By Piritta Törrö, International Marketing & Business Development
Carrying on the Dream
Michelle Hespe looks into the story behind one of the five Global Honorees at this years’ gia Global Innovation Awards in Chicago. Linen Chest from Canada is testament to one woman’s belief in her retail dream.
It’s a story loaded with sentiment and a sense of retail history – unfolding and growing with the passing of every year. It’s also a story based on a simple idea: a woman, the mother of five boys, can’t find the furnishings and homewares products that she wants and needs to create a home she loves. So in the early 1960’s, she set out on her own to create a dream retail store for herself and others – one that not only offers great products from around the world at affordable prices, but that is based upon great customer service with a staff trained to carry on her legacy.
The woman’s name was Sylvia Leibner, and in 1961, she opened her first homewares store in Montreal. What started out as a place to buy the best products available at the best prices around, gradually became an institution, and with those loyal customers who also became her friends and allies, she kept growing the business, before handing it over to two of her sons, who still run it to this day. They continued on, building upon her dream, while keeping her original ideas alive. And they’ve done a great job of it, because this March, Linen Chest became one of five Global Honorees at the 2013 gia Global Innovation Awards, held by the International Housewares Association (IHA) annually in Chicago.
Chosen by a panel of judges made up of editors and journalists from some of the best housewares industry publications around the world, and four expert jurors from different areas of retail, Linen Chest was a firm winner. The judges felt that Linen Chest maintains innovative visual merchandising and displays; that they are extremely creative when displaying bigger and more challenging products – for example great bedding displays; that they make excellent use of high-tech modern lighting, and are great with cross channel sales, with a strong online presence that is continuing to develop.
From one store in Montreal, Linen Chest has now grown to be a chain of 23 stores, offering one of the largest bedding and bath sections in Canada. The company is also known for its collections of tableware, kitchen electrics, bakeware, décor accent furniture and table linens.
The store is just as Sylvia Leibner imagined it – a space filled with the latest products, at affordable prices. She would certainly be proud to see what her boys have made of her dream.
At 14,000 sq feet, Linen Chest is no small store, but it still retains a boutique type of feel so that customers feel welcome, and at home. The latest in lighting technology also brings a warm ambience to the store, while also helping the products to really show off. The store is clearly laid out so that customers can go directly to the area they need – with all sections and categories clearly represented to make a relaxing experience. Whether it’s espresso machines for the kitchen, innovative dining and tableware, or the best in cookware or bakeware, Linen Chest knows where to put it, how to display it, and how to light it.
But of course, the products would be nothing without the staff, and true to Sylvia’s dream, her son’s have maintained the culture of Linen Chest – and that is, a culture of caring – where informed, educated staff make the customer feel that nothing is too much to ask. That’s what keeps regular customers coming back.
Linen Chest is continually marketing its product. The company sends out monthly hard copy flyers, of around 16 pages, focusing on great value products in all of its key categories. This is supported by newspaper ads, radio, billboards, email marketing, and online initiatives including Facebook campaigns. The company proudly proclaims that its online business is doing so well, that it’s considered their 24th store, with an online customer base that is growing larger by the day. Linen Chest also has a full service shop-at-home bridal registry – a niche of the store that is developing due to its popularity.
Price guarantee was always top of Sylvia’s priorities, and today that notion lives on at Linen Chest. While doggedly maintaining its style, the company offers the lowest prices on its quality products, and if someone can find a product anywhere cheaper, then they will give them another 10 percent off that price.
One thing is for sure – if Sylvia was around today, and a store like Linen Chest opened in her neighborhood, she would be the first to sing its praises. Today, its others singing her praises however, as she was brave enough, and strong enough to realize, that if you want something done well, then it’s best to just do it yourself.
For more information about the gia (Global Innovation Award) program, the co-sponsors, or participating in 2013-2014, contact Piritta Törrö at email@example.com. Additional information on the gia program is also available online at www.housewares.org/gia.
For more information about the International Home + Housewares Show and to pre-register for the 2014 Show, taking place in Chicago on March 15-18, 2014, please visit www.housewares.org.