Case Studies

Seldens Designer Home Furnishings

Tacoma's Family-owned Furnishings Supplier

Sydney Selden founded Seldens Designer Home Furnishings (SDHF) in 1940. After graduating from Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., Sydney took a position working at the local Schoenfeld’s Furniture in the carpet department. Over time, he worked his way up from a stock boy to the department’s assistant manager. In the 1930s, he left for a management position at the People’s Store, also in Tacoma. Sydney struck out on his own in 1940; SDHF started with only five employees, selling carpeting, linoleum and window shades.

Sydney’s experience in home furnishing sales helped the business thrive, despite unique challenges. Throughout World War II, material shortages resulted as textiles were needed to support the war effort. Short on floor coverings, Sydney and his team found a niche selling blackout blinds. With a knack for maintaining inventory, the business began to pick up government contracts. After the war, the inventory shifted again. With many young men returning home, the housing industry was growing; along with it, came the need for furnishings.

Continuing the Legacy

Scott Selden, Sydney’s grandson, current president and CEO of SDHF, is proud to carry on the family tradition. “As part of the family, I’ve been involved in the business all my life,” Scott laughs. “I received my first legal paycheck in 1981. I started working at the store while I was in college. Working the hours with my dad allowed me to continue my education. We have more family involved in the business, including one of my nephews who is a senior manager.”

As a family business, SDHF operates on a personal level between employees and with customers and strategic partners alike. “We have a lot to be proud of,” Scott elaborates. “We offer a high quality of service, presentation, diverse products and an extremely loyal staff. Many of our team members have been here for more than 20 years.” The company offers a diverse range of products to furnish homes, legal and dental offices, and even a few yachts.

The business has moved just outside of Tacoma to bordering suburb, Fife. The change of scenery has allowed the business greater room to grow. With a staff of approximately 80 people, the current business offers showrooms for every room in the house.

“Our mission is to offer our clients quality furnishings and help them create the interior of their dreams,” says Scott. “Our interior designers can assist clients to find the pieces they are envisioning and we offer full service house calls, room layouts and full installation from flooring to window treatments. We offer customization in all our departments, from furniture to area rugs, as well as products that are in stock and are practically ready to live, as we like to call it. Our broad offering allows us to cater to a clientele whose price sensitivity can significantly differ from one another, but all have a distinguished sense of taste and style in common.”

The SDHF team includes 32 designers who offer a high-service approach to design. When a customer comes in looking for a sofa, the team focuses on the room to offer suggestions for each individual’s lifestyle and needs. The company offers a free in-home consultation, taking into account an entire theme, including paint, tile, cabinetry and other factors, as well as potential sales.

Staying Flexible

Changes in the economy have altered margins in many industries. With people spending less on furnishings throughout the recession, SDHF has adjusted practices to maintain a market base. “We have had to diversify our price points,” Scott explains. “We have been hit hard with a large white collar employer moving out of town. We have been dealing with all of the typical recession things from 2008, but the adjustment has allowed us to appeal to a larger audience with the new selections.”

The business operates from two locations right next to each other, which allows SDHF to offer a diverse selection at equally diverse prices. “We have dining rooms that start in the hundreds and go up to the thousands,” Scott notes. “We are a destination home furnishing store with 150,000 square feet of showroom space.” Located just outside of Tacoma, SDHF serves customers as far north as the Canadian border and as far south as the Oregon border.

With a slow recovery underway for most of the country, the team has seen improvements in the market. In order to keep up with demand and changes in consumer habits, Scott is looking toward e-commerce as the business grows. With another generation ahead, SDHF is identifying opportunities to expand geographically with alternate locations in Washington.

Lasting Relationships

SDHF performs a bulk of work in-house, dealing with warehousing, delivery and installations. Through the design team, the company guides customers through customization, helping buyers choose fabrics, cording, cushion firmness, finishes and other characteristics. “We do sub out our drapery and window treatment installations,” Scott adds. “We work with a couple of small general contractors that our designers suggest if we are doing a major kitchen remodel. If they need to move a wall or fixtures, we have a small network of qualified subs.”

The company has also established strong partnerships with suppliers. SDHF works with brands such as Stickley and Lexington. The family also operates a sister store specializing in Bassett Furniture. These partnerships offer value, which SDHF can pass on to customers, as well as easy access to emerging trends.

In the last few years, mid-century furniture has come back in a big way. “A lot of these furnishings are a throwback to the 1950s,” Scott notes, “With a twist on modern elements. We are remodeling our showroom for those products. Mid-century influence is a growing category for us and we are creating a space with clean, modern lines to suit that aesthetic. We have also seen a lot of natural wood, reclaimed wood products and environmentally friendly items.”

Whether dealing in wingback chairs, high-end rugs or bathroom tile, SDHF has the staff and the experience to help homeowners create a distinct atmosphere. The business continues to provide high-quality products and leading service. Strong family values and business practices will carry Seldens Designer Home Furnishings into the next generation of quality furnishings supply.

Published on: July 9, 2014

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