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Showroom Showcase

Wowing Customers With Premier Products and Superior Service

When yard art opened for business in colleyville, texas, in 1994, the initial plan was to sell backyard statuary, pottery, and fountains—and a little bit of patio furniture. In the first year, general manager Butch Wallace spent many backbreaking hours delivering 700-pound pieces of iron and concrete art to customers’ homes.

While outdoor-art sales were satisfactory, it became obvious, before the first year was over, that outdoor furniture was going to be the hot item. Today, Yard Art has become Yard Art Patio & Fireplace, specializing in everything one could need to furnish an outdoor room lavishly. “We still have plenty of outdoor art, but it weighs much less,” Wallace jokes.

With four locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Yard Art Patio & Fireplace is one of the premier spots to buy midrange to high-end casual furniture and accessories. The newest store, in Lewisville, Texas, is impressive, with its 15,000 square feet of showroom space, high ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Wallace says that the expansion to four stores over the past few years (starting in 2002) has strengthened the business (not burdened it, as one might think in today’s economy).

With a background of managing multistore locations, Wallace knows from experience that when one location isn’t meeting sales expectations, chances are that sales are picking up in another. “Different stores have different dynamics and fluctuate in their business, so you don’t have to depend on one store for your livelihood,” Wallace says. He adds that it was always in his business plan to cover the Dallas/Fort Worth area with stores. Even though the stores are only 15 to 20 miles apart, each serves a different part of the city.

Keeping a High Profile

In a large region like the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area (which includes many contiguous small towns and suburbs), it isn’t easy to stand out from the crowd, but Yard Art Patio & Fireplace has managed to keep a high profile. According to Wallace, its advertising includes print and radio, with radio bringing the most return for advertising dollars spent. The company’s target customers are women between the ages of 30 and 65, so Wallace runs image spots during prime driving times.

Yard Art Patio & Fireplace is also a regular (and inseparable) part of local community events and fundraisers. For the past few years, it has provided furniture to decorate million-dollar show homes that are used for fundraisers for local charities. Wallace and his team create relaxing backyard retreats for the show homes using everything from furniture to umbrellas and fountains. With over 1,000 people touring the homes, he says that it’s great exposure. Wallace also helps furnish luxury homes as part of the Tour de Chefs cooking fundraiser, in which world-famous chefs cook in the kitchens of prestigious homes in the Dallas area.

In addition, Wallace regularly hosts in-store fundraising dinners and social events, and the company provides bar tables, chairs, and market umbrellas emblazoned with the store’s logo for outdoor events. He explains that doing community events has a snowball effect; once you’ve done a few, organizations begin to seek your participation in more. “We do these events not only to boost our sales and visibility, but because we want to do the right thing for our community,” Wallace says.

A Service Reputation
Apart from carrying the biggest selection of outdoor products in its area, Yard Art Patio & Fireplace has, first and foremost, built its reputation on service. “We believe in relationship selling and complete customer satisfaction,” Wallace says. “By relationship selling, I mean that we want our customers to feel as comfortable in our stores as they would as guests in our homes.”

He explains that his salespeople never go for the hard sell and always follow up to make sure that the customer leaves the store happy—and stays happy. Wallace devotes much of his energy to coaching his staff in how to build the relationships that are so important to sales. He explains that it’s not just about being friendly, but about knowing different personality types and how to communicate on their levels.

For example, a person with a type-A (managerial) personality typically comes into the store, skips the small talk, and wants to get straight to the sale. A person with a type-B (social) personality wants to get to know the salesperson, will talk about the weather, and will get to the sale at a much slower pace. “Knowing what make different types of people tick makes it easier to form relationships,” Wallace says.

Once customers have decided which products they would like to purchase, the sales staff typically works with them to design their outdoor spaces, sitting down and laying everything out on paper. “They really appreciate the extra help,” Wallace says. On the fireplace side of the business, there are several trained technicians on staff to install gas logs, measure and install fireplace doors, and take care of any fireplace needs.

Over the past few years, the outdoor-fireplace business has moved from selling chimeneas to offering elaborate outdoor fireplaces and firepits. “That part of our business has lots of potential for growth,” Wallace says. He’s recently started offering the services of a local contractor to create custom hearths for customers.

Wallace is optimistic about the future, pointing out that people may be cautious about spending their hard-earned money, but they will still spend it. He says that his biggest challenge and his greatest opportunity are one and the same: making consumers aware of what they can create in their outdoor spaces. “I can look into the backyards of nice homes on any high-end golf course and still see cheap patio furniture,” he says. “It’s our job to tap into that opportunity.”

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