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Home Depot Director of Trend & Design: Targeting Home Furnishings

The home improvement giant known more for its paint, flooring and large appliances, is going after a bigger piece of the home furnishings market says Sarah Fishburne.

By Lisa Vincenti

NEW YORK -- Home Depot,  the home improvement giant known more for its paint, flooring and large appliances, is going after a bigger piece of the home furnishings market. 

In fact the retailer, with nearly 2,300 stores nationwide, has been growing its cross-coordinate private label Home Decorators collection,which includes everything from upholstery to area rugs to home textiles and bathroom vanities, to expand its market reach. And the company has just launched its new StyleWell brand, a more entry-level assortment, that will include a range of home furnishings, of which area rugs are a critical component.

An assortment of Home Depot's private label rugs from the Home Decorators Collection.

Hoping to share its new story line with consumers and paint a complete picture of how it is tweaking its approach to interior fashions, Home Depot participated for the first time in the annual AD Home Design Show. The company hosted the show's "Refresh Lounge" and curated a space fully decorated in Home Depot home product -- from paint to furnishings and soft goods.

The AD expo, held earlier this spring in New York City, caters not only to designers but also to consumers walking the event looking for inspiration and product ideas (read our area rug round up here). At the fair, Home Depot set up fully furnished room vignettes outfitted with products from its growing Home Decorators collection and showcasing an Artistic Weavers and Nuloom.

"Home Decorators Collection rolled out three years ago. Over that time, the Home Depot has built over 500 collections, encompassing approximately 4,000 SKUs," Jessica Campbell, rug merchant at Home Depot told RugNews.com.

To find out more about the company's strategy in the home furnishings segment in general and in the area rug category in particular, RugNews.com caught up with Sarah Fishburne, a 15-year Home Depot veteran. Fishburne, the company's director of trend and design, shares below the details on the company's strategy in the home furnishings sector and its rug program as well.


Overall, how important is the rug category at Home Depot? 


 SF: It's very important. It continues to grow. I'm an interior designer by trade, rugs are important. Just as a design aesthetic, it brings everything together. It could be the statement piece. It could be the anchor. It can take a giant room and anchor it. It can take a small room and expand it.

Under what private labels do you sell rugs?


 SF: We have a couple. Home Decorators, and now we have StyleWell -- that's a brand new brand that we just launched and is rolling out as we speak. 


Home Depot's Home Decorators Collection private label website landing page invites consumers to browse its cross-merchandised offering.

How important is the Home Decorators Collection to Home Depot? Why?


SF: Home Decorators Collection is an integral part of the Home Depot, because it is redefining what home improvement means. While many think "home improvement" when they think the Home Depot, they may not know that the retailer offers so much more -- including interior furniture, wall décor, housewares, tableware and even cookware and small electrics. Home Decorators Collection helps homeowners finish any room with confidence and provides unique, high-quality pieces at a great value.

What are the differences between your StyleWell and Home Decorators labels? 


 SF: StyleWell is more of an open price point. It's a little younger. It's a little bit more basic. That's the way we explain it. It's a younger demographic that is moving into their first home or apartment. They want something that's on trend. They don't want to spend a lot of money. They probably don't care as much about performance fabrics. Maybe they're just starting to have kids, but that's not really in their focus. They want that simple sofa. They want an on-trend cocktail table. But, they're not really up to speed on mixing styles or finishes, or understanding what that is. Once they do though, that's when we trade them up to our Home Decorators collection. 


So you try to get customers early and then you keep them for life?


 SF: In all our product brands, we have a good-best strategy in almost all our categories. We really want to be every price point. We have multiple price points. We never want people to come in and say, "Oh, this is all I can get for this." We want them to say, "Oh my gosh, I can get all of this." We're going to give them a reason to step up. 

Among the best-selling designs from Home Depot's Home Decorators Collection is this plush, contemporary design called Shoreline. 

How do you create your private label area rug designs?


 SF: We work with a lot of suppliers to design them. We can give direction. We have so many great vendors. We come up with designs. We go back and forth. My team does design some things, though we usually design smaller ones, like doormats and small scatters.

What are some national rug brands you carry? 


 SF: We carry names like Artistic Weavers, Mohawk and Nuloom. We have thousands and thousands of rugs online. We keep a smaller assortment inside our store.

So you offer more rugs online, then in stores?


SF: We have tons online. We keep updating [our website] and making it better. We have tons of great [search] filters. If you're interested in just indoor-outdoor rugs, you can take it down to a color, size and function. We have a breadth of assortment of thousands of rugs and can help buyers narrow down what they want. In some cases, they just want to shop styles. They don't know what they want yet. We allow them to do that. You can look by color, size, application and durability. 


Being that you're really good at outdoors at Home Depot, what do you think of the outdoor rug category? 


SF: Love it! We have been in indoor-outdoor for a long time. I love it for so many reasons, but it's funny, I am a very big advocate of putting indoor-outdoor inside. I always put them in kitchens. If you're a high traffic home with kids or pets -- you can take it outside and wash it, and they're very affordable. They also have great designs now. There are new designs, textures and constructions. If you felt them, you wouldn't know they're indoor-outdoor. I think they keep getting better and better.

Is there a price point that works really well for you in the indoor-outdoor category? 


 SF: Our pricing is so great. Both our low-end and high-end are usually the fastest things to go when we put them in the store. They start at around $49 and go up from there. 


How do home furnishings relate to Home Depot, a home improvement retailer?


 SF: We really had to think about why we have gotten into this more. We have always been trusted for home remodeling. You're going to come to us for your kitchen or bathroom remodels, or your flooring or paint projects. We were already helping you remodel and put the new flooring down in the bath or kitchen and put that vanity in. So we began to ask, why aren't we selling the textiles, towels, bedding,or small appliances? We are a destination for large appliances. We already had that customer. Now we can help them complete their whole project. 


What made you decide to participate in AD Design Show in NYC? 


 SF: We haven't had a footprint at a show like this before ... where we get in front of consumers with our home collection. We want to show people what they don't really see at our stores. A lot of this product is actually only available online, not necessarily in stores.

At the AD Design Show earlier this year, Home Depot outfitted the Refresh lounge with mostly products from its Home Decorators collection. Here, a rug from Artistic Weavers picks up on the blues featured in other accents.

So you focused AD Design show lounge on Home Depot's Home Decorators products -- can you tell us more about that brand?


 SF: It's a decorator's collection. So, all the furniture you see here is Home Decorators collection. Under the Home Decorators collection, we have rugs, lighting, vanities -- a ton of product. When we go after building a brand, we really take those styles, those design paths that we saw two or three years out and develop them across multiple categories. A consumer can come in, and if they love that blue chair, we might have a blue vanity as well. And, those colors tie back to some of the paint colors at our stores as well. We're really trying to curate a look, tell the story, and make it easy for the consumer to shop.

What was the design inspiration behind At Home with AD Refresh Lounge décor?


SF: Designed to be a cozy area, the AD Refresh Lounge created a classic, timeless aesthetic with pops of color -- especially the walls with Behr's Vintage Coral. The idea behind the lounge was a functional cafe that was not only inviting for guests, but also reflective of The Home Depot's expansive home décor offerings.

Nuloom's Shaina Tribal area rug was also on show at the Home Depot curated Refresh Lounge at the AD Design Show.



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