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Domaci Home to shutter brick-and-mortar store in favor of a new retail model


BETHLEHEM, Penn.—Domaci Home owners Warren and Derrick Clark are closing their brick and mortar store for good this month and taking their business on the road — literally.

They are outfitting a 14-foot mobile stage trailer to sell accent furniture, décor and accessories at festivals and events in the same way that food trucks (or, for an older example, bookmobiles) do.

“Instead of the people coming to us, we’ll go to where the people are,” said Warren Clark. It will continue to operate in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania but will have the freedom and the flexibility to explore other parts of the country, such as New York’s Hudson River Valley or Texas, where loved ones live.

Domaci Home will also continue to operate its website, which it launched before it opened its brick-and-mortar store in 2016. The website accounted for roughly 30% of its sales in 2022 (down from 50% in 2020.)

The store, one of HAT’s 2022 Retail Stars, is situated in the Christmas-oriented town of Bethlehem, Penn., and has been a model of innovative retailing, offering live entertainment some evenings and furnishing the Airbnb apartments located above the store. But the landlord has been difficult, Warren Clark said, leasing a nearby space to a competitive business and otherwise not fulfilling certain terms of the lease. When it came time to renew, the Clarks analyzed their numbers and decided to shut the store down. Its two most profitable times of the year were Christmas and during the town’s annual summer festival. “Other than that, we were treading water,” Clark said.

The mobile trailer enables them to focus on the things that generate more money, such as everyday essentials and items like candles and other decorative accessories. It eliminates a certain amount of overhead and will save them a lot on rent. The concept is unique, acknowledged Clark. “I don’t know anyone else who is doing [it],” he said. “We’re excited about it.”

The couple expects to take delivery of the trailer, which is being built in Georgia, in late March or early April. The trailer costs about $20,000, with additional costs for customized fixturing and signage. In good weather, its sides can fold down, doubling its square footage. The interior space is about 200 square feet, enough room for floor samples of accent furniture and bookshelves filled with decorative pieces. A digital kiosk shows additional product options online.

The business is also expanding its private label assortment and last week launched a candle subscription service that replenishes a particular scent on either a monthly or quarterly basis. The logistics are being fine-tuned so that subscribers will later have the option of getting a different scented candle in subsequent months, and the entire service may evolve to include other frequently bought categories.

The Clarks already have a few events circled on the calendar that they plan to participate in, including Bethlehem’s annual summer music festival, in which the local streets are closed for 10 days, and a potential arrangement with a local restaurateur for a block party in the late spring. It also plans to attend wedding and home shows, like the Lehigh Valley Home & Garden Show, to reinforce the fact that it is still in the furniture business, Clark said.

They have reached out to their vendor partners and their protected brands to reassure them that business will carry on as usual. “I see us doing as much or more [in sales] as we did in the past,” Clark said. “This keeps us more nimble if things get rough in 2023. Things are uncertain now. We’re definitely not on the high we were in in ’20 and ’21.”

Domaci Home’s last brick and mortar day will be Jan. 29.

 





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