Leading furniture and interiors shopping destination Redbrick, in Batley, has welcomed Loaf to its family. In December's issue, Furniture News asked Loaf’s CCO Theodore Sheppard to explain the thinking and execution behind the laid-back brand’s biggest ‘slowroom’ to date …
Loaf opened its first full store in 2015 in Battersea, and today the retailer’s estate comprises 10 ‘shacks’, or ‘slowrooms’.
The open-plan Redbrick store is set across two floors that house a mattress testing arena, two swatch stations, modular sofas, sofabeds, headboards, and the retailer’s largest selection of small homewares to date. As always, there are also plenty of added features to help deliver the unique Loaf shopping experience – including retro arcade games, sweet stations, a chill-out area, and Loaf’s first Biscuit Bar, says Theodore …
How does the opening fit within Loaf’s wider growth strategy?
We’re thrilled to have expanded further into the north of the UK with our Redbrick shack, near Leeds. This is an important milestone for Loaf – at 15,500 sqft, it’s our largest ‘slowroom’ (not showroom) to date, and has allowed us to invest not only in showcasing a wider selection of products, but in all the experiential touchpoints that make Loaf the exciting brand it is.
Our slowrooms play a very important part in our business, and over the next few years we plan to open more locations across the UK to support our growth strategy.
How does Redbrick complement your existing store network and audience coverage?
Redbrick is our flagship store in the north of England. We already have a strong customer base within the catchment and understand how much our customers value visiting our slowrooms to be able to try our products and experience our brand. Redbrick creates an opportunity to help increase our brand awareness and reach in the Yorkshire area and beyond, complementing our Wilmslow and Edinburgh shacks perfectly.
What prompted Loaf to scale up its footprint this time around?
Redbrick had this amazing standalone building that connects to the main complex, so we really saw this as an opportunity to go bigger with the Loaf experience.
This slowroom has two floors that showcase our biggest selection of furniture. This includes our widest selection of modular sofas and sofabeds, two swatch stations, our largest area of homeware items, plus plenty of room for all the exciting experiential points such as a movie snug, fireplace and our first-ever Biscuit Bar.
For us, having a strong brand and providing the customer with the best experience of Loaf possible is very much front of mind. Our new Redbrick shack meant we could leverage this further than any slowroom before.
Do you think the family-friendly elements in your stores really enhance their appeal to shopping parents?
Absolutely! But not just for parents, for all our customers, whether you’re with the wider family (including pets!) or with friends, we want our slowrooms to feel like somewhere where you can kick back and relax in comfort. We appreciate that customers are dedicating their time to visit us, so we strive to make our slowrooms feel welcoming and to be lovely places to spend time in.
How has your product offer evolved in the past 12 months, and how is it reflected in-store?
We’re continuing to introduce insanely comfortable and innovative products that resonate with our growing customer base. This includes further building on our homeware range of giftable lifestyle products, which have been rolled out in dedicated ‘Takeaway’ areas in selected slowrooms.
In addition, we’ve launched a few of our most popular sofa styles in ‘easy-access’ sizes, and developed our first flat-pack design, the Brioche sofa, giving greater ease for many customers on delivery. We’ve got a lot more exciting new products launching later this year too!
This is showcased in our Redbrick shack with our largest area of homeware items, plus more space for customers to see a greater range of our beds and sofa styles in a larger selection of sizes and fabrics.
How do shoppers see your physical and online channels marry up in-store?
Visiting our slowrooms means customers can see our range of products in real life, including many of our different styles and sizes, and are able to ‘rest-drive’ the product to really get a feel for the comfort. It also gives a unique opportunity to view our full range of fabric and colours and take away free fabric samples from our swatch stations. Finally, there is the opportunity to speak with our Shack Loafers, who can help guide customers through their journey.
We aim to mirror this experience on our website, to make it as easy as possible for our customers to shop online, with high-quality product and lifestyle imagery, plenty of inspiration and many of the Loafy ‘perks’ that you can find in our slowrooms – like the option to order free swatches so you can see our fabrics in person at home. Our Midlands-based customer experience team are also always on hand by phone, virtual consultations and chat to speak to customers throughout their journey.
Were there any unique challenges/opportunities arising from occupying this space?
One of the charms of Redbrick is it being an original Victorian mill. However, this naturally presents certain challenges in the design and construction. Redbrick were a great partner in helping us navigate through this, and it has added to the character of the building and uniqueness of the experience. Special thanks also go to our shack team, including Elliot, the shack manager, who really helped overcome obstacles along the way.
What’s your favourite feature of the store, and why?
For me, there are two elements that have come together brilliantly. The first is the lighting throughout the slowroom. We worked with a lighting specialist to create a really warm, inviting feeling across the space, which has resulted in a cosy slowroom full of ambience.
The second are the counter areas. From a practical perspective, they provide plenty of space for both Loaf’s shack staff and customers to sit and mull over design decisions. But the addition of a Biscuit Bar, where we offer biscuits from The Biscuiteers, with the ability to serve tea directly from this area, has created a buzzy hub that feels just like being around the kitchen table at home. It’s a lovely atmosphere to walk into, and a great reason to stay and while away an afternoon!
See more of the store in December's issue.