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Growing Gump's: a renowned retailer ventures into bed and bath.

When San Francisco's Gump's decided it was time to expand a fledgling table linen business into a major linen statement including bed and bath, it put its faith in one man to get the job done: Paul Cabler. According to vendors, it was a wise choice.

After years at Neiman Marcus, and a stint at Dallas' Stanley Korshak. Cabler was courted by Gump's last summer to become merchandise director of linens and fragrance and launch a dream department that became really only last month.

"They recruited me to develop the bedding business and to re-energize the table linens, home fragrance and bath and body categories," says Cabler. "Linens are a natural addition to Gump's because they round out the home store assortment."

The store's move to a new location opened the door for a comprehensive linen and fragrance presentation in an area measuring some 2,000 square feet. The department's design scheme exudes a clean and simple aura and a color scheme that reflects the latest trends in luxury linens: white and ivory with soft tones of blush and celadon.

"What will distinguish us in the marketplace is a commitment to quality and style coupled with comparable service, which the market is very hungry for," comments Cabler, who lists Anichini, Matouk, Nancy Koltes, Sferra Brothers and Scandia Down as key resources.

Like most luxury linen retailers, Cabler expects Gump's to do a substantial custom-order business, a factor that was considered in the department's layout.

"We've created a custom nook where samples are hung," explains Cabler. "And we designed an 8-foot work table, so there is a convenient spot for client and sales associate to lay out samples. This allows customers to really see how the bed will look once it's put together." A nearby wall features boudoir pillows in all the patterns available, helping customers visualize color grouping and design directions.

But Cabler is careful not to rely too heavily on special orders. "If I believe in a pattern I try to put together an assortment that allows the customer to walk away with the complete ensemble," he says. "Your success in closing a sale is contingent on having a lot variables on hand. If a customer is putting, together an ensemble and you have everything but the pillowcases, the whole sale can walk out the door."

Over his many years in textiles retailing, Cabler has noticed a growing awareness and understanding of luxury linens. "It's very interesting, because as the customer becomes more educated, the sales force has to be that much more knowledgeable."

Consequently, the sales staff at Gump's is constantly in a training mode. "Because we're a single-store operation, we're able to get more information directly into the salesperson's hands," says Cabler, who spends 60 percent of his time on the floor working with and listening to customers rather pushing papers in the office. "It's difficult for a chain with 30 units to ensure that all associates are adequately trained."

Another pivotal aspect of the business is exclusivity, maintains Cabler. "We're unique in that although we're a single store, we're large enough to develop products that customers can't find anywhere else," he explains. "Product exclusives are a good way for stores to develop a healthy business, because the customer will shop with me for reasons other than price."
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Title Annotation:Luxury Linens Supplement
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 10, 1995
Words:551
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