Home Accessories and the Housing Market
Sales of decorator accessories at F.O.B. St. Louis go up and down with the tumultuous housing market.
Kay Wallace sells accent furniture and adorable trinkets for the home, items she calls the “finishing touch” for anyone decorating a house. She is the owner of F.O.B. St. Louis in Town and Country’s Lamp and Lantern Village.
Wallace said her business is tied closely to the ups and downs of the housing market. When she opened her store nine years ago, new homes were a hot item. Many of her customers were realtors looking for trendy accent items to stage a house they were selling or were people decorating a new home they had just moved into.
“The housing market really hit us,” said Wallace. She said that when houses stopped selling, people seem to have less need for her merchandise. The good news for Wallace is that she is now seeing customers who have decided to stay in their old homes.
“We’ve noticed an increase in sales. People are redecorating their homes with new lamps or flowers. We have great looks that are all affordable,” she said. “That’s what makes us feel good—our stuff.”
When Wallace shops for merchandise she keeps an eye out for inexpensive reproductions. She pointed out a side table priced at $112, a copy of a $400 table. Or a ceramic dog that resembles a Victorian Staffordshire ceramic—the real thing could cost hundreds of dollars, but here it is only $28. She said European country items are popular, as are nature items such as bunnies, birds and nests full of eggs.
She said the shop’s name comes from an old shipping term, Freight On Board, but customers have suggested it could stand for “Full Of Bunnies” or “Full of Birdies” after her selection of merchandise. Her favorite suggestion is “Full Of Beauty,” but she said the initials could stand for whatever makes her customers happy.
Wallace said that F.O.B.'s centrally located West County location has worked in favor of the business.
Friends of hers bought the shop next door and opened a clothing store named Details. They advertise together as sister stores and knocked an interior doorway between their shops so they can share customers.
Wallace said her store is laid out in a series of vignettes, with merchandise displayed in ways customers could display items in their own homes.
“I’ve always had a real creative urge and decorated my own house and my friend’s houses,” Wallace said.
Wallace frequently wanders about her shop rearranging items into visually pleasing collections. As she showed Town and Country-Manchester Patch around the showroom, she paused at bowl on display with two green seed balls in it. She said things look better when grouped in odd numbers and plucked a birds nest off another display area to add to the bowl. It worked.
Her display technique turns shopping into a treasure hunt, which encourages customers to browse around the entire showroom to see what is around the next corner.
Wallace has two part-time floral designers who create baskets and vases full of realistic silk flowers that are displayed around the shop. They also create custom pieces. Wallace said a customer can come in with a paint sample or fabric swatch, and her designers will dream up a perfect floral arrangement to match. She said customers also come in with photos of their rooms, such as a fireplace mantel, which allows F.O.B. employees to suggest items to pull the room together.
“We can give personal touches for table tops, bookcases, and the all the nooks and crannies that need to be filled,” she said.
On The Horizon:
- The Town and Country-Frontenac Chamber of Commerce will host the first Clayton Road Classic, an 11-mile bike ride that starts and ends at Plaza Frontenac on October 22. Contact the chamber if your business would like to participate in the festivities.
- Most Influential Business Women Awards Luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. August 12 at the America's Center will honor successful women in St. Louis business. Tickets are $75.
- The Top 20 Under 20 Luncheon from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on August 17 at the St. Louis Hilton Frontenac. This event will honor the area’s top entrepreneurs with fewer than 20 employees. Tickets are $50.