When mystery shoppers came browsing through Smart Interiors, the full-service furniture store emerged with flying colors.
Neither the owners, Delores and Murray Smart, nor their daughter, manager Kimberly Backman, noticed when representatives of HGTV visited the store in Spring Hill last fall.
It wasn't until a couple of weeks later that Backman was summoned to the phone.
A representative from the network was on the line.
How would Smart Interiors like to become a partner in the channel's popular home design and furnishing shows?
Of course it would, Backman said. And she was even more in favor of the deal after she learned that only five stores in Florida had been chosen.
The selection allows Smart to showcase the network's furniture line, launched in October. The new deal is just in time to join in a $50,000 HGTV home-makeover sweepstakes.
Backman, 46, who holds a certificate from the International Academy of Interior Design, has long been aware of television's impact on customer choices, she said. "People come in saying, 'I saw this on TV. Do you have it? Can you show it to me?' "
Now, with this partnership, Backman and her sales representatives can say "yes."
After offering the partnership, HGTV invited Smart Interiors' designers to the network's annual furniture show in High Point, N.C. Once she had seen the merchandise, Backman said, "We knew it would be a good fit."
One reason is that HGTV, like Smart Interiors, designs complete rooms, Backman said.
"Many people are visual. They want to see it all in place."
The first display of the HGTV line at Smart Interiors features five groupings of bold color furnishings for living room and dining rooms designed to fit Florida lifestyles. "It's more casual — simple, clean lines," Backman explained.
Today's shoppers, Backman said, are "a little more mindful of style (and) that they can totally change a room with pillows and other accents. It's all individual. It's more customized, but that doesn't mean it's expensive."
Backman said the HGTV furniture line is moderately priced, and its quality is, "How do I say this? Better than good, not as good as best."
Smart Interiors' designers are able to visit customers' homes to suggest choices for a desired look. They adjust their recommendations based on customers' lifestyles. People with pets, for example, might need washable fabrics; households with young children often require sturdy furniture."
Renee Loper, vice president of marketing for HGTV home furniture collection, based in Greensboro, N.C., was among the mystery shoppers who visited Smart Interiors. In recommending the partnership, Loper said, the store's staffers "offer a lot of choices and they're design-oriented. Their designer team can really help the consumer re-create the HGTV look."
Also chosen to feature HGTV galleries in Florida are stores in Orlando, Jacksonville and a Naples-based chain with multiple stores in South Florida, Loper said.
Smart Interiors, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, has stores on 5141 Mariner Blvd. in Spring Hill, as well as in Lecanto and in the Caribbean on Aruba.
To celebrate the launching of the HGTV furniture line, Smart Interiors will accept entries in the channel's Make It Mine sweepstakes through April 12. The prize is $25,000 in cash and $25,000 in HGTV home products.
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected].