More people staying home means good business for Reno interior design firms
RENO, Nev. — In early 2020, business was beginning to climb for Renovate Wallcoverings.
Launched two years ago, the Reno-based wallpaper and fabric store was seeing increased advertising efforts pay off — and word-of-mouth chatter spread — as it looked to establish a foothold in the Northern Nevada economy.
In mid-March, as was the case for just about every business in the Silver State, that all changed.
“Right as we were starting to pick up traction and finally see the return on investment, we had to shut down,” owner Nikki DeMartini told the NNBW. “So, that was a little frustrating. We obviously knew it was the right decision and were supportive of it.
“But that was rough because all of the projects that were in progress we had to stop.”
Renovate Wallcoverings had to pause a handful of small projects and six “large-scale” projects amid the shutdown, DeMartini said.
Along with a selection of thousands of wallpaper offerings inside its brick-and-mortar, Renovate Wallcoverings does in-home design consultations and helps clients coordinate wallpaper installation with local installers. Moreover, the small business offers custom window treatment and upholstery solutions.
Suddenly, like a flip of a light switch, the new company’s revenue “completely tanked” for the two-plus months it was closed, DeMartini said. The 800-square-foot retail store reopened at the end of May when the state entered Phase 2 of its reopening plan.
“Our business is really focused on in-person sales,” she explained. “Because you have to be able to see and touch and feel wallpaper. It’s not something you can accurately capture on a computer screen.”
PIVOTING AMID THE PANDEMIC
In response, Renovate Wallcoverings launched free virtual in-store consultations in an effort to adapt to the new COVID business climate.
DeMartini, who runs the business with her mother, Denise DeMartini, also created an online storefront with a small selection of its budget-friendly wallpaper to add a new sales segment.
“The pandemic made us rethink how we’re doing business,” Nikki said. “We’ve always been adamant about having a brick-and-mortar, but now with COVID it’s making us rethink that maybe there are some customers that aren’t picky and can just order online.
“It’s extra revenue that we wouldn’t have had otherwise, but we kind of want to use it as a way to drive business into the store.”
All told, since reopening its storefront and launching online sales, DeMartini said business is starting to climb back up. Though Renovate Wallcoverings’ revenue is down about 30% compared to last year, Martini said June’s sales were up roughly 15%.
Playing a role, she said, is the fact that people quarantined at home are looking at their walls with a more critical eye.
“People are staying home more and they’re kind of sick of seeing the same four walls over and over and over again,” she said. “People are focusing on things that they wouldn’t normally have time for, like putting wallpaper or doing kitchen renovation or a fixing up their yard.”
‘IT HASN’T SLOWED AT ALL’
Lisa Moore, founder of Mindful Design, a Reno-based interior design business, has experienced a similar trend. In fact, she said the demand has not dipped since the pandemic hit.
“It definitely hasn’t discouraged people from doing projects,” Moore said. “It’s a little surprising how many people are out wanting to get projects done, and maybe it’s because they couldn’t do anything for a couple months. People are out and my showrooms that I work with are busy.”
When the stay-at-home mandate was announced, Moore had five projects put on hold, four of which have resumed. The pandemic also pushed Moore to do more business online and purchase materials despite only seeing them on a computer screen.
“If you’re going to have flooring in your house or tile on your walls, you want to be able to touch it and feel it,” Moore said. “And for me, that’s been the biggest challenge.”
Though her revenue was cut off for more than two months, Moore said she was set up to weather the storm through unemployment insurance and her savings.
She added: “As a small business owner, you just never know what’s going to happen, so it’s good to be prepared.”
Moore is no stranger to running a business during economic slowdowns, either. She launched Mindful Design in 2007, the start of the Great Recession.
“It’s easier this time because I’m established,” Moore said. “As soon as we started Phase 2 of reopening, my projects all picked up again and more and more people called with work to be done. So, it has not slowed at all.”
From a national standpoint, research shows the embrace of digital commerce is a whole decade ahead of schedule thanks to the pandemic. We spoke with the Retail Association of Nevada, Downtown Reno Partnership and the Reno+Sparks Chamber of Commerce to give local context to the growth of online retail.