This past weekend, Bachman’s 2016 Spring Ideas House ended, marking the eighth year the Minneapolis-based regional garden store has invited the public in to see a former Bachman family home that now acts as a showcase for creative home and garden decorating.
Three times a year, Bachman’s visual merchandisers strip the house, which once housed three generations of Bachmans, and repaint, replant, and redecorate it using items that can be purchased at the garden retail store. The team spends a year pulling together ideas, trends, colors, and so on, and transform the 1920s dwelling for each open house, drawing customers back again and again.
Prior to the Ideas House, the management team worried about the long-term implications of having an aging customer base. They wanted to keep current customers happy, but knew they needed to attract younger customers. They tried several different marketing campaigns, and did not see a noticeable change.
Then they opened the Ideas House.
“Not only have demographics skewed younger, but the Ideas House also brings in couples and multiple generations; three generations are coming in together. It is such a joy to see couples, groups of friends, and generations of grandmothers, daughters, and grand-daughters delight in the time shared at the Ideas House and Bachman’s,” says Karen Bachman, marketing manager at Bachman’s. He and Lesli Rauch, vice president of hardlines and visual merchandising, head up the Ideas House project.
Bachman talked with Greenhouse Grower RETAILING about how she and the rest of the team make the Ideas House such a success.
How The Ideas House Works
The Ideas House is open three times a year for a month each time: early spring, fall, and holiday.
“In the beginning, we started hosting four. Just the maintenance of that, and the traffic during peak season, was too much to keep up with,” Bachman says.
Tours are self guided, with handouts available. The handouts explain the theme of each room, and due to popular demand, the specific paint color used in each room.
The merchandising team creates designs that emphasizes the DIY aspect so that attendees can realistically replicate the designs at home. That can be from small things like a napkin fold, Bachman says, to more time-consuming wall and window treatments, like the curtain of hanging vases on display at the recent spring Ideas House.
“All the products that you see, the purpose of it is to use the products in everyday settings,” Bachman says. “We also want customers to have the idea of how to use everyday objects in unexpected places — dish towels as curtain accents, for example. That way they can achieve high design that is affordable.”
Naturally, the products used in the Ideas House can be purchased at Bachman’s. In fact, you can spy price tags on most of the items in the Ideas House.
How The Bachman’s Team Gets Ready For The Ideas House
A team of four designers work on the designs and organize how it’s executed. “They’re all full-time visual merchandisers at the stores — their main position is to make a unique store experience.”
The dates for the open house are set a full year in advance, and the team needs that lead time. The time the house is closed between the fall opening and the holiday house is just three weeks. Without a solid game plan, they would fail to meet their deadline. The entire house is repainted, restocked, and redecorated in that three-week period.
Bachman asked one of the designers, Angie Grande, to describe what her process is for planning and designing the Ideas House for seasonal transformation. Here’s Grande’s response:
- I meet with the buyers first, and they show me what collections they have coming in for the season. Many times they have thoughts on what collections go in the different rooms.
- I take that information and figure out room layouts, color schemes based off collections, and assess how the product would be showcased to feature seasonal trends and repeatable inspirations.
- I will walk the retail floor to see if there’s other products that can be showcased with new in-coming collections.
- I will look through Butler (our on-site prop warehouse) — and even areas around the property with scrap pieces — looking for parts and pieces to use as furniture for our signature mix of repurposed items.
- I purchase most of our vintage one-of-a-kind pieces from the Gathering of Friends Antique Show (Held at Bachman’s two times per year).
- I meet with the house team one time — and if I’m lucky two — prior to a house setup to give them a heads up on what the main collections are and decide who will be designing what rooms, but they all have stores they are responsible for so scheduling time is always tricky. (Each designer is assigned a home-store – Eden Prairie, Plymouth, Fridely, Apple Valley, and Maplewood)
- I coordinate the house painting and moving in of furniture so that almost everything is in place before the house team starts. We then have three weeks to physically start setting up the house.
- I meet with Kristi from garden maintenance to talk about the outdoor plantings and I do a walk-thru with Diane Enge, lead floral designer, a week before opening to discuss fresh flowers. Each person puts their own twist as they’re setting up, whether it’s visual, garden maintenance, or fresh floral. Some ideas are pre-planned, but a lot happens in-the-moment when we actually have our hands on the product in front of us.
- I work on plans for the fall and holiday houses at the same time, because there’s only a one-week turn around between the time the fall house closes and the setting up of the holiday house. Two of the designers work full time on the house for three weeks and one works part-time.
What Kind Of Impact Does The Ideas House Really Have?
Customers buy $5 tickets in order to attend the Ideas House (20% of all ticket proceeds benefit a non profit, which changes), and the ticket becomes a $5 off coupon for a $20 purchase.
Each open house can have a different impact on Bachman’s sales and customer count.
That said, the average redemption rate of the coupon for the entire year is enormous, at 49%. The holiday Ideas House redemption is slightly above fall and spring, Bachman says.
The Ideas House is located at Bachman’s flagship store, the Lyndale location, so it naturally gets the majority of the coupon redemption, although Bachman says all six stores see an uptick in traffic.
In addition to the coupon redemption, Bachman also closely tracks several other indicators, and sees a correlation between sales and the Ideas House time frames. That includes increased customer counts, increased average transactions, and an increase in new customers (measured by sign ups for the loyalty program).
Getting Everyone on Board
With so many customers streaming through the stores, wanting to buy what they’ve seen at the Ideas House, it’s important to ensure every staff member is familiar with which products in their department are on display.
Prior to opening, Bachman’s has a special employee day where they can have a private viewing.
“Pretty much everybody goes. Some choose to, but really it’s a chance for employees to see first hand what their peers have achieved,” Bachman says.
The day before opening the doors to the Ideas House, a photographer does a thorough shoot, and an image book is created for each store.
“It’s for when they needed to find a product for a customer quickly,” Bachman says. “Each one has a product book by room. So if someone says, ‘I saw something on the credenza, it was peach in tone, can you help me find it?,’ we’ve got the book as a reference.”