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Interior define expands physical presence: the customizable sofa e-tailer added a store in New York, with another slated for Austin.

Chicago born and bred, Interior Define is ready to spread its wings nationwide, as the customizable sofa e-tailer has added a physical location in New York, with another slated for Austin next month.

It also continues to collaborate with designers, most recently with home design blog Chris Loves Julia.

The retailers concept seeks to disrupt how consumers buy sofas, similar to e-commerce-driven category disrupters such as Warby Parker or Bonobos. Rob Royer, Interior Defines founder and CEO, was in fact "hire number two" at Bonobos, serving as the director of customer relationship management. That focus on customer experience, along with Royers personally frustrating sofa-buying experience, led him to found Interior Define in 2014.

Until this year, Interior Define had only one physical "guideshop," in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. The guideshop locations serve as a low-pressure place for consumers to experience the brand--they don't walk out of the store with any merchandise, though they can order it there. (Bonobos also calls its locations guideshops.)

New York was chosen as the second location because it is the brand's largest market outside of Chicago, Royer said.

Austin will be the next stop in September when Interior Define plans to open a guideshop in Domain Northside, a retail destination that also includes Bonobos and Warby Parker. Austin is Interior Defines fourth largest market.

"Austin was always on our short list for an Interior Define guideshop location," said Royer. "Beyond the incredible growth and vibe of the city, our core customer is well represented: savvy, design-conscious consumers who understand one size (or look) doesn't fit all."

Interior Define is also developing an in-guideshop experience to enable customers to view any of its designs and configurations in room settings that match their personal style and interior aesthetic.

"I knew the pain points [of buying a sofa] as a consumer," Royer told HFN at its Soho location in Manhattan. He thought that the Bonobos model was perfect for the furniture category, especially since he didn't see anything serving the middle of the market that offered both customization and a strong customer experience.

Typically, the only customization option consumers can make with sofa selection is the fabric, Royer said, which "didn't make sense." In addition, once customers place sofa orders with other retailers, they typically don't hear from the retailer for weeks, he said. From his own experience, he felt the market was fragmented and he found a scarcity of options meeting his design, quality and budget requirements.

"People care about the brand story... We needed a better communication stream between order and delivery," he said. "It was the impetus to starting a single-category brand."

At Interior Define, every piece is handcrafted to order in China; the retailer doesn't carry any inventory. Using 3D technology, the brand can tailor sofas by size, fabric, configuration, leg style and "sit." Twenty core sofa shapes, 72 fabrics and four leather options, as well as softer cushions, are among the choices. While it offers general sizes, the company can customize its sofas to any size, he said.

In addition, there is a 365-day return policy as well as white-glove delivery included in the price. Even the fabric swatches are bigger than what one would get at other retailers, Royer said. And Interior Define's line is affordabry priced--its popular Sloan style, for example, ranges from about $900 to $3,200, he said.

While Royer expected his brand to attract the lower end of the market, he was surprised at how many consumers from the upper end also shop at Interior Define because they realize that they can get a great quality product without paying $ 12,000, he said.

Last month, Interior Define launched its newest influencer collaboration with Julia and Chris Marcum, founders of home design blog Chris Loves Julia. They are also Interior Define customers, having previously ordered a custom Ainsley u-sectional sofa--featuring the unique configuration of two chaises--then posting an image of it on their blog. Interior Define received so many inquiries about it that the configuration was added to its line. The retailer's Charly sofa, named after the Marcums' beloved Saint Pyrenees, is both sleek and family friendly, being both functional and affordable.

Other designer collaborations include the Chicago brand The Everygirl and Apartment Therapy's Maxwell Ryan.

It also expanded its line to include bed furniture, offering three styles inspired by its sofa best sellers, customizable by frame, fabric and color, headboard height and legs.

By Andrea Lillo

Caption: Top: Consumers have a range of sofas to test in the guideshops, which is where they can experience the brand.

Caption: Above: Interior Define's Manhattan guideshop opened in May.

Right: A range of leg options are available for sofas.

Caption: Above: The 2,600-square-foot Manhattan location allows for lots of natural light.

Caption: Right: The Charly sofa is the retailer's newest designer collaboration with Chris Loves Julia.

Caption: Below: Interior Define recently debuted its bed furniture category, which also comes with a number of customizable options.
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Title Annotation:retail NEXT
Author:Lillo, Andrea
Publication:HFN Home Furnishings News
Geographic Code:1U3IL
Date:Aug 1, 2017
Words:825
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