Furniture brand Loaf was a successful online business before launching two stores in West London two years ago and becoming a serious player in bricks and mortar retail (or ‘bricks and clicks’ as Loaf says). Described as ‘slowrooms’ rather than showrooms, these stores or ‘shacks’ as they’re also named exude the same laid-back vibe as the brand’s squishy sofas and the third opening in Spitalfields is no exception.
Loaf is a fashion-led brand that’s positioning itself as far away from the notion of the bland, out-of-town furniture store as possible. Its location on Commercial Street, nestled between an up-market grocers and Urban Outfitters shows this. It’s in the ideal place to reach the young, affluent and trend-driven customer the products are aimed at.
The store holds an edited range of the best selling pieces, however, several service screens encourage customers to shop and order from the full online range. (We’ve talked more about how small-format stores use technology here)
On the website, ‘where can I try this’ buttons direct customers to the right ‘slowroom’ for them – the spaces are more about sitting on the sofas and beds, touching the fabrics and seeing the product in situ than they are about buying and selling.
This relaxed attitude is reflected in the playful tone of voice that’s retro and friendly, with eye-catching wayfinding and signage inspired by 1930s cinemas, bygone sweet shops and old-school hardware stores.
The store is sectioned into sets inspired by real living rooms complete with eclectic visual merchandising props, such as a 1970s TV showing old Wimbledon footage, a pinball machine and even a table set up for children with colouring pencils and puzzles to keep them occupied as their parents leisurely browse. There are also free drinks available in a mini fridge.
Besides each sofa or bed are sheets of paper displaying all the product’s information: the dimensions; fabric options; size ranges; manufacturing info plus which other pieces of furniture complement it. Attached to a clipboard, each sheet can be easily taken home by the customer.
Swathes of fabric are used as visual merchandising props to bring a textural, artisanal theme to the space. At the fabric swatch station, customers are encouraged to take samples home with them in the boxes provided. Many stores still charge a small fee for samples, so this free service is a really nice touch.
Loaf is doing a great job to differentiate its ‘slowrooms’ from its competition by ensuring they are laid-back places are more about supporting the online offer than pushing sales. Overall, a good example of how online stores can carve out their own place on the high street.
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