Years ago, I read an article about Pottery Barn and the women who were making it a success. It was eye-opening to realize that a glossy, national chain like Pottery Barn used to buy products in a similar way garden retailers do.
There was one section of that article that really caught my imagination. It was the profile of Celia Tejada, the woman who moved Pottery Barn from buying products from outside vendors to designing their own products.
It was eye-opening to realize that a glossy, national chain like Pottery Barn used to buy products in a similar way garden retailers do.
When Tejada joined Pottery Barn, she instructed her entire staff to begin keeping an eye out for things they liked, no matter how minor. So if they were at a restaurant with friends, or walking along a street and something caught their eye, they were to either buy it or photograph it and place it in a room set aside for these kinds of inspiration.
When it came time to select themes for the following year, the inspiration room awaited, filled with year’s worth of loot. The team could go in and realize what themes were emerging.
It wasn’t a scientific process. Instead, it was a years’ worth of gut reactions, a collection of items that spurred excitement and emotion.
Good buying is as much gut instinct as it is science. This gathering of everyone’s’ favorite finds helps give that gut reaction more substance.
Another point Tejada made to Fast Company (the magazine that ran the article) was that those contributing to the inspiration room must live their lives. No one is promoted or rewarded for working ridiculous hours. If they aren’t living a real life, she reasons, then they can’t be aware of trends and will be too numb to find inspiration in everyday things around them.
It would be interesting to find out if that’s still the case among the Pottery Barn design team. It seems most American workers have absorbed the work of others who have left, and working a mere 40 hours a week is a thing of the past. But she has a strong point about protecting the emotional energy needed to do creative work, and to deal with customers in a consistently friendly manner.
But I digress. Think about how you can use Tejada’s trend gathering idea for your own store.
Today, Tejada’s inspiration room is even easier to mimic. After all, she joined Pottery Barn in the mid 90s, well before the launch of Pinterest. Imagine what you and the rest of the staff can do in a year’s time with Pinterest. You can even set aside a Pinterest page for your customers’ dream gardens, plants, and green lifestyles.
It’s time to start gathering inspiration!