Monday, April 6, 2015

You Are Welcome to Come Shopping

When I visit my daughter in Kansas City, we often make a journey north of town to Briarcliff Village to shop at Nell Hill's, an over-the-top home furnishing store. I'd like to invite you to join us on a shopping trip for some inspiration to use in your home.

We won't be alone on this jaunt. Every time we go, the Kansas City store is bustling. Purportedly, over 75,000 customers visit the mother-store in Atchison, Kansas annually. In fact, an estimated ninety-five percent of customers travel more than 75 miles several times a year for home design inspiration at Nell Hill's.

The secret of the loyal customers is always-changing, artistically-curated merchandise displayed in homelike vignettes at reasonable prices.  No wonder the owner, Mary Carol Garrity, has been featured on NBC'S Today and CBS' The Early Show, and has been dubbed by Forbes magazine "one of the hottest little retailers" in the country.
Let's join the trail of women who have found this store and see why they come back again and again.

First, the merchandise is always fresh, never stale. The staff changes every vignette in every room every couple of months. Even the walls are repainted current shades of Garrity's specially tinted paints! New ideas for every season keep customers coming back.

Below is an example of this season's palate. Doesn't this vignette look like spring heading towards summer?

The second reason for Nell Hill's popularity is the artistic displays. Gallery walls are eye-catching, balanced, and unusual.
I would never have thought of placing a large silver platter in a gallery wall of sketches, but it looks fabulous.
Garrity's artistically arranged tabletops also teach lessons in accessorizing. In the display below, notice the unifying role blue plays, and how varying sizes and shapes contribute interest. The balance of pairs also makes this arrangement pleasing. There are three singles thrown in to keep the eye from being bored. Can you find them? Finally, observe how books used as stands vary heights and keep the whole vignette anything but static.

The store has certainly drawn my daughter and me back more than once. Why? As I analyze, I believe a third reason is because the room displays are full of pretty accessories and comfortable, well-made furniture--all for sale--and all shown in home-like settings.  Even the elevator is inviting!

Garrity is a wise retailer. She displays items so customers can picture how to use them. Many people have trouble picturing a sofa or pair of chairs in their home. However, once they see the piece or pieces in relation to similarly-scaled furniture, they can mentally transport it to their space.
Seeing color and pattern combinations in mini-rooms also gives customers ideas. Study the four patterns below to see why they work together. The orange wingback chair takes the uncontested lead, because of the loud color and tone-on-tone pattern which reads as a solid. Next in scale is the boldly-striped sofa, followed by the pillow's trellis motif. Finally, the small Greek-key pattern on the ottoman makes a pleasing companion, not attracting attention away from any other pattern. (Lesson: look at patterns together to be sure they vary in scale, so none compete for dominance.)

Besides the always-fresh, artistic, homey settings, a fourth reason customers shop at Nell Hill's is the quantity and variety of merchandise offered at reasonable prices. Antiques are interspersed with new merchandise; all are fairly priced. (In the photo above, the silver service is vintage, and Chinese bowl is antique--all priced to sell.)

Garrity is able to beat the competition's prices for new merchandise by ordering such a large volume. Even designers are among her repeat customers because--despite their discount--they cannot match the prices. In addition, twice-a-year sales attract customers who arrive pulling u-hauls.

Obviously, Mary Carol Garrity, the entrepreneur who built this franchise, is a one-woman merchandising dynamo. Her midwestern roots translate north to south, east to west. Fly-over country, it turns out, embodies a quality all Americans value--warm, genuine friendliness.

In fact, Nell Hill's was named after the owner's grandmother, an Irish immigrant to Kansas, who "made everyone who entered her home feel like the most special person on earth." No wonder shoppers visit and visit again; we all want our homes to read like the store: "Welcome. I'm so glad you came".

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