Designers and architects can take you only so far in the land of multimillion-dollar luxury home renovation projects. Sure, they may create open floorplans and specify pretty faucetry and high-end turbo range hoods — but at the end of the day, it’s you, the homeowner, who must live with their choices day-to-day.
If only there was a place to test out a fancy faucet or grill before you invested your money (and time) in an expensive product that may or may not fit your lifestyle or preferences….
Thanks to Jeffrey Sears, there is.
As the mastermind behind Pirch — the one-stop appliance, decorative plumbing, and outdoor brand destination (or as the New York Times called it, “a gilded Home Depot”) — the CEO has changed the kitchen-and-bath retail establishment by letting potential customers “test-drive” appliances right in the store. In Pirch’s nine stores across the country, kitchen ranges are connected to real gas or electricity; real water flows out of shower heads and bath faucets. Homeowners can “try on” Gaggenau dishwashers and La Cornue cooktops (often with a professional chef leading a cooking class or demo) in an upscale, art gallery-like setting, whether it’s for their Upper East Side apartment or vacation home in Palm Beach. Appointments can be made ahead of time; VIP customers may also find secret entrances and private elevators at some locations. All of this, says Sears, is to make the customer feel “at home.”
Intrigued by the California-based company’s “dream, play, choose” theme and its rapid growth in just seven years, we recently spoke to Sears about Pirch, his plans for the future and what it takes to create luxury retail experiences around the home renovation process.
Previews Inside Out Tell us a little about the genesis of Pirch. Where did you see opportunity for disruption?
Jeffrey Sears We created Pirch out of a true need. I was going through the experience of a home renovation and struggled with the lack of opportunity to test out appliances before making the investment. For such a large purchase, especially for an appliance one might keep for years – it seemed impossible that there was no place where you could “try before you buy.”
Previews Inside Out What are the most unique aspects of the Pirch showroom experience?
Jeffrey Sears Pirch is the only retailer in the industry that allows guests to see how appliances work – you have the ability to “test drive” the products before you invest in them to ensure you make informed decisions and find the products that fit your lifestyle.
Our showrooms are always accessible, offering weekly cooking classes with our full-time chefs. Attendees can learn first-hand how to cook delicious dishes, all while using appliances they could potentially purchase. This gives guests the rare opportunity to envision how the appliance will truly fit into their life.
Previews Inside Out How do you define luxury, and how does that definition play into the unique experience at Pirch?
Jeffrey Sears At Pirch, the luxury is not only the appliances — but the experience, an experience where the customer is first. Upon entering a Pirch showroom guests receive the best service and have access to hands on learning with any of the appliances. They feel as though they are home, which helps them make informed decisions.
Previews Inside Out Real estate can often be an emotional purchase — how would you characterize the purchases of Pirch products? Is there an emotional aspect to it?
Jeffrey Sears There definitely is, which is one of the reasons we felt there was such a need for the Pirch experiential model. People shopping for their appliances can be anyone from first time homeowners to a retired couple settling into their new way of life – on either end of the spectrum they are still bringing an appliance into their home that will play a central role in their life. They will be cooking on that stove for their family, giving their kids a bath in that tub, and it is valuable to envision how they will use that product.
In our showrooms, we want guests to feel comfortable, we want them to come in and feel welcome to explore, try, taste and get their hands dirty – or clean! We carry a wide range of products and brands meaning there’s something for everyone.
Previews Inside Out For luxury brands, so much about what we do is centered around service. Was this a core belief of yours?
Jeffrey Sears At Pirch, the guest is always number one. We know that guests in our showrooms want to feel as though they are not just another sale. The goal of the Pirch model is to bring the joy back to retail with experiential shopping. Just by coming into a showroom, many people learn more about appliances they might already have and they discover new products they didn’t even know were on the market. We strive to give those who enter the store a warm and welcoming experience whether they are purchasing that day or not.
Previews Inside Out There is this description on your website: “As you walk through the doors, you feel it: Cared for. Welcome.” It almost sounds like a hotel or a resort. Was it purposeful to blur the lines between hospitality and product sales?
Jeffrey Sears For us they go hand in hand. We want our guests as they are shopping for their homes, to also feel very much at home and cared for by our employees. Our experiential shopping experience blurs the line of traditional sales which makes shopping at Pirch different than shopping anywhere else.
Previews Inside Out What percentage of your customers are designers vs. consumers?
Jeffrey Sears We have a wide range of customers from consumers, designers, contractors, architects and more.
Previews Inside Out What makes Pirch different from other high-end home appliance showrooms?
Jeffrey Sears The Pirch model is, top to bottom, in a category all its own. In addition to the experiential shopping element, we also guarantee the best price possible along with Pirch certified home installation and an incomparable 3-year, bumper-to-bumper guarantee on all products. Pirch is one of the only home retailers that does not outsource delivery and installation, our employees are the ones coming into your home to set up and install the product you purchased.
Previews Inside Out Looking back on the last few years, what have been some key turning points or milestones for your company?
Jeffrey Sears Certainly the opening in SoHo. Moving into a historic 32,000 sq. ft., three-floor building on the corner of Broome and Lafayette was a huge undertaking and an immense reward for all of us.
Previews Inside Out What are you most proud of?
Jeffrey Sears I am proud of the experiences that we provide our guests. An average guest spends over two hours in the store, and we like to make that a fun and engaging two hours. Watching our Pirch model succeed and bring joy to our guests continues to be a rewarding experience for myself and the Pirch team.
Previews Inside Out What city is ripe for a Pirch? Do you have plans to expand internationally?
Jeffrey Sears We’re always looking to grow and bring Pirch to more locations. We plan to expand to 2-3 new markets per year, adding 75,000 square feet in retail space annually. Next up is Austin, opening in the first quarter of 2017. Pirch is a resource for all homeowners, the sky is really the limit for where we can go and cities we can grow to.
Previews Inside Out Which product or products should every luxury home have in 2016?
Jeffrey Sears Every home should have products that improve and enhance the lives of the people in the home. Whether you’re an avid chef and looking for state-of-the-art steam ovens, or an Evo Mongolian Grill or you’re a tech-savvy homeowner in the market for Innit’s smart kitchen technology – there is something for everyone at Pirch. We also encourage guests to explore at the store, often their visit is educational and they find products they didn’t even know were missing from their homes!