In an uncertain year, family-owned Hat Creek Interiors has held strong thanks in part to its small-business principles and big-statement furniture.
Editor's Note: As statewide rules and regulations continue to change, please contact retailers for their latest store hours and delivery capabilities.
We talked with Corey Flanagan, owner of Hat Creek Interiors, about running his business in this unprecedented time.
Was your storefront shut down?
We shut down like everyone else in Texas. We were shut down for approximately two-and-a-half months, so our front doors were locked and we were closed to the local public. It was very tough for sure.
What does your current business environment look like? Is it different than normal for you?
With COVID, and I’m sure many of the stores that are in the same business that we’re in can say the same thing, we are pretty much experiencing a record year—believe it or not. We’re lucky to be in an industry like this where people have been stuck at home and they’ve been concentrating on home projects, whether it be remodels or new builds and things like that. So a lot of people are focusing on things they need to do to their homes, and that includes new furniture—so we’ve been extremely busy.
How has your business adapted to producing digital content and sales?
We do a lot of business on our website. That’s what keeps us going. We have a great website. We have a great team that we work with that markets and promotes our website to get us out there to people all over the country, so that’s been a wonderful blessing for us.
What has been your focus while speaking to your customers online?
Everybody around the country has heard that the DIY projects in homes really have been popular this year because of the shutdown and people being restricted to their houses—creating home offices, working from home, things like that. That’s been a focus for us, to use that as a target audience—those people that maybe are working from home and need new [furniture], whether it’s an office desk or a credenza or anything that would apply to the home office.
Depending on current trends, and I think anybody that’s in this business, or any business, has got to keep an eye on the pulse of the country and our society and where things are going, and that’s what we do. When you see something, if you’re not targeting that audience already, then you kind-of have to shift and keep your sights on those customers.
Has any content resonated with your audience in particular?
Of course photos are something that has to be there, but a lot of times people are going to have questions, and they’ll pick up the phone and call and talk to you, so I think that personal service is something that people really appreciate. You have to have people that work for you that answer the phones that have a personality, people that are personable, that are not just going to treat somebody on the other end of the line like they’re a customer, and they’re just trying to make a sale.
You have to show a genuine interest and desire to help [customers] get what they want, because the last thing any of us want to do is have a custom sofa built for example, and ship it across the country and it gets there, and it’s not comfortable or somebody doesn’t like the way it looks or sits. That’s why that one-on-one customer service is vital. You have to have that. No one is going to call you up and spend sight unseen usually. They want pictures or even people traveling to our store from around the country seeing firsthand what we have, so those are all things that are very important.
Are there any products you see trending currently?
One of our most popular items is our Chisum barstool. Any kind of sofa has been very popular, office desks, credenzas, filing cabinets, even dining tables and chairs have all been very popular for us.
What are shoppers looking for right now from Western businesses? Have you noticed any buying trends?
We’ve been in business for close to 25 years, and [Western style] has always been kind of a staple of our business. How we were founded all those years ago was on focusing on the Western lifestyle, creating the higher end, what we call “elegant rustic,” looks, ranch styles and things like that, but that’s not a style that is appealing to everybody across the board, all over the country. Even though that is something we still have a huge customer base on, and they like to follow that, we also get lots of orders from people who that’s not necessarily their style, and that’s something that you have to be able to adapt and adjust to, because if somebody is ordering an office desk or a dining table or whatever the case might be, and the Western rustic style is not their thing, you have to be able to offer a quick resolution to that, where you can shift or adjust.
Do you have any tips for other Western businesses looking to take their business online right now?
I’ve been in this business for a lot of years, and I’ve been through lots of trial and error and have spent an enormous amount of money trying to find the right people that can help us promote our website. There are tons of people out there that do digital marketing that can make you lots of promises, but not everyone is going to provide the results that you hope for, and plus it’s not a quick thing.
You have to have an online presence now days to be successful. Whether we like it or not, that’s the way our world is trending.
A lot of people think you can just get a website and sit back and wait for the sales to come in, and that is also very far from the truth. It takes a lot of work each and every week and month, a lot of money to keep it going, but in today’s world if there’s a business out there that does not have an online presence, I would say the future is pretty bleak, because you have to have an online presence now days to be successful. Whether we like it or not, that’s the way our world is trending.
Do you plan on attending in-person markets or trade shows in the next six months?
We’ll continue to go to the markets that we go to. Just like all of us in every aspect of our society right now, we have to be careful about what we do, be very aware of our surroundings, who’s around us and what we’re touching, and how we maintain that social distancing and the cleaning of the hands and so on. As far as our family goes and our children at home, we’ve made some big adjustments, but in terms of business we’re still going to be trying to live our lives as we have, obviously there’s changes that have to be made now, and we’re trying to just be smart about things.
This interview is part of an ongoing series that W&E is conducting with retailers. Click here to peruse more stories and interviews from the retail industry.