We hear it all the time in the home furnishings industry. The more customized and personal — and different — a piece of furniture or home accent is can make all the difference to the consumer. Enter Alicia Kerr, founder of Allie Studio, a home decor company that takes “personal” to the next level.
Allie Studio began four years ago in Kerr’s home with a website and some pillows she designed. With the tagline “Love Where You Live,” Kerr’s products were designed to catch on with the “hometown pride” consumer. However, one such design catapulted the company to the next level. Kerr’s hometown is Sacramento, CA, where the printing for Allie Studio products takes place. More specifically, she lived in the neighborhood on the east side of the city, known as East Sac to the locals. That design sold out immediately and Kerr knew she was onto something. She began adding these neighborhoods to her collection, and business exploded.
“We began drilling down to little niche neighborhoods; the historical development name was what people wanted to see. That’s where we have excelled,” she says. “We began connecting with local retailers who knew the neighborhoods and their customers. Those small, little neck-of-the-woods neighborhoods made the difference.”
Now retailers come to her, and once they find something they like that resonates with their consumers, Kerr added, they want more of that. With all printing done right in California, turnaround is approximately two weeks from order.
Kerr services a variety of retailers in California, primarily, including gift stores that feature home decor and home furnishings stores that are looking to offer impulse purchases. “Not everyone leaves with a sofa, but they might buy a pillow,” she says. “Multiple visits are key for home decor retailers. When you’re ready to replace a large area rug, you’ll remember that store because you were there purchasing gifts.”
Kerr’s goal with Allie Studio is to become a go-to for her retailers who are looking for unique items that no one else is creating. She offers exclusive collections to different retailers she works with, and while she still does business on her website, she is careful not to overlap with those exclusives on retail shelves.
Pillow design services are the base of the operation, and Kerr recently opened a warehouse where she keeps inventory ready for printing based on retail requests. She’s also branched out into other product areas — etched glass is one — to add variety to her offerings. The theme across any product category she enters remains “Love Where You Live.” She keeps her product lines fresh with the requested neighborhoods as well as with seasonal offerings. “Once retailers put a neighborhood in, then we have pillows for every season. It’s great business. These are exclusive just for them,” Kerr says. “The backbone of the brick and mortars is that they do a good job of catering to their clientele.”
While the personal touch has become the Allie Studio hallmark, quality and design are equally important to Kerr. “People are napping on these pillows. They have to be cozy and are down-filled. The outer cover also needs to withstand washing. We’ve hit hiccups along the way, but those ups and downs have made our products even better,” Kerr ascertains.
She also keeps her designs simple, with what she calls a “cotton-linen chic look” that works in a variety of home styles and/or different home spaces.
Now that she has her relationships in place with artists and print vendors, she is ready to take Allie Studio to the next level. In addition to new product categories, last month, Kerr debuted her company at Las Vegas Market to expand her reach beyond California.
“We talk to the retailers about how well some of the neighborhood designs have done. They’ve created an extraordinary amount of return traffic,” she says. “I love where I live. I had no idea how many others do too.”