Where The Heart Is

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-By Kristy Attard

Dorothy was right. “There’s no place like home.” A house may be made of bricks and mortar, but a home is a reflection of the people living in it. A home is a special place full of memories and the promise of tomorrow. Over the past few years an influx of renovation shows like ‘Changing Rooms’, ‘Renovation Rescue’ and ‘The Block’ has led to a boom in the numbers of people giving their homes a makeover. Yet many consumers do not want to do anything too drastic or expensive, such as knocking out a wall; they simply want to give their home a fresh new look. Loot Homewares, a family business, has been helping people transform the space in which they live into beautiful homes for 16 years now.

Bold Statement

When it comes to redecorating, Peter Handasyde, Managing Director at Loot Homewares, advises people to “be broad in your outlook.” Loot Homewares helps customers create looks ranging from industrial chic to oriental mystique in their homes. The latest lifestyle range of furniture from Loot, for example, has a weathered finish with a splash of colour, fitting nicely into one of the hottest homeware trends for 2012 – industrial chic. “You introduce that into any room in the house and you’ve changed the look straight away,” says Mr Handasyde. Don’t be afraid to try something new, be adventurous and experiment.

One of the simplest ways to experiment is with colour. Colour can have a huge impact on the feel and appearance of a home. Mr Handasyde believes that introducing new colours is an easy – and often inexpensive – way to transform a room. Opting to decorate with a warm palette of red, orange and yellow creates a lively atmosphere great for busy families on the go. Cooler colours like green and blue impart a relaxing vibe, perfect for chilling out with friends over a few drinks. You can introduce new colours quickly and easily with scatter cushions, a few scented candles grouped together and a throw rug to cosy into, all available at Loot Homewares. Even small, inexpensive changes can have a striking impact.

When redecorating, don’t forget to breathe new life into your table as well; all it takes is some funky new placemats, flowers and a textured table runner. Loot has a fine selection of tableware that’s guaranteed to turn your table from dreary to dazzling in a flash. Loot Homewares gives people the freedom to choose how they want to furnish and decorate their homes. Customers may, for instance, want to recreate the feeling of a peaceful Balinese escape in their living room. Or maybe they want to enjoy a lavish Moroccan oasis complete with jewelled lamps and sumptuous cushions. Whatever style customers fancy, Loot has just the thing they are looking for at a great price.

If you are after a conversation starter for your next dinner party, look no further than Loot Homewares. Be adventurous with a bold piece that creates an instant focal point. “Just work with something that’s quite stunning that hasn’t been in your house before. You can do that with a lamp or an interesting piece of furniture,” says Mr Handasyde. Loot Homewares stocks a terrific range of tribal style handicrafts, furniture and pottery, bringing a touch of the wild to any home. The tribal look has recently become popular again in homewares, with people seeking an earthy refuge from the buzz of the modern world.

Loot Homewares sources eclectic pieces from exotic destinations like Bali, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Each item captures the distinct cultural flavour of its origins, and with ethnic style furniture a favourite with today’s interior decorators looking beyond their borders for inspiration, Loot Homewares has just the item to suit. The company currently features a range of genuine Chinese antique furniture. Each piece is unique and makes an interesting addition to the home. “China’s one of our biggest suppliers today,” comments Mr Handasyde.

If you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary, Loot also stocks a fabulous Indian range of furniture. Loaded with character, these stylish pieces certainly make a statement. India has always been Loot Homewares’ base supplier, from whence the company sources all of its cotton products. Unlike many other homeware companies, Loot products are not mass-produced. The antique pieces and handcrafted items are one-of-a-kind and full of charm. The buying team at Loot has its eye on the latest trends in homewares, bringing what’s cool, quirky and covetable to stores right across Australia.

Vibrant Culture

Mr Handasyde himself can usually be found wearing a Loot shirt. “It’s wonderful that people will look at the sign on your shirt and say, ‘Oh my god, I love that store!’ It’s a gentle industry and it’s an industry where you get a lot of satisfaction out of people telling you like what you do; there’s not a much better business than that.” The workplace culture at Loot is dynamic and fun. “A lot of people have over 10 years with the company,” says Mr Handasyde. “They develop a very good culture within our business because they’ve stayed with us, and people don’t stay with you unless they like what you do.” The Loot Homewares workforce numbers between 85 and 110 staff, all of whom possess a positive attitude toward work and the success of the company. “I think we have a lot of managers and people who are quite passionate about what we do, and it’s exciting!” says Mr Handasyde.

Instilling product knowledge into staff, from regional managers to casual store assistants, is a key business focus. The stock changes on a weekly basis, and there is always something new and wonderful coming through the door at Loot Homewares. Customers are spoilt for choice, which makes shopping at Loot a great way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon. When people are interested in purchasing a store licence, Mr Handasyde is upfront with the fact that although the business culture is vibrant, it is not an easy job. “It’s a hard job because you’re moving pieces of furniture; you’re changing your store around the whole day to keep it fresh.”

Loot store assistants do not use high pressure sales tactics to get customers to buy. They will happily answer customer enquiries and assist them when required but do not hover over them instore. “We don’t harass them in the store, there’s recognition and that’s it. As I say, it’s not a harsh industry… if you deliver the right product with the right service there’s nothing too harsh about it.” Mr Handasyde certainly values the many customers his business has served over the years, wishing to thank them for shopping at Loot Homewares and for their continued support over the past 16 years. “For the first six to eight years I can proudly say we didn’t spend a dollar on marketing; it was all word-of-mouth and rewards card business.” Loot rewards card members receive 10 per cent off everything in-store – today, Loot has nearly 200,000 rewards card customers.

Tactile Experience

The question on everyone’s lips concerning the state of retail, what with rising interest rates and online shopping, is a daunting one – where is the retail market heading? “We’re protected from the first hazard, which is online shopping, because we believe that we’re very texture oriented,” says Mr Handasyde. Although customers do have the option of purchasing Loot Homewares online, many prefer to browse and buy in-store. Loot has conducted market research with customers and the feedback was very positive. “People just like going into our store and losing themselves for half an hour amongst it all. It’s a happy feeling and fortunately they genuinely like what they find in our stores.” Loot currently has 28 company owned stores and 20 independent stores across Australia. “People who buy our product want to walk in; they want to run their hand on the chair and certainly the cushion. They want to smell the candle, and I don’t think we’re ever going to lose that.” The challenge for Loot Homewares is to find a medium where it can deliver impressive 500 square metre stores with a set of economics where rent and labour costs do not exceed sales.

When the homewares industry was at its strongest, due to increased demand from people eagerly watching the latest renovation show, the rent in the shopping centres skyrocketed. “We decided to exit the shopping centres as of about six years ago and started looking for big box outlets which is our current trend.” Mr Handasyde is in charge of all the leasing and says that the company is currently looking at opening three large stores within NSW. “If we don’t grow another store it doesn’t matter. If we do grow another store, we want to know that it has the right set of demographics and we can support that with enough stock to flow on the sales that we require on a monthly basis. It’s just a day by day process.” Day by day, Loot Homewares is putting the fun back into redecorating, bringing homes everywhere to life with style, flair and a splash of colour.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

January 18, 2019, 3:32 AM AEDT