To-The-Trade Schumacher Pivots To Consumers For Growth
In the world of interior design, wallpaper is making a comeback. Having reached $1.7 billion globally in 2022, with the U.S. having over one-third market share, the wallpaper and wallcoverings market is projected to advance at a 4.3% compound annual growth rate through 2030.
Prized for its ability to add texture, dimension and artistic sophistication to the home, more interior designers are presenting wallpaper as a focal point in their designs. Designer Jennifer Hunter told The Spruce, “I love wallpaper in any space. It adds a dimension that you cannot attain with paint.”
The ‘Tiffany’ brand in wallpaper is Schumacher, founded in New York City by Parisian-native Frederic Schumacher in 1889. In those early days, it provided designs for the Waldorf Astoria and President Theodore Roosevelt’s White House. The company remains family-owned by fifth-generation brothers Stephen and Andrew Puschel.
Yet looking more closely at the company, officially called F. Schumacher & Co (FS&Co), it is far more than just a wallpaper company, offering fabric and trimmings under Schumacher and floorcoverings under Patterson Flynn brand, and more.
For most of its history, the company has been entrenched in the to-the-trade interior design market, hidden behind the walls of design centers and not readily accessible to the public.
Now FS&Co is breaking out from those rigid confines with new initiatives, including street-side boutiques, to reach the much broader nearly $200 billion U.S. home decor market.
Making A Move
“There is a substantial consumer market that can’t afford everything they want, but they can afford any one thing they desire. These are the consumers who want trade brands without the help of a designer. This audience is much larger than those who can afford everything,” shared Chris Ramey, founder of The Home Trust International, which curates luxury artisan brands.
RH has long recognized the potential of making high-quality home design accessible. And recently, more traditional to-the-trade brands are leaning into it too, such as Holly Hunt, Janus et Cie and Stark. Now, with the opening of its Nashville boutique in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood and another in Paris, Schumacher joins other to-the-trade brands in extending their reach into the consumer market.
The boutiques are intended as spaces to serve both interior designers and consumers. “It’s a mix between a showroom and a retail boutique,” shared FS&Co CEO Timur Yumusaklar in an interview. “We recognize the need to build better relationships with homeowners, so we’re offering this space for them to explore and get to know our brand.”
The back section of the store provides exclusive spaces where designers can meet with clients and work on designs.
The front of the store is open to consumers, where they can pick up unique home accessories and gifts, like candles, pillows, tabletop items, rugs, baskets, throws and art. The boutiques will also offer events to energize the local community, including flower arranging classes, trunk shows, book signings and workshops for interior designers.
The company is now eyeing four or five more locations, such as Charlotte, Austin and New Orleans, based on the same criteria used to select Nashville.
It’s aiming at markets with a strong interior design community and one that attracts high-earning-but-not-rich yet (HENRY) Millennial homeowners with a passion for design. The company believes it can make a more significant impact in these smaller markets than in the usual suspects, like Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.
The street-side boutiques are one of many other initiatives that the Puschel brothers and Yumusaklar are taking to bring the company into the 21st century.
“Every firm, regardless of category, needs to revisit their business model because the world is changing so rapidly,” Ramey added. And that’s just what FS&Co has been doing since Yumusaklar joined the company in 2015.
“We describe ourselves as 75% startup and 25% as a long-established company. There is a lot of energy, excitement and innovation at work in the company,” Yumusaklar said.
Change Agent Required
At first blush, Yumusaklar wasn’t a likely choice to lead an interior design brand, but that is why he has so successfully invigorated the brand and shifted its direction. He joined FS&Co from Berlin-based e-commerce fashion retailer Zalando, after six years consulting with Boston Consulting Group.
The company has quadrupled sales since 2017, which he credits to leaning into technology while preserving its design heritage, quality and trust built over the last 130+ years.
“We have to offer a best-in-class online experience to our designers, which we do,” he said. “But there is only so much a website, social media or technology can accomplish. Our challenge was building a lasting relationship with our audiences and finding new ways to reach and engage them.”
That’s why the company started a glossy, advertising-supported magazine called Frederic. With some 72,000 copies in print, it’s small compared to other shelter books, like Architectural Digest, but it maintains the same high-quality editorial and production values and attracts many of the same advertisers.
“It’s about cultural energy. The magazine celebrates designers and the home and is a way to inspire designers and homeowners,” he said. And it’s having a big impact on the company. All advertising slots were sold since its launch in 2021, and ad revenues are projected to double by the end of this year.
Another initiative that expands the company’s product offerings and reach into the consumer market is its 2021 acquisition of direct-to-consumer Backdrop paint brand.
Founded by Natalie and Caleb Ebel in 2018, the company is described as the “new way to paint,” claiming the title of the first “Climate Neutral Certified” paint brand, being Green Wise certified, low-VOC, and low odor.
Backdrop paints come in distinctive rectangular and recyclable paint cans, and the company offers 12” by 12” removable adhesive color samples, not mini-color swatches, to help customers select from its range of 50+ colors.
And besides selling paint and all necessary painting supplies, the website also offers a range of Backdrop-designed wallpapers and rugs.
Growing The Interior Design Pie
FS&Co has in no way abandoned its core interior design roots – it supports a designer network called Freddie to connect designers and homeowners. But it sees its reach into the consumer market as a way to bolster the design industry as a whole, as well as to grow its own business organically.
“It’s all about building relations with the homeowner. Everything we sell is unfinished until it is placed in the home. So you buy fabric from us to make curtains, but then you need to know how to do it,” Yumusaklar said.
Designers can be the link between the company, its products and its brands, but now it doesn’t have to be restricted by them.
“It’s critical that homeowners realize how beautiful a home can be. And it doesn’t necessarily have to do with cost or price. It is more about knowledge. Decorators are like magicians who can do magical things in a home. We are helping the design industry bring that message out,” he concluded.