July 23, 2013

Get Creative With Your Business to Stay Relevant – The La-Z-Boy Story


Make sure you read this post through to the end! There’s a little surprise waiting for you. 

Let’s play a quick guessing game (it’s super easy – I promise!). Business A and Business B have had their doors open for 50 years. Both have had some tough periods since the economy went crazy in 2008. Business A sticks to its original strategy. The CEO directs leadership to keep doing things the same way because it’s too risky to make a change. Things have been working for 50 years, and even though it’s a bit hit-or-miss now, the CEO is confident things will pick back up if everyone just keeps pushing forward and doing what they know has always worked.

Business B takes a different approach. Business B decides to take some calculated risks and shift the business strategy to appeal to new demographics. The CEO realizes times have changed and what worked 10, 20, 30 years ago no longer works. Customers want to be reached and appealed to in different ways. They want new products in the store that reflect the more modern times. CEO of Business B gets that. So he and his team come up with creative ways to get the business booming again.

Which business do you think will thrive? I told you this was an easy game. Business B, of course!

For many, many different reasons (including increased competition, the economy and customers increasingly using the Internet to learn about and buy products), businesses have to find new ways to retain current and attract new customers in order to keep their doors open. So what do you do if you’ve been in business for 85 years? Well, you do something similar to my Business B example above.

Now I’ll give you a real world example. I had the opportunity to visit the newest La-Z-Boy concept store in Sterling Heights, MI to check out the products and learn how the 85-year-old business has evolved to appeal to new customers. The team at La-Z-Boy realized there was a stigma associated with their company. People hear La-Z-Boy and they immediately think recliners (I did!). Many don’t associate the company and its products with contemporary design and fashionable home decor. La-Z-Boy has worked hard to add a huge selection of home accessories to its product offerings, but not enough people (particularly women) know that. So what has the company done? Got a little more creative to change the business and the demographics of its customers.

From a macro level, La-Z-Boy brought on Brooke Shields as a spokesperson in advertisements and brand ambassador to speak to that new target audience the company is trying to reach. They added an accessories rewards program where you get $25 in free accessories when you spend $200. They created a free in-home design program where an interior design professional will come to your home and help you take that picture in your head and make it a reality in your home. The designer provides an entire floor plan (like the one below), along with 2D and 3D designs. Did I mention that program is free?! I so wish I knew about that when we first moved into our house. I love clothes fashion, but I am nowhere near as privy to home fashion as I am people fashion.

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They’ve also focused more on creating an experience for customers at their new concept stores. The store felt very inviting from the moment I walked in. Immediately to the left of the front door, there was this vibrant display with accessories.


It immediately drew me into the store. This display will change with the seasons. You don’t even see recliners until you walk further into the store, which is smart. If you want customers to know you’re more than just one particular product, you better show them what they’re missing the minute they walk in the door. La-Z-Boy did a great job of that.

There were so many vibrant colors and interesting looking pieces that I had a hard time focusing on one thing for too long because I quickly found something else that appealed to me. There is still a section with all recliners, but the majority of the store I visited was filled with mini rooms (like the examples below) complete with furniture, accessories and rugs.  I saw many examples of how I could design a room with La-Z-Boy products. Granted, I was taking pictures for this story, but if I wasn’t, I would have spent a lot of time in there because I saw so many products that I wanted to work into my house.

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 The sign in the above photo pretty much sums up how I would describe many of the products – timeless pieces with a contemporary twist. How perfect, right? An 85-year-old business doesn’t have to completely revamp its product offerings to appeal to new customers. It just has to put a new and more modern/creative twist on them.

On a micro level, La-Z-Boy has invited people like me to their new concept store as part of a blogger outreach program to see all the product offerings (particularly the accessories) and to learn about the creative things this company is doing to set itself apart from competitors.

This is such a no-brainer. If you are a company that has physical products, why wouldn’t you reach out to relevant people in your community and invite them into your store? Having a manager or owner take 20-30 minutes to spend with people showing them the store, educating them on the company and its products can do absolute wonders for a business trying to expand into new demographics. It helps if those people like to take photos and videos and share them with their online communities, like I do.

Additionally, they’ve done some creative things like bringing what they call Swatch Guys to the Columbus Art Festival. They were decked out in suits made from La-Z-Boy fabrics. Such a fun idea!

When I asked Mike, the store manager, what else sets La-Z-Boy apart from its competitors, he shared that his sales team doesn’t work on commission. They operate under a “no pressure selling” method. They keep records of all their customers’ interests and purchases, so you don’t have to worry about finding the same salesperson if you leave and come back another day. Their products are handmade, made in America and have a lifetime warranty. They’ve made almost all of their products customizable so you can mix and match and basically create your own product.  La-Z-Boy will be opening three other concept stores in Michigan in the next year.

Here are a few products that I thought were super cool and would LOVE for my house:


I LOVE LOVE LOVE the beading on this couch.



So what’s the moral of the story? Adapt or die. That’s a bit dramatic, but it’s so true. Businesses must, must, must get creative and find new ways to keep staying fresh and relevant and appealing to new customers while still retaining their current ones.

If you see anything in these photos that you like and you live in southeast Michigan, there will be a grand opening celebration at the new concept store in Sterling Heights (address is 14405 Lakeside Circle, right by Lakeside Mall) this Saturday, July 27. La-Z-Boy is offering customers 25% off storewide to celebrate.

AND…La-Z-Boy is letting me give away a fun product! One lucky person will receive the below Leo Ottoman. The winner can choose any fabric he/she likes. All you have to do is visit the La-Z-Boy site and tell me what one of your favorite pieces is in the comments (it can be any product you see on the site). All comments must be posted by 5 p.m. this Friday, and I’ll notify the winner after that. Please leave an email and/or Twitter handle in your comment so I can contact you if you win. Good luck!


Disclosure: La-Z-Boy invited me to check out its new store and share my feedback on its products. I’m receiving $1,500 toward home furnishings. However, these are my true opinions about my experience. I only do this type of work if it’s completely relevant to who I am and what I write about on my blog.