I have to begin by saying that my past three-plus years with Room & Board have been incredible. However, I recently made a difficult decision to accept an offer for a position with a new company and pursue a career path in project management.
It has been a privilege and a pleasure to be part of the Room & Board family in Seattle. (And when I say family, I mean it! That word best describes the close relationships our team has built with each other since our store opened its doors in the fall of 2012.) This has been the most positive professional experience of my life so far. I’ve gained valuable experience, helped so many wonderful customers, and worked with a truly amazing team of coworkers.
I’ll be honest: when I first applied, I hadn’t really been considering a retail position, but I was still drawn to the description of the company in the job posting. I’m so glad I filled out that online application. The interview and training process really let me know that I was going to be part of something special. A decent amount of work that may happen at the corporate level for other retailers is actually done directly in the showroom with the support of our partners at Central. This means that there is opportunity to explore different roles and tasks, and the chance to have an impact on the direction of the business. As the Retail Merchant Liaison for our store over the past couple of years, I’ve been able to have a direct hand in growing our market sales, supporting our Design Associates with the right products on the showroom floor, and ensuring a positive shopping experience for our customers.
While my time working for Room & Board may be coming to a close, I’m so appreciative to have been able to contribute to the success of this team, and to have had the opportunity to gain such incredible personal and professional confidence. If you are interested in a career at Room & Board I can tell you three things: this is a great company, they sell products you can believe in, and there are so many warm and wonderful people who work here. As of March 1st, I may no longer be an employee here, but I’ll always be a customer!
The last few months have been fairly hectic between planning and executing our floor change for 2016, but all of our hard work has paid off! Above is a picture I took on Sunday night in the middle of all the movement followed by a snap today from approximately the same spot.
There are always ways to find space for improvement, but I can already see how our Visual Associate, Inventory Associate and myself have worked to make this floor change better than the previous year. And I’ve been so happy at the excitement our team here has about the new product and how all of the room settings landed. (I’ll admit that I’m biased, but I honestly think that this is the best our showroom has looked in the past 3+ years since our Seattle store opened.) And we couldn’t do it without each other!
It has been a little while since I have written a post, mainly because there is so much to do this time of year (especially in the Retail Merchant Liaison role). I’ve been busy working with our Inventory Associate and Visual Associate as part of our store’s “Triangle Team” to plan and execute our big Floor Sample event in the showroom on 12/26–and then our Floor Change that happens a couple of weeks later. It is a lot of work, but also very rewarding. Especially when the plans we’ve worked so hard on will start to come to life with new product arriving in the store!
We usually have a weekly transfer in our store where product may leave or arrive. One of the things we got in today were our 2016 catalogs. You can tell we were super excited to open up a box and investigate the new 2016 catalog because we had to document the moment (see picture above). We live for the little things like this, they make us so happy!
Our market is currently in the final stages of selecting our Community Partner! Since we’ve become more established in Seattle over the past three years our showroom has been open, it is now time for Room & Board to determine who we want to establish a more formal charitable relationship with here. But what exactly is a Community Partnership? Here’s a bit from Room & Board officially:
At Room & Board, we believe community involvement is an important part of our overall wellbeing. That is why we support organizations in the communities in which we live and work. We look for partners that have a direct impact on our business and whose values and philosophies are similar to ours. Our focus includes organizations with a commitment to strengthening homes and families, institutions with a passion for art and design, and environmental organizations that support our commitment to sustainability.
I really love that this is an important focus for our company. The company’s Wellness Manager was here a few weeks ago from Central to do some site visits with teams from both our showroom and our local delivery center. They visited the three local non-profit organizations that have been selected as finalists for our market to gain a better understanding of the work they do and what opportunities are available for our teams to help make an impact in the future, whether through donations or volunteering directly. This week, the store team that participated in the visits shared what they learned in our morning meetings with the rest of us (see photo above), so we can determine who we want to build a relationship with moving forward.
The selected non-profit will receive a grant from Room & Board for two years, which of course helps them in the work they are doing. But beyond that, what I love is the thoughtfulness that goes into finding a partner that the individuals in our store and delivery center can also find ways of connecting with. All three of the organizations we are considering do great work, so the choice is tough! I’ll be casting my vote this week, and then I look forward to the future opportunities our team will have to give back to our local community.
I promised I would share more about my visit to our Central offices recently. One of the areas I find the most fascinating is the Photo Lab. The work they do here really has so much influence on how our brand comes across to our customers, and to us as Design Associates. Our website is such an important tool for us to find product information, and much of that information is about what an item looks like.
So here’s a shot looking down one of the aisles of shelves that have products stored for use in the Photo Lab. It was interesting to see all the different table bases in every size and finish on the right hand side and then all sorts of different table tops in various materials and sizes on the left hand side.
Almost every single specific product is photographed by itself for our website and/or catalog. I’m so familiar with seeing images of our product on the website against a white background, but here is a peek into what exists beyond that white background in the photographs!
Another view of a different stage setup. So much hard work and planning go into building a room setting and layering in accessories in our store. I can only imagine how much more happens with building out the walls and flooring ahead of time too, and then also potentially the post-production work on the images to get them ready for publication.
A peek behind a wall! The images of furnished room settings in the catalogs provide a lot of inspiration for our customers. I also love to reference these types of images on our website when working with customers to see what collections are paired together–they always help give me more ideas. It is amazing to think that the room settings beings photographed are right here in the Photo Lab at Central. All the work that these teams do pays off, because they really feel like they are photographs of rooms in an actual home.
As a Design Associate in a showroom, we’re here on the front lines, working directly with customers to create beautiful spaces in their homes. This was a great reminder for me of all the folks who are busy making sure that everything runs smoothly and that we have the necessary tools to accomplish our daily tasks. As more of our customers are also shopping from our website, the work done here in the Photo Lab has an even bigger impact on our business, especially for someone who may never even come into a showroom or speak with a Design Associate. And I know that I sure reference our website for information every single day. Thank you to all of our many behind the scenes teams!
I had hoped to write a post last week while I was at Central (our headquarters in Minneapolis, Minn.), but there was so much to do! In any case, here you can see a moment where our Retail Market Manager, myself and our Visual Associate had found an open table to spend some time with our showroom map and do some planning.
There is so much I could say about my visit. I feel really lucky to have been able to do my initial training at the Edina, Minn. Showroom and have been able to see our Central offices previously. Being able to come back almost three years later in this role was wonderful, and also reminded me of some of the goals I had set for myself when I was new to Room & Board. One of them was to be part of the team participating in New Assortment meetings–and I got to achieve that! Also, one of the folks I had trained with who was going to be working in the Edina Showroom had recently joined the Upholstery Team as a Product Associate, so it was fun to reconnect with her and reflect on how our professional journeys had brought us to our current roles.
Seeing the new introductions for our 2016 collection and hearing the stories from our Vendor Management teams about how products were developed was amazing. There is nothing like being able to connect with the people who are making this happen. Additionally, the Central Campus is really beautiful and everyone is so nice! My hope is that I can bring some tiny percentage of the magic from this visit back to my team here at home. It really helped to fill me up with energy and reminded me why I’m so happy to be a part of Room & Board.
I’ll probably try to write another post about my experiences at Central soon. There is just too much for one post! But for the moment, we’re back in our store in Seattle and you can see our Visual Associate is busy collecting her inspiration on the wall with the maps, and then starting to lay out pairings on the floor of rugs and material finishes. Lots of work to do still and we’re excited to dig in and get things accomplished.
Continuing from my last blog post, we’re now really running with our planning for what the showroom will look like in 2016. Last week we had our conference calls with the Upholstery, Casegoods, and Accessories Teams where they shared PowerPoints with our new product information. Now we know what new items we’ll be working with and also what items will be dropping.
In addition to our planning with our showroom map, we have a lot of tools to gather together. In the picture you can see bins with fabric and leather swatches. Our Visual Associate gathers together all of the material swatches she will need in planning out pairings for room settings. This includes not only fabrics and leathers, but also samples of wood finishes and all of our rug offerings too. We’ve printed out the PowerPoints we viewed last week and have them placed in binders for easy reference (and I updated the labels on them to 2016 after I took this picture). We also have many other sheets to print out and track that our Central partners provide for us. There is a grid to see what pieces pair best together, checklists for accent chairs, and various timelines for different roles (Visual Associate, Inventory Associate, Merchant, Tagging Liaison, etc).
As the Retail Merchant Liaison for our store, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with our Representation Worksheets. These spreadsheets give us directives on how many showings of each collection we should be showing in our store amongst various categories. Since our store is smaller, we have to make decisions about what not to show. For instance, our grid calls out representation for 18 Bedroom showings, but our showroom only has 14 Bedrooms. In this case, we look at overall collections sales for the company, compare them to how collections are selling in our store and market, and then make our decisions from there. Trust me when I say that there is a LOT of information and feedback to consider!
In two weeks, I’ll be travelling with our Retail Market (Store) Manager and Visual Associate for our new assortment meetings at the Central offices in Minneapolis. We’ll spend four days there and will get to see the new products in-person! We’ll also be able to meet with our Vendor Managers in-person and make sure that our representation choices feel correct to them. I’ll plan my next post to coincide with this visit to share a little more about that process. I’ve been to Central before when I was training as a new hire, but I haven’t been to the assortment meetings. There is a lot of work to do, but I’m excited to be part of it!