We talked with Dr. Kari Lopez, founder and CEO of LOREC Ranch, about what to look for in 2021.
Editor's Note: As statewide rules and regulations continue to change, please contact retailers for their latest store hours and delivery capabilities.
As a staple for fine Western furnishings and accessories in Oklahoma City and Pawhuska, Oklahoma, as well as Amarillo, Texas, LOREC Ranch focused on remaining a bright spot in the community’s retail scene while embracing the opportunities that came with 2020’s many changes, including expanding the brand’s new boutique clothing and accessories endeavor and growing online.
Was your storefront shut down? Has it reopened?
What happened was we were actually deemed essential, because furniture companies, especially those who handled office furniture, outdoor furniture, and adjustable mattresses, were all very important to the new kind of living that we now are experiencing because of COVID. To tell you the truth, we did not have very many people walk through our door, and so we really concentrated on our Facebook, on our website, and on our manufacturing facility to make more inventory for when those people came back into the store so that we would be readily available, because we knew so many different lines of communication and manufacturing had been shut down. We increased our manufacturing
What does your current business environment look like? Is it different than normal for you?
Business is pretty much the same as it was in 2019, but advertising in Cowboys & Indians has really helped us as well because people were in their homes and they were able to sit down and look at the magazine, look at back issues even. We got a ton of phone calls from [people asking], ‘Can you go look at page 22 of LOREC Ranch back in September of 2018,’ and we’re like, ‘Yes!’ We have a binder that carries all of those pictures of every single issue and what we had advertised, so we were tickled that people were spending that time at home. I just call it free living enjoying that home life. So 2021 looks really great for us. We’re in an Amarillo location, so that’s three full stores now, and we are looking in Colorado to establish a store. We just got back from Vail and Breckenridge and love that area, so somewhere on I-70 we’ll probably have a store sometime in the year.
...advertising in Cowboys & Indians has really helped us as well because people were in their homes and they were able to sit down and look at the magazine...
What has been the biggest challenge in adapting to this “new normal” the retail world has taken on, and what safety precautions have you put in place for customers to shop safely?
I do think establishing social distancing [because] our clients are so used to touching and sitting on furniture. Because we design, we’re really hands-on, so that was a challenge. Although the city of Oklahoma City was incredibly uplifting for us, because they created a grant that was called a retro-fit, and that enabled us to purchase acrylics for our front counter [and] different stations within the store that have hand sanitizers. We also have in our bathrooms the antibacterial power air dryers. We just really concentrated on making our clients feel comfortable coming in the door, and what we found is that when they come into our store they usually have done their research, so they know what we do. They know we manufacture. We custom design. They know a little bit more about us than they had in the past. We take them on a tour of our facility, because right attached to our showroom is our manufacturing facility, and all of the stations have the hand sanitizers, so that makes it a little bit distanced. We’re really a close-knit company that likes to hug and handshake, and so all of that kind of had to go away. We look [customers] in the eye, because a lot of times you can’t see them smiling with their masks on, so getting [customers] trust that we will protect them while they’re in our store. But we really thank the City of Oklahoma City for stepping up.
How has your business adapted to producing digital content and sales?
We increased our social media. We created new designs. We re-did our showroom, and it just really ended up being great timing for us because we were able to post a lot and different parts of the country then became our followers. We had a great sale out of Florida, coast to coast basically. We had another great sale out of California. People were in their homes. Their homes were now their restaurant, their theater, their church, their gym, their salon. It was everything we used to do in other places, so they wanted to create these different venues in their homes. So we were able to really motivate our crew to move forward, and so that’s what we did in 2020, and we’re still on a roll right now. We’re really feeding off that time where it was basically an eight-week shutdown that nobody really came into our store although we were open. We did do a lot of conferences via FaceTime and a lot of phone conversations, and that’s what helped us get through those really difficult times.
We increased our social media...and it just really ended up being great timing for us because we were able to post a lot and different parts of the country then became our followers.
What has been your focus while speaking to your customers online?
I think the most important thing is the vice president of my company is my sister, and she has really truly pushed video on our Facebook page, which enables customers to kind-of see the process. I think it’s very hard to understand our product unless you can see it, so she’s been able to take the customer through a FaceTime video by sending them over to the carpenter and watching the carpenter manufacture the frame and then over to stain where custom and signature color washes and stains are put on by one of our master finishers, and then it goes over to upholstery, and our client can even, through FaceTime, choose their cowhide, their leather, their fabric, and so it’s getting them the visual, and they understand the process, which is so important to us. If that client buys something, then what she does is she takes them through the process of their particular piece by sending them text messages, [for example], ‘Here’s your chair now in upholstery.’ So they’re able to see all of that happening, and that’s where we’ve really made a lot of changes.
What else is on the horizon?
We have a whole new furniture line that is Pendleton that we’re launching. We have a new line of copper that we’re really manufacturing, a lot of accessories as well, a lot of farmhouse accessories, a lot of ranch accessories we’re bringing out. We have now the whole Pendleton line of accessories of coffee cups and throws, and we’re going to get into the bath towels, and that’s been really fun to launch in 2020. We’ll be going full strength in 2021 with that line as well. Our [newly added] boutique offers a variety of Western wear. We carry several lines, including Fabulous Furs and Charlie 1 Horse Hats. We offer gorgeous women's apparel, stunning leather and hide purses and our LOREC Ranch exclusive moccasins that are hand-crafted right here in Oklahoma City.
What are shoppers looking for right now from Western businesses? Have you noticed any buying trends?
I think that they’re looking to really make their homes comfortable. Western furniture is a legacy, it’s forever. I just feel like those lines of cowhide and leather will forever be a love of the cowboy, and it’s the old West. We’re selling a lot of leather, a lot of recliners, a lot of desks for their offices. Even the children’s bedrooms, we’re doing a lot of small desks where they can study at. Outdoor we’re selling a ton of chimineas, and hopefully in 2021 we’ll be able to add a whole new line of outdoor furniture as well. We found that that is something that our clients have been requesting, and once those requests come in from them, then we push forward, because our customers are who make us a viable company and a company that’s moving forward.
I think that they’re looking to really make their homes comfortable. Western furniture is a legacy, it’s forever. I just feel like those lines of cowhide and leather will forever be a love of the cowboy, and it’s the old West.
Do you have any tips for other Western businesses looking to take their business online right now?
I think what they need to do is be unique. They need to have one-of-a-kind pieces that nobody else has, or that your client can custom design, or even modify, because every home is so unique, and the client wants to feel like nobody else has this. So I think if they make it appealing to the eye [and with] very sound engineering (a product that’s not just going to fall apart), bright colors and fine finishes and signature color washes, those bring attention. Your eye is drawn to it, and I think it makes it very appealing online to make that a piece you desire in your home.
...every home is so unique, and the client wants to feel like nobody else has this.
Do you plan on attending in-person markets or trade shows in the next six months?
We did go to the Dallas Market in August. We were an exhibitor as well as a buyer, and we’re going back [this] January. We will attend WESA in Dallas this year. We will be there as both a buyer and an exhibitor.
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.