Sunnyland Furniture uses elaborate vignettes to help customers envision their dream backyards
SITTING PRETTY: Sunnyland Furniture has been in the family for 30 years, but current owners David and Debbie Schweig have expanded the operation in both size and scope.
During a visit to Sunnyland Furniture in Dallas, customers have a chance to stroll through their fantasy backyards, whether it resembles a lush tropical resort or an Old World Tuscan villa.
That's because Sunnyland offers elaborately staged vignettes -- some complete with waterfalls, stone columns and brickwork backdrops -- to help customers envision how they'd like to decorate their outdoor living spaces.
To make the decision process even easier, the retailer has partnered with other companies that operate showrooms within Sunnyland's space. They include Landscape Concepts, Statewide Remodeling, Sundek, Southwest Deck and Fence and DFW Putting Greens.
"We're all looking at the same clients and the same dollar," said Sunnyland president David Schweig, who owns the company with his wife, Debbie.
The elaborate setups installed by the other companies, provide a one-stop-shop for Sunnyland's busy customers and generate more showroom traffic while spotlighting the company's expansive furniture offerings, Schweig said. The companies do not pay rent, and the arrangement is a "handshake deal."
"It was an opportunity to showcase what they can do and put their best foot forward to tell their story to our audience," Schweig said.
The strategy, begun in 200 3 with the opening of a 10,000-square-foot addition to the store, has helped Sunnyland's sales top $6 million a year.
The business began in the 1950s and was purchased in 1970 by Freeds Furniture Co. Schweig's father-in-law, a part-owner in the store, acquired it outright in 1977; the Schweigs bought it from him in 1988.
Innovation, combined with excellent customer service, are hallmarks of Sunnyland, which has been recognized as an industry trendsetter in merchandising and store excellence by the High Point, N.C.-based trade group Summer & Casual Furniture Manufacturers Association, which represents more than 80 manufacturers and importers.
Among Sunnyland's strategies: Offering free hot dogs and soft drinks on weekends, encouraging families to linger, and including a putting green within the 65,000 square foot showroom and distribution center, which helps entertain children and husbands during long shopping visits.
"We want to make it a fun experience, not just some store to get in and out of," Schweig said.
Customer service and repeat business go hand in hand, says Schweig, who studied the practices of companies known for providing excellent service. That's why he has a liberal return policy and offers complementary lifetime replacement on furniture parts called glides.
With the remodeling of an adjacent shopping center on the northwest corner of Spring Valley and Coit roads in Dallas, the furniture retailer gained a large warehouse, which means instant gratification for customers because they can leave with their purchases. Sunnyland purchased the strip shopping center in 1990 and has been a pivotal force in itx expansion and redevelopment.
"Sunnyland has a wonderful history of taking care of their clients," said Michael Dickerson, president of Landscape Concepts. "There's a legacy of helping the public with furniture, not just selling a big-ticket item. They take pride in repairing any problem and do that with genuine care."
That attention to detail is one reason that creating the vignettes to show customers how to create a backyard escape has worked for both companies.
"People are afraid to make mistakes, so the vignettes offer a safe way to see how an environment could look at their homes."
COMPANY: Sunnyland Patio Furniture
BUSINESS: Outdoor/casual furniture
HEADQUARTERS: 7879 Spring Valley Road, #125, Dallas 75254
TOP EXECUTIVES: David and Debbie Schweig, owners
ANNUAL REVENUE: $6 million (2006)
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