This New Year’s Eve, the team at New Jersey–based wallcoverings giant Phillip Jeffries will have an extra reason to pop open the Champagne—in January 2020, the company will open a new flagship in New York. Located on the 11th floor of the Decoration & Design Building, the 2,500-square-foot space will feature more than 450 display boards, and according to company president Philip Bershad, will boast one of the largest wallcovering selections in the world.
The news may leave some wondering: Wait, didn’t Phillip Jeffries already have a showroom in the D&D? Well, yes and no. Since 2005, the wallcoverings company has shown through Holly Hunt—starting with a few wing boards and eventually growing to encompass half of the showroom’s footprint. But until now, the company’s presence in New York has all been under Hunt’s roof; this move will mark an amicable parting of ways (Holly Hunt will still rep the brand in Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, Miami and Minneapolis) and Phillip Jeffries’s debut as a standalone operation in the Big Apple.
So what can designers expect? “We want to wow designers right when they walk in,” Philip told Business of Home. “We have an entire visual merchandising team working on the displays. … In addition, there’s going to be technology, a concierge team—we told our team we want to up the ante.”
In a time when some companies are developing function-first showroom concepts, and others are doubling down on beautiful displays and experiential retail, Philip and his brother Jeffrey Bershad, Phillip Jeffries CEO and co-owner, are looking to have their cake and eat it too. They’re also catering the store to satisfy a range of tech savviness—designers will be able to fill out pen-and-paper forms if they’d like, or click off requests on a Phillip Jeffries smartphone app (which means that the samples are prepared while the designer continues to shop).
The big-net approach, the Bershads say, reflects the transitional moment the industry finds itself in. “I was having dinner with some designers last night, and I asked them: When you get to the point in a project where you’re looking for soft finishes, how do you start?” says Jeffrey. “The first designer said they go to the D&D, the second said they look at their own library, the third said, ‘I go to Instagram.’”
Crafting a store that appeals to all three of Jeffrey’s dinner companions requires a lot of fine-tuning, a process the brothers have been iterating as they launched their previous standalone showrooms in Boston, London, Atlanta and San Francisco. (Part of the reason they waited to open a New York showroom was to test the concept in lower-volume markets.) Their biggest takeaway: There is no one customer.
“We go through a tremendous amount of training in how to greet designers. Some want personalized assistance, others are on the hunt and just need to get it done,” says Jeffrey. “You have to design a showroom and train your staff [to work] both ways.” To that end, the Bershads are planning on staffing their showroom with 12 employees, as well as installing a grab-and-go sample bar of best-sellers.
Of course, working with a wide range of customer types (and wowing all of them) isn’t cheap. The Bershad brothers acknowledge the showroom will be a significant expense, but it’s one they’re happy to undertake: “You’ve got to spend money to make money,” says Philip. “You can’t be penny-wise and pound foolish.” The move caps off an expansive few years that has seen Phillip Jeffries set up shop in Canada and grow in the United Kingdom and across Europe.
This will likely, however, be the company’s biggest showroom outlay in 2020. In regional markets across the states, the Bershads are content to stay in fruitful partnerships with showrooms. (“We’re staying with the ones who invest in their businesses the way we’re investing in ours,” says Jeffrey.) Indeed, for many years, the arrangement with Holly Hunt was just such a fruitful partnership—it made money in their biggest market, and everyone was happy. But eventually, the Bershads agree, the time came to move out.
“Everything starts with a feeling,” says Jeffrey. “This is very much driven by a desire to build something fresh—the largest and best wallcovering showroom in the States.”
“It’ll be a destination,” adds Philip. “We’ll be neighbors with Stark—so you’ll have both floors and walls covered.”