The Impact of Decorative Pillows on Retail Sales

Why carrying pillows at retail makes good business sense.

Diane Falvey
05/05/2021
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Coco & Dash
“People come to us for color,” says Teddie Garrigan, co-owner of Coco & Dash.

Tossed. Carefully positioned. As support. On a bed, sofa or accent chair. Pillows, those lovely pieces of textile surrounding deliciously soft insides, can be a quick fix for updating a room or a sales opportunity at home furnishings and lifestyle stores.
We might not be inclined to change out thousands of dollars worth of sofa every couple of months, but pillows, which are portable and more affordable, can update the look of a space with a toss of the wrist. 

Retail Impact

Leon & Lulu
Sofas at Leon & Lulu feature three to four sets of pillows for customers to choose from. 

“If we have pillows, we sell them,” says Mary Liz Curtin, Owner of Leon & Lulu, in Clawson, MI. “When we’ve got the stock, customers will add an extra set.” Pillows, it seems, can make the sale. Curtin, whose lifestyle store incorporates everything from greeting cards to high-end home furnishings uses decorative pillows to customize the sofas and chairs her customers are purchasing, giving them a quick, easy way to bring in colors and patterns that appeal to them. From the often three or four sets of pillows displayed with the sofas on her retail floor, customers get to choose the ones they’d like to bring home with that sofa. 

With lengthy waits on some furniture because of supply chain disruptions from COVID, pillows offer a way to make purchasing furniture off the floor that much more appealing. “Our sofas always come with two pillows, and customers can have any two pillows from the store with any sofa,” Curtin notes. 

In keeping with the aesthetic of Leon & Lulu, pillows range in style, pattern and color, incorporating lots of whimsical styles and a variety of price points, anywhere from $29 to upwards of $200. “We have lots of zippy, fun, exciting pillow styles,” she continues. Having a wide variety of styles, shapes and colors gives those in the store lots of latitude for finding just the right look. “It makes immediate sense to bring in whatever colors the customer needs,” Curtin notes. “It’s engaging for the customer to play those pillow games, and she ends up with furniture tailored just for her, even as she’s grabbing the easiest thing from the floor.” 

Take in the Rainbow

Having a wide selection of decorative pillows also adds a shot of color and merchandising savvy to furnishings displays that might otherwise have a more sedate, neutral profile. Color and pattern draws the eye, so an abundance of pillows that account for myriad styles can influence the
in-store experience for shoppers. 

Coco & Dash
At Coco & Dash, the exclusive pillows that are made by the retailer are merchandised in an array of settings to showcase the colors and styles they can bring to a home space and how they can be used.

“People come to us for color,” says Teddie Garrigan, co-owner of Coco & Dash, in Dallas, with her daughter Courtney Garrigan. “We sell a lot of pillows.” And they’re not inexpensive, she adds. For Coco & Dash, the majority of decorative pillows they carry in the shop are exclusive, including a line of Mimi pillows that feature vibrant velvets with contrasting velvet piping. Coco & Dash has added a design studio as well as they delve deeper into interior design services. Here, they can work from a wide array of fabric samples in the studio to offer custom options to their customers. “We don’t buy ready-made pillows,” Garrigan says, noting that when they did carry pillow lines, customers would gravitate toward their custom pillows anyway. These exclusive decorative pieces range in price, topping out above $300, but with the customization options and quality, that’s what their customers are looking for. “Pillows are a really important part of design and home goods at retail,” she continues, adding that for her, the pieces have to be top quality to have a place in this luxury home furnishings store.

The recommendation from both retailers to their shoppers, too, is not to purchase so many pillows there’s nowhere to sit on the sofa or getting the bed ready for sleep requires an hour moving pillows to the floor. However, a couple of well-placed pieces can add personality to a room and are well worth the expense. Showcasing a wide range of pillows gives retailers the opportunity to connect with a shopper’s aesthetic and that makes the experience of being in that store all the more engaging. 

Like so many other home decor categories, there isn’t one style, trend or design that encapsulates the pillow market at any one time. Instead, these decor items provide the versatility needed for that inclusive shopping experience. 

Leon & Lulu’s Curtin says, “I think people are looking for cheerful patterns and colors, a  pick-me-up anywhere they can find it.” 

At Coco & Dash, Garrigan leans toward classic design, but color and pattern are key. She finds blues and greens are always popular, and currently, sophisticated pinks are trending as well. From a pattern perspective, chinoiserie and hand blocks that offer an abstract floral design have done well. However, with customization options, anything can be created.

Nourison pillow
Metallic accents grace Nourison pillows.

Beyond the design and connection it creates with the consumer, quality fill and textiles make a huge difference when it comes to pillow sales. “When you buy good textiles, they last,”
says Garrigan. 

Pillows also create an opportunity for repeat sales. Customers, even if they need to be reminded, says Curtin, are more inclined to switch up the look of their room with these less costly items, whereas they might not be ready to splurge on a new piece of furniture. 

“Even if you can’t afford the highest-end furniture,” says Garrigan, “you can buy pretty pillows and that’s what people will see. They are a true luxury.”

Studio A Home pillow
Pillows are a place for bold colors, such as this orange hue from Studio A Home.

Curtin adds, “Pillows are like jewelry. We choose them for how they look.” At Leon & Lulu, furniture sales are structured to include that jewelry, which allows her customers to buy something they’ve put their creative stamp on. “It makes that purchase uniquely yours,” she says, “and that creates a fabulous talking point.”

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