FURLONG, Pa. — As one of two 2023 ICFA Apollo Award winners, Gasper Home & Garden Showplace has been recognized for retail excellence during a year that has been challenging for many companies in the home furnishings arena.
Yet despite the slowdown in consumer spending that has accompanied this year’s economic roller coaster ride, the team at Gasper is looking ahead and planning for the coming year with cautious enthusiasm and a continued commitment to growth.
“We’re hopeful and optimistic and buying with the same thoughts,” said Eli Hymer, buyer/designer/department head for Gasper. “I believe that if you think you’re going to have a bad year, then you’re going to have a bad year. Right now, business is flat, but ever since the pandemic, we’ve become more of a year-round business. I think a lot of people went on vacation this year, so I’m very hopeful moving ahead but cautious.”
Hymer’s approach underscores a business philosophy that recognizes the ongoing potential of the outdoor category as a consumer home furnishings staple. As an industry veteran, he acknowledges that recognizing how and when to change longstanding buying patterns is a key business strategy.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to see products that didn’t sell one year sell the next, so we’re strategically adding new looks and also remerchandising to create a new look in the store,” Hymer explained. “Additionally, people used to buy matching sets for outdoor, but no more.
“Like they buy for inside, people are mixing different components together and tying it all up with color. It’s very similar to what has been happening to interiors for several years.”
Founded in 1987 by Robert and Paula Gasper, the Pennsylvania-based retailer features brands including Ebel, Kingsley-Bate, Barlow Tyrie, Summer Classics, Lane Venture and Bernhardt. The diversity of brands represents one of Hymer’s beliefs that “there is someone for every chair,” and he adds that the product is just the first step in the Gasper success equation.
“We have things on the floor no one else has,” said Hymer. “We buy unique, sophisticated products, some with a South Beach or Manhattan vibe, and we don’t mind rolling the dice. We also have color throughout the store, all colors of the rainbow. I don’t want us to be vanilla; we want to show all of the flavors.”
Like many retailers, Gasper is realigning inventory to reflect post-pandemic market demand, and Hymer’s goal is to create an outdoor category mix that reflects consumer behavior such as increased demand for comfortable seating for lounging outside, as well as styles that incorporate mix materials like teak and wicker.
He explained that product mix is top of mind but added that Gasper’s long legacy of success is driven by more than simply what’s on the floor.
“Our customer service reps are one of the most important assets of our business,” Hymer said. “We don’t forget our customers after the purchase. I reiterate to our delivery staff that they are the last representatives of Gasper to every customer, the cherry on top. For our customers, the last feeling they have is the one that happens in their home, so we have to be diligent about the experience from start to finish.
“Our team monitors online reviews with a goal of successfully resolving any situations that arise,” concluded Hymer. “The goal is to turn any negative into a positive, and I’d say we’re successful in doing that 99% of the time.”