept it?
I wouldn't give it away for anything. That started everything.

Why experts say the shipping crisis won’t end until 2022 ...

07-07-2021 · But the tangled web that was woven last year is not coming undone so easily. Experts are now saying that it will be at least the first quarter of 2022 before shipping lead times will stabilize. Why will it take so long? There are three major reasons, says journalist Rachel Premack, who has reported extensively on the crisis for Business Insider. “We’re continuing to …


The flip side of the boom in the home and design industry over the past year and half is the global shipping crisis. Demand has never been higher, and wait times never longer. There was a preliminary hope that the rollout of vaccines would help ease the logistical nightmare as consumers began spending less on goods and more on services and experiences and ports and manufacturers started to return to a pre-pandemic staffing levels. But the tangled web that was woven last year is not coming undone so easily. Experts are now saying that it will be at least the first quarter of 2022 before shipping lead times will stabilize.

Why will it take so long? There are three major reasons, says journalist Rachel Premack, who has reported extensively on the crisis for Business Insider. “We’re continuing to see a remarkable increase in demand, coupled with a shortage of shipping containers and massive congestion at ports,” she explains. “The reason we’re seeing 2022 as the point when this calms down a bit is that people are expecting that demand will continually decrease as society goes back to normal. Once that happens, ports can work through the existing backlog of containers.”

The shortage of shipping containers stems from the fact that 2019 was a comparatively poor year for trade (largely due to strained diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China), which consequently led to a curb in production of new shipping containers in the lead-up to 2020. Once the pandemic hit, factories shut down and manufacturers—uncertain of how the virus would affect international spending on goods—extended the pause in container production through the first half of 2020. As demand exploded instead of shrinking, the dearth of available containers caused the price of shipping to skyrocket, with some brands paying up to 10 times more to import the same goods as before. Speaking to Business of Home in May, Gary Pettitt, the CEO of trade furniture brand Seasonal Living, said that his company had to implement a 5 percent container surcharge fee to cover the new shipping costs.

The backlog at international ports is a multipronged issue, caused by the canceling of many ships meant to sail in March 2020, compounded by a challenge that certainly won’t be solved in the next six months: increasingly large container ships, and ports that haven’t been refurbished to accommodate the behemoth vessels. According to shipping insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, the capacity of the biggest ships over the past 50 years has increased 1,500 percent, and has doubled in the past decade alone.

“These massive ships can deliver more per voyage, but ports like Los Angeles or Long Beach—they weren’t made to accommodate ships of that size,” says Premack. “Look at what happened earlier this year with the Ever Given, [which stalled for six days and blocked traffic] in the Suez Canal. These manufacturers thought bigger ships would be better for the bottom line, but the ports weren’t renovated to handle them.”

Meanwhile, the ports that have undertaken dredging and other renovations to make way for larger ships are incurring huge costs. The Panama Canal expanded in 2016, to the tune of more than billion. Similarly, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spent

.7 billion over six years to raise the Bayonne Bridge an additional 215 feet to allow passage of bigger ships. It’s a slow process, and one that will surely continue to impact global shipping for years to come, even when lead times revert back to something resembling pre-pandemic levels.

Ultimately, the crisis will really only ebb as demand for consumer goods does. “The import level we’ve seen in the past year is astronomical and not something that our infrastructure can handle,” says Premack. Still, she says the broad expectation is that ports and ocean carriers will be able to catch up on the backlog in early 2022, with a return to some semblance of normalcy by next spring. “That’s the hopeful estimate,” she adds. “Patience is definitely key at the moment. It’s a chaotic and unprecedented time.”

Homepage photo: ©Photo Gallery/Adobe Stock

Must-see releases from Malabar, Lulu and Georgia, and more

29-04-2022 · 1 hour ago · Lulu and Georgia debuted the Organic Harmony collection. Drawing inspiration from the low-slung profiles and curvaceous forms found in Japanese minimalist designs, the series showcases clean lines, organic materials and natural finishes, as exemplified by Eivian, an angled accent chair upholstered in top-grain leather, and Elka, a round, solid wood coffee table with …


Product Preview is a weekly series spotlighting the latest and greatest debuts in the marketplace. Check back every Friday for what’s new and notable.

An energetic assortment of cheery designs has arrived right alongside May. From vegan-friendly neon pink throw pillows to stackable color-blocked chairs, here are some standouts from the recent round of debuts.

Must-see releases from Malabar, Lulu and Georgia, and more

Stine Aas’s Eave 02 desk and Cleo 02 chairs by Dusen Dusen for DimsSean Davidson

Dims premiered its second furniture line with textile designer Dusen Dusen. The limited-edition collection, dubbed Ogle My Office, offers updated versions of the iconic Cleo chair and Eave desk by Stine Aas, now available in a spirited mix of color-blocked red, lavender, jade and chartreuse finishes.

Must-see releases from Malabar, Lulu and Georgia, and more

Throw pillows and drapes upholstered in Kalyani by Malabar Courtesy of Malabar

Malabar unveiled three new handloomed fabric patterns in honor of spring. Crafted by artisans in India using natural fibers, the trio consists of the embroidered Kalyani, the checked Isapur and the two-tone Tilari Stripe, all of which are available through Somerselle in an assortment of summery colorways.

Must-see releases from Malabar, Lulu and Georgia, and more

The Eivian accent chair in taupe leather, Estee sectional in white, Elka round coffee table and Dolan rug by Lulu and GeorgiaCourtesy of Lulu and Georgia

Lulu and Georgia debuted the Organic Harmony collection. Drawing inspiration from the low-slung profiles and curvaceous forms found in Japanese minimalist designs, the series showcases clean lines, organic materials and natural finishes, as exemplified by Eivian, an angled accent chair upholstered in top-grain leather, and Elka, a round, solid wood coffee table with gently raised edges to help curb spills.

Must-see releases from Malabar, Lulu and Georgia, and more

The Woven Pastel pillow, Jacquard Stripe lumbar pillow and Hot Pink Circle pillow by Hilary MacMillanCourtesy of Hilary MacMillan

Cruelty-free fashion designer Hilary MacMillan launched her first collection of homewares. The 22-piece selection spans soft goods, rugs and decor objects punctuated by sprightly neon and soothing pastel tones, such as the vegan-down-filled Hot Pink Circle pillow and the shapely sky-hued Blue Glass vase.

Must-see releases from Malabar, Lulu and Georgia, and more

The Pebble handknotted wool rug and the Diamond flat-weave wool rug by OuiveCourtesy of Ouive

Ouive released the Time Capsule collection, featuring a customizable line of Zanafi-style rugs. Hand-woven in Morocco using centuries-old Amazigh techniques, the series spans 11 characterful geometric designs—including the checkered Diamond and the speckled Pebble—which are made-to-order and available in an array of sizes and colorways.

Must-see releases from Malabar, Lulu and Georgia, and more

The Lisa Fine Charlotte tablecloth in blue by Reed Smythe & Co. Courtesy of Reed Smythe & Co.

Reed Smythe & Co. debuted an exclusive collaboration with Lisa Fine Textiles that spotlights six of the New York designer’s signature florals translated into heirloom-quality tablecloths and toppers. The paisley-clad Fariba and the dreamy pale blue and lilac–hued Charlotte are two of the blossomy patterns.

Must-see releases from Malabar, Lulu and Georgia, and more

Cords in canvas by Hartmann & Forbes Courtesy of Hartmann & Forbes

Hartmann & Forbes introduced the latest additions to its H&F Studio collection. New items include four breezy window treatment textiles composed of all-natural materials, such as the tufted Cords, the sheer Brushed and the stonewashed Weathered.

Must-see releases from Malabar, Lulu and Georgia, and more

Tiger Tiger Chocolate in mocha by Rochelle Porter Design Courtesy of Rochelle Porter Design

Rochelle Porter Design premiered its inaugural line of sustainably made wallcoverings. Produced with a mix of FSC–sourced wood pulp and natural fibers, the collection boasts eight graphic patterns—including kaleidoscopic earth-toned Tiger Tiger Chocolate and bold geometric Kobo—available in two eco-friendly finishes, grass cloth and smooth matte.

Must-see releases from Malabar, Lulu and Georgia, and more

The Lybid and Lev pillows by Anka Lavriv for Western Sensibility Rio Chantel

Montana-based textile studio Western Sensibility tapped Ukrainian-American artist Anka Lavriv for a charitable collaboration. Among the resulting pieces are two handillustrated pillow designs, Lev and Lybid, that pay homage to the ornate cross-stitch and embroidery traditions of Ukraine. All proceeds from the collection go directly to Ukrainian relief funds and aid organizations.

Industry trade shows will never be the same after COVID

17-02-2022 · Industry trade shows will never be the same after COVID. By Warren Shoulberg. The business of buying and selling in the home furnishings industry has always been a moving target as shows and markets grew or receded, often suddenly. Last year’s “must-attend” event can quickly become this year’s “Nah, I’ll skip it” show.


The business of buying and selling in the home furnishings industry has always been a moving target as shows and markets grew or receded, often suddenly. Last year’s “must-attend” event can quickly become this year’s “Nah, I’ll skip it” show.

But never before have so many shows—in so many cities, and in so many sectors of the industry—been the subject of massive upheaval as they have during the past two pandemic years. Major events around the globe were canceled, postponed, merged, downsized and otherwise turned upside down in ways we’ve never seen before. As we start to come out of what everyone hopes is the last terrible wave of COVID, some industry benchmark events are returning to some semblance of what they used to be. But for many others, the changes are dramatic, and the shows’ schedulings remain in suspense pending industry acceptance of new formats, timing and configurations.

This stress is happening to both domestic shows in the U.S. as well as overseas events in Europe and elsewhere. For many shows, such as Maison & Objet in France, Heimtextil in Germany and Salone del Mobile in Italy, cancellations and postponements have created havoc, even as all of these events insist that they will return to their previous schedules and formats in 2023. Perennial events stateside, such as High Point Market, the gift shows in Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas and New York, and the housewares show in Chicago, are all starting to get back to some semblance of normalcy this year, but for the entire show and market sector of home, it's a brave new world.

Here are some of the big changes:

Perhaps the biggest reconfiguration on the show circuit is what’s happening in the builder space: The International Builder Show (IBS), the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and the National Hardware Show (NHS) announced they will do a joint event in 2023. Scheduled for Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 in Las Vegas, the merge brings together three key events in this space following an earlier combination of IBS and KBIS under the Design & Construction Week banner several years ago.

Ambiente, Christmasworld and Creativeworld
Another combination is happening in Frankfurt, where three fairs that had been operating separately up until COVID will now be jointly presented in 2023. Ambiente is of the most interest to the home space, serving as the main European event for the tabletop and gift sectors. The three shows will be held together Feb. 3 to 7 at the giant Messe Frankfurt venue.

Shoppe Object
For some shows, the outcome of the pandemic era has been a change of ownership. Earlier this month, International Market Centers, which owns major shows in High Point, Atlanta and Las Vegas for the furniture, gift and home industries, announced it had bought Shoppe Object, a breakaway show from the NY NOW event held twice a year in New York. IMC’s future plans for Shoppe are unknown, but working with NOW might be at the top of its agenda in an effort to return New York to its previous role as a major show destination for gift and home accessories.

41 Madison
The pandemic has also claimed some victims. This month brought the news that, after this April, the owners of the 41 Madison showroom building in New York will no longer sponsor and organize the twice-a-year tabletop show. Rudin, the giant real estate company, has been the guiding force behind the tabletop event for decades, and while individual showrooms remain in the building, the fate of the organized market week is now up in the air.

Other shows in Asia, particularly in China, are still settling into new patterns, and are largely dependent on international travel restrictions eventually being lifted. Some smaller, regional events back in the U.S. are being resurrected to mitigate local travel requirements as well. No matter the size or scale or location, when the pandemic conditions finally recede, show calendars will look very different than they did just two years ago.

The show must go on—just not the way it used to.

Homepage photo: The Trend Space at the 2020 Heimtextil fair | Courtesy of Heimtextil


Warren Shoulberg is the former editor in chief for several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business; received honors from the International Furnishings and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; and been cited by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading industry expert. His Retail Watch columns offer deep industry insights on major markets and product categories.

It's official: The trade is embracing Wayfair's Perigold

17-04-2019 · Perigold launched in September 2017 with more than 150,000 SKUs from vetted, often trade-only vendors like Baker, Schumacher and Bernhardt. Rebecca Ginns, Perigold’s …


It just got a little easier to shop designers' favorite trade brands. Yesterday, Perigold announced several major additions to its lineup, including best-selling product from North Carolina–based wood and upholstered furniture manufacturer Century Furniture; wall art, rugs, furniture, lighting and bedding from Lillian August; a variety of rugs from Stark’s more budget-minded sister brand, Stark Studio Rugs; a selection of outdoor brand Janus et Cie’s furniture, accessories and textiles; home accessories, decorative sculptures and figurines from Spanish porcelain maker Lladró; and dining and accent chairs, end tables, bar stools, dining tables and sofas from heritage British manufacturer Ercol.

It's official: The trade is embracing Wayfair's Perigold“Our big focus is helping customers discover the high-end products they love, then marrying that with an excellent service and delivery experience...”

Rebecca Ginns

These brands join more than 300 other to-the-trade companies on the platform, powered by Wayfair, which handles the logistical elements that go with online ordering. Partners benefit from the site’s built-in concierge programs and free white-glove delivery, eliminating many of the headaches brands might encounter while wading into the e-commerce waters on their own. (And while inclusion on the Perigold platform goes hand in hand with listing prices online, the site also offers a trade program with discounts for designers.)

Perigold launched in September 2017 with more than 150,000 SKUs from vetted, often trade-only vendors like Baker, Schumacher and Bernhardt. Rebecca Ginns, Perigold’s general manager, billed the site as the first “online retail offering for discerning customers to access high-end furniture and decor.”

The Boston Consulting Group alum told BOH last year that one of the greatest paradoxes of the business is that finding retail success online sometimes means focusing on the offline components. “Our big focus is helping customers discover the high-end products they love, then marrying that with an excellent service and delivery experience,” she said. “We are customer- and partner-centric in everything that we do.”

The six newcomers will help Perigold to strengthen its appeal to high-end home consumers, said Ginns. “With the addition of these prestigious brands, Perigold serves as a singular, trusted destination for luxury home furnishings.”

Homepage photo: Courtesy of Perigold

Magnolia Network pulls show after allegations go viral

10-01-2022 · What started off with an 18-part series on Instagram last week has led Magnolia Network to pull one of its home renovation shows, Home Work, from the air. The television …


What started off with an 18-part series on Instagram last week has led Magnolia Network to pull one of its home renovation shows, Home Work, from the air. The television network, developed by Chip and Joanna Gaines in partnership with Discovery, premiered on January 5 as the long-awaited rebrand of the DIY Network. It removed the show from its lineup following claims from several homeowners that their homes had been damaged during renovations, projects went tens of thousands of dollars over budget and timelines had been ignored. The series, hosted by Andy and Candis Meredith, focused on renovating homes in Salt Lake City.

The brouhaha began on January 5 when homeowner Aubry Bennion took to Instagram to recount her experience of working with the Merediths. The couple initially told Bennion they could renovate her kitchen in three weeks for ,000, though the budget shifted to ,000 during the taping of the first show. The renovation ultimately cost ,000 and took five months, with Bennion claiming that much of the additional expense came from fixing issues created during the renovation. In another post, she wrote that the Merediths added a deck to the back of her kitchen, but they built it over a sprinkler system and created a drainage issue that nearly caused her home to flood.

Bennion’s account, which quickly went viral, prompted two other homeowners to share their experiences working with the Merediths. One of them, Vienna Goates, explained over 19 Instagram posts that she connected with the Merediths in 2019 after seeing a casting call for their new show. She alleged that she and her husband paid the duo ,000 as a down payment for a 2019 renovation, funds they have never recouped on a project that never started. The Merediths have since confirmed Goates’s account.

In her posts, Goates said that when she was selected as one of the 10 homeowners that would appear on the show in October 2019, Candis Meredith told her that the planned renovations would be done by Christmas. The timeline was continually pushed back, even after the clients wired their down payment in February 2020. Goates says that Candis became hard to reach, and by November 2020, the family hired an attorney, who formally requested the repayment of their deposit. Goates told Today that they have only received about ,000 back.

The third homeowner, Teisha Satterfield Hawley, wrote on Instagram that she and her husband Jeff gave the Merediths ,000 to renovate their living space in four weeks. Ten weeks later, with little work done on their home, the designers told the Hawleys they would need an additional ,000 to make the project work.

Candis and Andy Meredith

Candis and Andy MeredithCourtesy of Magnolia Network

In a statement posted on the couple’s Instagram, the Merediths address some of the claims made by the homeowners. “We adamantly deny that we have ever stolen money from these clients; we haven’t defrauded ‘so many families,’” they wrote. “We worked with licensed general contractors. It is true that we are sometimes left with outstanding balances, but we always pay, even if it takes some time for us to make arrangements. To say anything otherwise is truly not OK. We have paid every amount of money we could to make things right and have continued making payments when necessary.”

The controversy is certainly at odds with the type of network the Gaineses were hoping to build. In a statement released last week about the launch of the network, the couple—whose lifestyle empire has grown from a cult following of their former HGTV show Fixer Upper to include a massive retail and licensing footprint, a magazine, an entire shopping center in their native Waco, Texas, and now, a dedicated TV channel—outlined their vision for the network: “It wasn’t long ago that watching TV meant time together as a family. It was a place where people of all ages could gather and be informed, entertained, and inspired by the kind of honest, authentic programming that brings people closer. That’s what we’ve set out to build with Magnolia Network, and we’ve been amazed by the stories and storytellers we’ve found, people whose lives are living proof that our world is full of beauty, hope, courage and curiosity. We can’t wait to see these stories brought to life on cable, and we’re hopeful about the impact it might have—to help reclaim the best of what television can be.”

After days of controversy building around the show, Magnolia Network announced on Saturday it would take it off the air. “Magnolia Network is aware that certain homeowners have expressed concerns about renovation projects undertaken by Candis and Andy Meredith,” network president Allison Page said in a statement released over the weekend. “Within the last few days, we have learned additional information about the scope of these issues, and we have decided to remove Home Work from the Magnolia Network lineup pending a review of the claims that have been made.”

Homepage photo: The Magnolia store in Waco, Texas | ©Roadwardbound / Shutterstock

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