A few years ago, Richard and Jennifer Parrick excitedly boarded a plane home from the ICFA Educational Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, eager to tell their colleagues at Rich’s for the Home about what they’d learned.
Jennifer’s father founded Rich’s for the Home in 1979, and it has since grown into a five-store operation. Jennifer has been working in the business for most of her life, most recently handling the outdoor category and merchandising. Richard joined the team in 1990, just a few years after the store added an outdoor category, and found it easy and fun to sell outdoor product.
But on the plane ride home, they got to thinking about how small the casual furnishings world is. They knew there had to be a way to increase awareness, stoke excitement from retailers and manufacturers, and capitalize on the rise of residential outdoor spaces.
That was when they found the niche they were looking to fill.
Over the years at Rich’s, Richard says people would come in from bars, restaurants, wineries and even hotels to buy the quality furniture that Rich’s sells. But the store rarely landed those deals because they had to maintain margins.
“We saw that there was a niche for what I would call small- to medium-sized contract deals—$12,000 to $60,000,” Richard says. “These are the deals that most manufacturers and their reps don’t pay as much attention to—but we can and want to. We can walk those people through what they could get and then help them buy some really great stuff instead of the stuff you see at all the other hospitality settings.”
Going off of this idea, the two founded Casual Design Source, a company they describe as “a buyer’s agent for any customer who wants outdoor furniture.”
Richard says there are a lot of high-end residential customers who don’t come into the store but instead send a designer or buyer in, and those people are not experts on outdoor furniture. “They know the indoor world pretty well, but not the outdoor world,” he says. “And many of these customers end up getting lesser-quality furniture than the average consumer because it was purchased by someone with little knowledge of the category.”
Having worked in retail, the couple knows the potential of what’s out there and that a lot of people are not educated on outdoor furniture as far as all the options available, the quality differences, etc. “We began to realize there’s a market largely being untapped,” Jennifer says. “We even had people in the industry ask us who was tackling this market.”
“We want to be able to say yes to anything people need,” Jennifer continues, explaining the goal of Casual Design Source. “We can get just about any product from just about any manufacturer. We’ve negotiated best-possible pricing, and we can act as a designer if they need that service. We want to be their go-to solution.”
The company works with consumers, designers, retailers and manufacturers, and they even refer some customers to retailers—like Rich’s and Summer House Patio— when it makes sense.
Jennifer says her family at Rich’s is very supportive of the business and sees the need. And the duo’s past experience with the company has proven beneficial to Casual Design Source in more ways than one.
“Basically everyone in our area knows who Rich’s is, so when I say that’s my background and that I’ve been a buyer in the industry for years, to them, that is a big confidence boost,” Jennifer says. “Rich’s has a good reputation for quality furniture, and we’re offering that, but we’re also coming out to their site and we have access to a ton of outdoor furniture.”
Also because of their past retail experiences, the Parricks are retail-minded when it comes to relationships, as they know how important relationships are in this industry. This is one of the things that they think sets their new company apart from others in contract sales.
“One of the main differences between retail and contract sales is that people inthe contract world are stale and just there to make a transaction,” Richard says. “In the retail world, you have to greet the customer when they come in, ask them questions to see what they want and then teach them how they can get it in their backyard.”
He says it’s totally different than a typical sales rep going in and speaking technical jargon. “We can go in and ask what their needs are and how they use the space,” Richard explains. “We can figure out what works for their space versus just being a transactional deal.”
The duo takes this approach for Casual Design Source, and they say their customers are refreshed to see it. “We treat them like a real customer and want to help them use their space,” Jennifer adds. “And then that snowballs.”
As they look to the future, they plan to continue to focus on building relationships, which hopefully leads to increased future business.
“We’re going to start a good relationship with everyone so they come back to us for everything else in the future—whether it’s 100 chaise lounges or just one patio heater,” Richard says. “We want them to know who we are and that we’re looking out for them; that there’s a level of trust.”