Martin Roberts Puts the Emphasis on Design at Interiors Furniture and Design

New Strategy Focuses on Higher‐End Consumers’ Desire for Individualized Experience

CAMP HILL, PA – When retail design specialist Martin Roberts was approached about creating a new Interiors location here, he decided the last thing his client needed was another furniture store. Rather, he relates, the emphasis here needed to be on interior design services.

Published first in Retailer Now.

Roberts and Todd Lehman, president of Interiors Furniture & Design, had successfully collaborated twice before on the look and feel of Interiors stores in Lancaster and Harrisburg, PA. Yet, the chain’s newest store, Roberts counseled, required a new strategy.

As before, Roberts and his team developed both the exterior and interior of the new store, including signage and graphics. Notably different here from the chain’s other locations, however, is the large Design Center located at the very center of the store. “We designed a hub if you will, and made it accessible and visible to everyone who enters Interiors,” Roberts says. “We said, ‘Look, the heart of your business is not selling furniture; it’s selling interior design services. To accomplish that, you don’t need a lot of furniture. What you need is a lot of interior design help. That’s what will distinguish your brick-and‐mortar store from the huge lifestyle catalogs that come in your customers’ mailboxes and what they see on the web. It’s not about selection anymore. You’ve got to focus on the higher‐end customers’ desire for individualized experience.”

The result is that the Design Center, staffed with more than a dozen interior design specialists, hums with activity. So much so, that the hub, surrounded by three lifestyle zones—Today’s Modern, New Traditions and Refined Country — will soon be replicated in the older Lancaster and Harrisburg stores.

“The new store is really the culmination of the way we do business today,” Lehman says. “So many consumers can’t really describe what it is they want, but they know it when they see it, and the new lifestyle displays assist them in the shopping process. Martin has a tremendous understanding of consumer behavior, and he understands how to take a structure and give it a new look while still being conscious of budget.

“We choose to work with him because he knows retail beyond the home furnishings business,” the retailer adds. “He has a good sense of the total market and he helps me to better understand the techniques that are being used in other types of retail that can be injected into the planning of home furnishings stores. Lighting is a good example. Martin is very knowledgeable about the science and psychology of lighting, as well as fixtures for showrooms based on the type of showroom.”

Case in point: The large, open‐plan Design Center at the middle of the store is both a draw for freelance designers and customers shopping in the store who might not have previously considered working with an interior designer. “There’s no doubt that the better‐end customer is engaging more outside design help than they used to,” Lehman says. “These customers want to have an individualized experience that typically involves customization of some kind, from fabrics to finishes. For this reason, we find ourselves really catering to the freelance design trade as part of our business today. We welcome outside designers because of the relationships that they’ve created with their clients, and our staff designers—who have great knowledge of the showroom and all the resources available—welcome working with them to ensure that our customers have the best of both worlds.”

At the same time, Lehman says, “We also want to encourage shoppers to come into the Design Center and interact with a lot of the things that are going on there, from fabrics to catalogs. We want them to get engaged.”

According to Roberts, “That’s why the Design Center is in the middle of the store, and is as open as it is, with working tables that double as storage for fabric samples. We didn’t want to stick it in the back corner and say, ‘This area is just for our special clients.’ We wanted the Design Center to be a very comfortable, approachable, well‐lit space where everybody feels welcome because Interiors’ mission is
to help all of its customers create homes that uniquely reflect them.”

Geographically speaking, Lehman says the new store is part of Interiors’ strategic plan for expansion in the Susquehanna Valley “as we pursue our goals of being the dominant high‐end home furnishings store in Central Pennsylvania.”

A grand opening celebration at the new store, including a ribbon cutting party, grand opening sale and month‐long special events is planned for October.

About Interiors Furniture & Design:
Interiors Furniture & Design was founded in 1969 in Lancaster, PA by Lillian Lehman with the goal of meeting a need for high quality, fashionable home furnishings. Lillian had a passion not just for great furniture and design, but for building strong, personal relationships within her community. Lillian instilled these values in her four sons, and Todd & Gregg Lehman together continue to own and manage the business today. Lillian’s values continue to be central to the business, and while Interiors has grown in size and scope, it still differentiates itself based on these fundamentals established by Lillian. With this model, Interiors has grown to meeting the needs not just of Lancaster, but to all of its surrounding Counties and communities in Central Pennsylvania.