Launching in 2013 with only 2 stores, Local by West Elm has recently expanded across countless cities throughout America and now lives in over 73 stores. Three years ago, West Elm President Jim Brett decided that it was time for the company to step out of the box. “It was all machine-made, all very clean and simple, and all very soulless,” Brett spoke about their past products. Established to bring creative minds and their small businesses together in partnership with West Elm, Local creates a fresh boutique identity setting stores apart from competitors, and giving small design businesses new opportunity and growth.
Independent designers seeking a partnership with mass retailers sometimes take the plunge too soon and end up falling head over heels and out of business. One of the largest issues that accompany the marriage of small designers and large retailers is the readiness of designers to grow large and fast. Mo Mullen, Director for Local says, “Part of the reason Local has worked is with every vendor we do an intro interview, which isn’t just about pricing and policy, but also who do you want to be when you grow up? What kind of growth ambition do you have? What does success look like?” Working with designers, Local evaluates the obstacles for growth, and aids in breaking those confines as a team.
How Local works is simple. Store Managers seek out quality independent designers in their community, and introduces their products to the West Elm store. This practice creates a recognizable homegrown sensibility for all locations, making each store one-of-a-kind. If designer’s products are successful at the local level, there is then opportunity for sales at a national level. Designers attain new customers, customers find unique products across all stores, and West Elm creates a community where artists and buyers feel connected to one another.
Makers Toolkit is a new advice series created as an expansion of Local. Offering tips and advice for small business owners looking to expand, this blog is filled with articles about financial strategies, business building strategies, legal advice, media pitches, and posts that get intimate with independent business owners and their craft.
Offering small business owners the opportunity to partner with West Elm, Local has given the company a fresh new approach on design, boosted sales, and also gives designers the opportunity to grow in a positive way. In creating Local, West Elm has attributed to the shift in 10% of annual spending to local businesses, creating jobs and developing new economic support.