Parachute started as a sleepy little bedding brand in 2014. In those early days of e-commerce, it was one of the first to introduce luxury bed linens online, previously a department store staple.
Early adopters who took the chance to order online loved Parachute sheets. They rapidly spread the word and Parachute officially became a disruptor brand in the linens category.
With wind in its sails, Parachute slowly expanded to offering closely-related products, including pillows, towels, bedding for babies and pets, robes and loungewear, all guided by their customers’ lead. Founder Ariel Kaye was previously a marketing and advertising executive, so consumer-centricity was second nature to her.
Then mattresses, bedroom furniture, rugs and lighting followed, along with retail stores, which stood at 12 just a year ago. Now Parachute is moving from the bedroom to the living room as it cements its status as a lifestyle brand with a mission to make people “feel at home.”
Customer needs are the North Star
“We started as an online bedding brand just eight-and-a-half years ago, but the vision was always to be a multi-category brand for today’s modern shopper,” Kaye shared with me.
“We look to our customers for feedback and to guide us in our assortment strategy. We’ve thoughtfully expanded our assortment over the years and keep hearing our customers want more. And that’s why we’ve moved into the living room,” she continued.
On the face of it, now might not be the most promising time for Parachute to launch into the crowded furniture space.
After a huge bump in sales during the pandemic – furniture store sales grew 25% from 2020 to 2021 – furniture retail sales have stalled through the first seven months of this year, according to the Census Monthly Retail Trade Report. Furniture stores have seen no revenue growth this year, even while inflation added 12.8% to furniture prices.
Yet Kaye remains confident because she has a fix on her customers’ needs and a lock on their loyalty. Over 70% of Parachute customers are Millennials, now aged 26 to 41 years, and as a cohort, they are growing up with the leading edge now officially middle-aged.
“They’re moving into their highest earning years and in the process of settling down. They are a generation that likes to build relationships with brands that care deeply about sustainability and quality. They shop with their values,” Kaye said. “Home is top of mind for this demographic and we help them create a home environment for their future.”
Loyalty to customers is returned
Parachute’s laid-back, California-chic aesthetic appeals to this generation and that has energized extremely high levels of brand loyalty. Some 90% of customers return to make new purchases within three years and about one-third of sales each month come from past customers.
Clearly, people are more likely to make more frequent, repeat purchases of bedding than furniture. But the company is counting on the loyalty they’ve created in the bedroom to carry over into the living room where they offer a selective range of upholstered sofas, chairs and tables to complete the room.
While the upholstered furniture silhouettes are limited, the company offers a wide range of fabrication choices, appropriate for a brand from the linens world. Closeup shots of upholstery textures on the website and its swatch program let customers touch and feel the quality, either virtually or in-person.
One happy surprise for Parachute has been the loyalty it created among interior designers, a very selective audience but with on-going needs for their clientele of luxury customers. Some 25% of its furniture sales are made by interior designers and the company is counting on their loyalty to grow along with their furniture assortment.
“We had inbound interest from interior designers right from the start of Parachute. As they’ve bought into our assortment, they’re shopping more and spending more for their clients,” she shared.
“We’ve been able to create a service for designers that has accelerated our growth into the $41 billion interior design market. That’s a huge customer base we’ve tapped and that we continue to build. We are keeping them top of mind as we design new categories,” she continued.
Retail stores complete the connection
Parachute’s rapidly expanding chain of retail stores is also central to its growth plans. Currently operating 20 stores, it will reach 25 by year-end, effectively doubling the number of retail locations in just the past year.
It targets communities where Millennials gather, in neighborhoods with restaurants, ice cream shops and other destinations where there are as many things to do as places to shop. The store footprints are smaller than a typical furniture store and so fit into spaces others don’t and they have a showroom feel that makes them more boutique than a traditional store.
And its West Hollywood store is in the L.A. design district and it caters more to the interior design trade, though it is open to the public too. “This is a concept we can roll out in other cities where there is a large trade presence,” she explained.
In addition, Parachute has secured a partnership with Nordstrom starting with popup shops in nine of their locations and now in 15 locations, with plans to move into Nordstrom’s traditional home departments in select stores. The Nordstrom customer closely aligns with Parachute’s target market, so it’s an opportune partnership for both.
“We have a very ambitious retail strategy ahead of us and we are being very opportunistic about where we can be and looking for the right spots with the right co-tenants and neighborhoods where we think our customers are going to want to spend time,” she said.
Currently, the company remains heavily dependent on online sales, with retail accounting for only about one-fourth of company revenues. But it has tracked a “halo effect” in online sales in markets where its stores are located and has generated double-digit year-over-year revenue growth in its established locations.
Also giving it confidence in its furniture expansion is that customers who’ve bought its furniture end up spending 22 times more on future shopping trips across all categories than those who come to the brand in another category.
“We’re able to really connect with our customers across multiple touchpoints, both online and offline. We make it a focus to seek feedback and have clear lines of communications with our customers,” she explained. “We’ve grown alongside our customers and evolved and iterated with them as we’ve become a more prominent brand.”
Kaye and her Parachute team are taking an authentic and proven consumer-centric approach to building a brand and a business. That gives them confidence that even if the home market turns south, they will be able to continue to guide by their company’s North Star – the customer and filling their now and future home needs.
“Our approach has been authentic, and today’s customers are really sensitive to authenticity. They are looking for brands with a clear point of view, and we’ve been able to establish a relationship based on trust with our customers.
“They keep coming back and purchasing across categories. Through that trust and our discipline around our assortment, we’ve been able to move successfully into new categories. The living room is the next logical step,” she concludes.