Retail Road Trip: Dallas

Our Retail Road Trip continues this year in Dallas, home to Lightovation and the Total Home & Gift Market. Dallas’ economy may be growing, but it’s not all roses for stores Coco & Dash and Lights Fantastic. See how they’re tackling an uncertain retail future and the internet.

Alison Martin
03/29/2018
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Coco & Dash
Coco & Dash

Coco & Dash

The new year brought more rocky news for the retail industry. Toys R Us announced it would close nearly one fifth of its stores in North America. JC Penney also quietly announced another round of store closings after shuttering 140 stores last year.

Teddie and Courtney Garrigan, the mother-daughter co-owners of Coco & Dash, read these headlines religiously, but they’re not taking the retail apocalypse lying down. Last year, they moved their Dallas showroom to a bigger space next door, and this year, they opened a new store connected to their showroom called Ciao, Coco!

Just four years old and already a two-time ARTS Award winner, Coco & Dash showcases an airy and dramatic collection of home furnishings, art, accessories and lighting. Carrying brands like Square Feathers, Dash & Albert, Handley Drive as well as some vintage pieces, the store epitomizes the Garrigans’ shared taste — classic pieces with modern updates, eclectic accessories and Asian- and internationally-inspired designs.

The new home decor and gift store, located just off the main showroom in a smaller space, explodes with bright colors and fun patterns and textures, offering everything from decorative accessories to purses to candles.

“Ciao, Coco! was born of a love for southern hospitality, casual living and the little things that make life fun,” explains Teddie Garrigan. “It’s the vacation lifestyle to Coco & Dash’s primary residence status.”

Ciao Coco!
Teddie and Courtney Garrigan attend markets in Atlanta and High Point. “We use the same buying process whether we’re traveling or attending markets — if it’s something we love, generally, our customers will also love it.” The new Ciao Coco! (shown here) stocks fun partywear, gifts and accessories. 

 

The addition came about because of a surprising new revenue stream that seemed to be developing. More and more people came into the store off the street looking for hostess gifts and small accessories to spiff up their homes, especially around the holidays. This may seem like traditional retail traffic, but for Coco & Dash, traditional retail has never been, well, traditional. Despite Coco & Dash being open at regular hours in a regularly busy retail area, over 80 percent of the showroom’s business comes from designers.

Courtney Garrigan isn’t sure how the store developed such a designer following, but her and her mother’s style seems to have resonated with local and national interior designers. The store carries mid- and high-end brands that designers want to work with, making it easier for them to customize furniture and lighting to their clients’ needs. Just recently, the store took on two part-time associates, so the Garrigans have been able to give their full and personal attention to each customer, even letting customers take out pieces on loan to test them in the space.

“We want it to be right,” Courtney Garrigan says. “We want you to be happy with it, and with some of these big pieces, that’s a lot of money to get it wrong.”

Allowing discounts for designers has also helped turn Coco & Dash into a must-visit. The Garrigans are happy to give discounts to working designers, but they don’t hand out discounts to anyone with a tax ID number. As Courtney Garrigan says, it’s money out of her pocket.

Plus having a sweet shop dog like Samantha to welcome customers doesn’t hurt either.

Coco & Dash showroom and custom tag
Products in the main showroom have custom tags for added detail.

But even as the store continues to grow, Teddie and Courtney Garrigan always keep the threat of the retail apocalypse in the back of their minds. They meet up with retailer friends across the country to swap stories about what’s working and what’s not, and they’re thinking of dipping their toes into e-commerce. Teddie Garrigan especially keeps up with news reports on the latest retail woes befalling big-box and looks for the silver lining.

“The flip side to this,” Teddie Garrigan says, “is small retail is looking more and more attractive to customers who want better quality and the touch of humanity in their everyday lives. Our customers are intelligent people who want a better product and they want to know more about it. Our goal is not to sell the lowest quality for the cheapest price. We provide beautiful products at fair prices to customers who are creating the best lifestyle they can afford.”

Above all, staying on Coco & Dash’s brand matters most to the Garrigans. During the January Dallas market, the store partnered with D Magazine, a regional consumer publication, to host a panel called Design Forecast. The guest list included a strong mix of designers and design lovers, and the Garrigans already have big plans for the future.

“We already have assembled an amazing panel for next year,” Teddie Garrigan says, “and it will be a do-not-miss event during the January 2019 Dallas Market. Stay tuned for details!”

Lights Fantastic

Lights Fantastic Austin

Lights Fantastic takes the word “experience” to heart. So much so that by the time you finish reading about the store, you will be sick of the word. If you aren’t sick of it, then you haven’t been listening.

If the internet never existed, there’s a small chance the Dallas showroom would never have changed the sales tactics it used when the showroom first opened in 1974, back when shopping for lighting hinged mostly on aesthetics. Do you like traditional? What about industrial? Do you want it in polished nickel or brass? Great, here are the light bulbs. 

But the internet happened. Consumers became more informed — not necessarily well-informed, but informed nonetheless. Amazon trained them to expect hundreds of products available for two-day shipping, and now few items qualify as off-the-couch purchases, not even mattresses or furniture and especially not lighting.

General Manager Tim Stumm and his team know this. The owners, Jon and Larry Sayah, know exactly what they’re up against. Rather than burying their heads in the sand, the Sayahs chose to revamp the entire store, turning it from just another showroom into a lighting experience that the internet can’t accurately deliver.

“We’ve been known for years in the Dallas/Fort Worth area as the go-to store for contemporary lighting,” Stumm says. “Obviously, as a full service showroom, we can accommodate any client’s wishes, even with it comes to ordering other lighting styles.”

Lights Fantastic showroom
It’s easy to find a seat in Lights Fantastic. The store has a ton of chairs for customers to sit and really think about their lighting as well as larger conference tables for planning big projects. The LED section (left) and the light bulb and ceiling fan gallery (right) let customers interact with the product. Both sections have knowledgable sales associates that can demonstrate how connected lighting works and how the right color temperature can help them distinguish black from navy in their closets.

The experience begins with the front entry hallway. Small vignettes highlight contemporary fixtures paired with accent tables and decorative accessories — no lights hanging overhead down the path. On the right, the contemporaries: LED chandeliers and pendants from Hubbardton Forge, Sonneman and Flos, fixtures with chrome and even crystal accents, and glass chandeliers from Italian companies unavailable anywhere else in Dallas. On the left: transitional with some traditional and modern thrown in for good measure.

Stumm hates asking customers, “What brings you in today?” It’s a lighting store. They didn’t come in for a car. Instead, he starts the experience by asking, “Are you doing new construction or a renovation?” If it’s new construction, he asks for the builder’s name and, because he knows most of the builders in Dallas, he starts with that connection. If it’s a renovation, he asks for the room and moves the buyer on to find the right style and the right fit for the budget.

“When we educate people with the latest in lighting technology that helps better their lives, they can fully realize the value of doing business with us,” he says.

In a way, Lights Fantastic borrowed a sales strategy from mattress stores. There are chairs and sofas all over the showroom for people to sit and consider their lighting options. Not sure you can live with that ultra-mod chandelier? Have a seat. Look at it for awhile. Imagine turning on that light every day for the next 10, 20 even 30 years. Does it make you happy? Encouraging customers to stop and really think about how their lighting makes them feel enhances the experience, and it makes them feel more comfortable at the showroom. 

“Lighting should enrich your life, and it should definitely make you smile,” Stumm explains. “It’s so important that we get to truly know the client, to ask all the right questions, to make the best choices for their home or business.”

What really sets Lights Fantastic apart is its commitment to present and future technology, showing customers just how the right lighting can wake them up and put them to bed. Lights Fantastic recently renovated the showroom to include a whole section dedicated to LED and smart home technology. The ceilings glow blue and purple, and the walls have LED strips embedded in them. Associates can play with the colors, dim the LEDs and demonstrate to customers how it all works together. Stumm likes to help his customers experience closet lighting by standing them in front of an LED mirror and showing them how the correct lighting can help them tell the difference between black and navy.

No lighting question goes unanswered. Near the front door, there’s a separate gallery devoted half and half to ceiling fans and light bulbs. An associate, whose only job is to know everything there is to know about light bulbs, answers questions and keeps up with the latest in LED bulbs. The experience gives LED skeptics the chance to learn about the technology and how far it’s come.

Stumm says the showroom changes came when the store finally accepted reality: The internet wasn’t going away. People would almost always prefer to shop from their couches, and unless Lights Fantastic created a wholly unique experience for its customers and showed them how lighting impacts them every day, their doors would be shutting soon enough.

And from that, Jon Sayah formed a new motto: Think outside the bulb. 

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