By YSN Staff

Last September, Harris BrandSource Home Furnishings proudly celebrated its grand opening by holding a VIP night in its new lifestyle store in Fort McMurray.

This retail story begins in what most Canadians would consider a relatively remote location of Wood Buffalo, Alberta, better known as the town of Fort McMurray.

Co-Owner and Managing Director Gary Harris knows this market very well. He operated a Sears dealer store in Fort McMurray for over 20 years.

Harris said his long tenure there was a perfect foundation on which to build. “With my experience in the market, I recognized the opportunity to open a new format store here in Fort McMurray that would cater to the consumer as a ‘lifestyle merchant,’” he said.

What exactly is a “lifestyle merchant” and how does that apply to the appliance, sleep and furniture categories? “This is a retailer who understands the consumers, listens to what they want to achieve in their homes and helps them to fulfill their dreams,” Harris said.

He explained that he and Matt Creighton, his co-owner and general manager, did their research before they made a single move.  “We set about to make sure we fully understood the market and the vendor and product opportunities,” Harris said. “I’ve known Don Burnett for a long time and learned to trust his knowledge. Don introduced us to the Mega Canada team and assisted us in getting a thorough PRIZM marketing study done by Jocelyn Turgeon at Xpress Communications.”

This study led Harris and Creighton in a solid direction as they looked at a number of factors regarding their consumer and the marketplace. Household income in Fort McMurray is higher than all but a few niches in the larger cities in Canada. And, more importantly, the consumer spending pattern demonstrates that these households spend far more than average on their homes.

“This is also a very digitally active market,” Harris said. “In our study of the consumer, we noted a particularly high level of participation in social media. It was important to us to make sure we develop a digital solution for the customer. Our BrandSource association gives us an advantage that we just could not develop on our own. Understanding the digital reality played a big part in the selection of marketing programs as they built their annual calendar of events.”

The entire area was deeply affected by the wildfires that swept through the community in May of 2016. There were a reported 3,244 buildings destroyed as over 88,000 people were forced from their homes. On the plus side, the market is coming back. With the rebuilding that is going on there is even more opportunity for growth.

Based on their market research, they have opened under the BrandSource Home Furnishings banner, a boutique retail store that features a gourmet kitchen experience coupled with several leading furniture studios and a sleep shop that will round out the customer’s day with a great night’s sleep.

The gourmet kitchen experience is like a “discovery center” and features professional appliances of high performance. Surfaces are easy to clean and have storage for specialty items, space for a spice collection and cookware. Particularly important for customers, the kitchens in the store are set up by station, designed for preparing, cooking, cleaning and serving delicious meals.

These are very much like a chef’s kitchen. The design and products are equipped to satisfy the needs of a professional chef – or regular folks who have a hankering to cook at that level. This includes convection ovens or steam models for quicker, more efficient cooking plus warming drawers, too. 

Among the appliance brands featured are Wolf, Sub-Zero, Thermador, Miele, Jenn-Air, Electrolux, Whirlpool and more.

In the furniture lifestyle and décor experience, they decided to primarily present Canadian vendors that offer a wide assortment of customizable options. In just over 4,000 square feet, Harris BrandSource presents the equivalent of more than 1 million square feet of showroom. There are over 25,000 options presented to the consumer from leading brands such as Palliser, Elran, Decor-Rest and Canadel demonstrated by fabric swatches, digital catalogs plus endless aisle options.

The Premium Sleep Shop includes Hypnos and Beautyrest. “We are showing the ultimate in sleeping comfort,” Creighton said, “including a step-up product line of sleep solutions plus add-on extras that have become an essential part of any mattress transaction.” In the bedding aisle they are featuring lifestyle bases which allow the purchaser to adjust the bed to their ideal position. 

Congratulations to Harris and Creighton on their successful grand opening! Everyone at Mega Canada, members and staff alike, wish them the very best of success in this new venture.

YSN is published by BrandSource parent company AVB Inc.