Consumer & Design Trends can help fix the High Street

Consumer & Design Trends can help fix the High Street


What does that mean to you?

Our lives are influenced by many aspects of modern life. Over the past 2, maybe 3 years our desire to be a part of a community has been growing and deepening. It might be an online community, a local one, an interest group, a cause; the one constant is the deeply rooted desire to be a part of something that connects a group of people together. And perhaps unexpectedly, young people seek this sense of sharing in a community more than most.

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From Clicks to Bricks; why e-Tail is moving into Retail

Hi, I’m Laura the Trend Forecaster here at Scarlet Opus and I’m going to give you a little explanation about our hot topic ‘Clicks to Bricks’.

First of all, what does it mean? Well, ‘click to bricks’ is a term given to renowned online retailers moving into physical spaces on our high street. Traditionally it has been known for retail brands to succeed in store first before establishing an online presence however the growing trend of ‘clicks to bricks’ demonstrates that well-known online retailers are now becoming more experimental and toying with the two concepts of online and offline.

Creating a virtual presence before moving into a physical space is becoming a more recognisable transition; moving away from the web is not a step backwards but is about adapting to consumer needs. The brands that do create multiple channels of distribution are offering a variety of shopping experiences to suit individual consumer lifestyles.

A couple of examples of this movement include US online accessories brand Bauble Bar, online eyewear brand Warby Parker and online menswear retailers Bonobos.

These brands are less concerned with the traffic that ground level high street shops provide and more interested in the consumer experience, which can inform later decisions made regarding the future of the store.

No doubt you’ll all be familiar with the ongoing rise of the pop-up shop in recent years; which could be seen as another form of the ‘clicks to bricks’ model. This allows online retailers to ‘test the water’ before moving permanently into a physical space. This has been happening more and more as we see e-tailers take over high street stores on a short term basis or even set up their own physical space to attract consumers to take a look. With the majority of the products showcased online, small retail outlets can merely be a way of showcasing these products in real life, giving customers a chance to look and touch before they buy (showrooming).This is also a great way to boost the brand recognition.

Image courtesy of – Image courtesy of

Ebay pop up shop in Covent Garden London – Image courtesy of Ebay store in New York – Image courtesy of

We are also seeing retail brands moving into a more digital way of thinking and creating methods that mimic the online shopping experience. By blurring the lines between the digital online platform and the physical in store experience; retailers are creating a multichannel presence to expand the brand and enhance the consumer shopping experience. For example more brands are using digital services in store such as touchscreens, interactive displays and tools to enable customers to creatively customise their products, this offers a unique, quality experience to the customer, as well as making it convenient and hassle free for anybody to purchase the products.

The window below includes a huge touchscreen that’s ready to take your order and deliver your goods in less than an hour:

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Amazon locker installations are being set up in many densely populated locations around the world. For the urban dwellers it is a great way to collect items at a precise location rather than worry about deliveries being left unattended on the doorstep.

js1600_Amazon-LockerSo why is this happening you ask… well, online shopping is becoming easier than ever before with laptops, tablets and smart phones all at our fingertips, with one click to buy and one touch of a button is all you need to purchase items online however; consumers are in search of that unique shopping experience with that personalised touch.

Not only is it important to physically feel the connection with a product but also to have the personal customer service in store. Consumers want to touch, feel and engage before they buy, to be able to have the tactile aspect with the convenience of online options such as home delivery or collection while interaction with digital devices enrich the shopping experience.

The convenience of shopping from the comfort of your own home is obviously beneficial in many ways, particularly for those who work 9-to-5 or those without transport to reach shops and not forgetting those (like myself) who sometimes like to indulge in a late night ASOS shopping spree, yet to be able to physically see and feel what you’re buying adds a completely different dynamic to the whole experience.

js1600_scarlet opus edit‘Clicks to Bricks’ describes the online retailers that are setting up space in physical stores, these retailers are adapting to consumer needs by creating unique shopping experiences.

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How to see the Future Employing Millennials

They’re Humans, Yes – “But not as we know them”!

Are we about to witness a ‘generation gap’ that’s just too big to bridge?

There’s a generation in the workplace that’s been there for quite a while. Let’s call it the Over 40’s club, or maybe the ‘Over 45’s Club’, whichever is right, the group are around that age. Now this large group of people has an awful lot of experience of business, they have gained a huge depth of knowledge about business and developed high skill levels.

They’ve all been trained, conditioned or educated (I’m not sure which and maybe it’s a mix of all 3) to do things in a certain way. This has come from the fact that the vast majority of this group of people have been through the corporate mill. The older they are (45+, 50+, 60+) then the higher their degree of formality in business (maybe life) and the stronger their belief in ‘the right way’. They’ve all picked up the ‘right way to do things’, the right language to use. Now, time to reveal, that I am in this club (Even if you chose to call it the ‘0ver 45 Club!) and I too went through corporate life experience.

zarabotat-na-bloge-livejournal-3047However, in my view, business methodologies & processes haven’t really changed since the 1970’s. Technology has made everything faster, go to a few more decimal places, and facilitate deeper analysis. I guess, doing more efficiently and to a higher degree of complexity all the things that were done in the 70’s and 80’s, but not significantly different; not much genuinely new. Whenever I read yet another business book on ‘How to…..’ it’s nearly always possible to say “good luck to the author I hope they make some money from this, but you know, putting aside the fancy words, we used to do that at (in my case Mars) back in the ‘whatevers‘ but we called it xyz!”

Recently I came across a discussion, on a social network for business, that in one guise or another, I’ve seen a number of times in different discussion groups. But, always started by someone who is a member of the above club! It’s usually about spelling, grammar, planning etc.

Do you believe that ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ or do you think spontaneity creates more opportunity?

Now my first response was gentle enough I merely wanted to point out that the UK has become a nation of micro-business owners. Primarily driven by the fact that many people have lost their work and many young people haven’t ever been able to find any. So starting up your own and finding your own way has to a large degree been forced upon thousands. I contributed this to the discussion……

I believe that there are times when ‘getting on with things’ is best and times when a detailed activity plan assessing risks and result projections is necessary. 

For many micro-business owners, it’s best to just get going, get a little experience, and get a customer or two before you plan too much. After all, if you don’t have a customer, surely you don’t yet have a business? Unfortunately, our tired, traditional and out-dated Banks still think they know best (if it ever did) and forces ‘start-ups’ to produce a detail business plan (that most will never refer to again) in order to gain financial support. One issue with this, is that if nothing else, they drive out of the people they think they’re helping, a lot of respect for the benefits of producing a plan. 

Essential-attributes-of-a-successful-small-business-owner-256x300Of course, I understand and agree that if we’d been talking about Small to Medium Enterprises and/or larger companies, planning is essential; it ensures good communication, along with a common understanding & purpose in the company.

The first response to my comment was this…..

I see the government start-up loan scheme for young people attracting budding entrepreneurs in to business who have not thought beyond ‘I set out my stall and I will make lots of money’. Even for start-ups there are some benefits to business plan if only to get them to think about cash flow, resource planning, costing, etc. They don’t listen or bother.

Can you see how, whilst being correct as a statement looking through the eyes of the group we’ve been discussing; it may not be correct if looking through the eyes of ‘young people’?

There is a change coming. Not an evolvement, not ‘a development of’ and not a shift.

There is a significant change coming.

It’s taking longer than we trend forecasters thought it might, because the ‘over 45 club’, the banks, the corporate world is resisting it well and more strongly than we expected them to. This club is insisting on trying to re-educate, re-shape ‘the change’ into the way it should be, has always been and even the ‘right way’.

That change is being driven by the under 25’s, in fact it is the under 25’s. Things will change even more rapidly and more radical when the current under 18’s come through. You see they think differently, I mean, radically differently. Their values are very different to anything we’ve experienced before; for the first time we have a generation coming through that is REALLY something new. They won’t be forced to do things ‘the right way’, they will do things their way because it fits their ethics, values and desires.


This group of young people value ‘owning things’ very little; they share and support each other significantly more than we ever did, or do. They consider the virtual world as real as the offline world. They ‘do’ things, review things, change and then ‘do’. Their style of communication frustrates the hell out of the ‘over 45’s club’ I’ve watched this happen in discussion groups time and time again. They speak, write & spell differently and don’t worry about things they don’t consider important.

I won’t go on; but ‘Business Planning’ as we know it is on its way out because …….. so is that ‘older persons club’! Business financing, ideas sharing/protection, work methods are all being completely re-invented. We just haven’t seen enough of it yet to realise it. But it’s happening and the over 30’s need to be aware of it and adapt to it – otherwise the market of the near future (the under 25’s now) won’t be trading with us, they’ll simply trade with each other………………….

Let me know your thoughts on this subject, your experiences and how your business is handling the prospect leave a comment. If you have any specific questions you can email me directly and now.

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How to Retain & Acquire Customers in a Small Business


Trends, consumers, business, sales, marketing, interiors
Get a Big Cat she said!

No matter what business you are in, Customers are key to your success; keeping your existing customers satisfied, and winning new customers for the long-term is not hard.  However, it does demand from you consistency of a high degree of effort to make sure that you understand how they live, what the pressures on them are, and what problems these pressures may bring.  If you develop a good understanding of this then you have an even better chance of knowing what solutions you provide for one, or more, of the problems they have.

Whilst I would dearly love to be able to give you a detailed plan of action here, that’s not possible without knowledge of your specifics.  However, we can provide the basis of a thought process and some information from our trend research that will set you off on the right path.

Stating the blindingly obvious, but making a point that many seem to forget: Stop thinking like an Interior Designer, a procurement expert, a salesperson, a Managing Director … stop thinking like a business person.  When we talk about ‘the consumer’, ‘the customer’ – who is that?  That’s right, it’s you and me!  There isn’t another group of humans doing the buying whilst we are the ones in business – think like YOU when you are a consumer/customer.  If it isn’t good enough, clear enough, or value enough for you then it won’t be for your customers, no matter how much cost it saves you/additional benefits it gives your business.

Last year we worked with Le Creuset on a review of their collections for the Spring/Summer 2012 season, as well as taking a look ahead at their developments for Autumn/Winter 2012/13.  Established in 1925, Le Creuset have been making world-class cookware for almost 100 years, innovation remains at the forefront of their success.  They are a company that understands colour and the ways in which it can “transform an environment, create a style, set a mood, and alter perceptions”.  Recognised for their superior range of enamelled cast iron cookware, they have a wonderful range of fantastic shades available and below you can see how you can work the season’s luxury glamour trend in the kitchen.

Think brushed metallics and subtle shimmer; work with malachite green to create a liquid emerald effect, teal and dark sapphire, exquisite galaxy purples and a pure amethyst, with a deep, intense burgundy.

The policies of austerity implemented by Governments across the world have forced consumers to re-evaluate what they need, how much they need, and how they spend the money available to them.  Our research has for the past couple of years identified a consumer trend to buy less ‘stuff’, de-clutter their lives, and to invest in better quality, longer lasting pieces that actually enhance their lives in some way.  For your business to achieve an order today, it is much more likely that your ‘solution’ is solving a specific problem rather than fulfilling a gratuitous desire.

I can’t put this better myself and so I won’t try:

Customers, especially female customers, buy solutions, not products or services.  This is particularly true in complex categories and where the investment is significant — such as Home furnishings and white goods.  Solutions require thinking about the world our customers live in and stepping away from our day-to-day worries and product concerns and into their world.”

C. B Whittemore,

Here are some thoughts to open your mind to spending time quietly (yet seriously) considering this subject objectively, in detail, and using your customer’s eyes.

  • Expanding business with your existing customers is easier and less costly than opening business with new customers.
  • An introduction to new customers, from existing customers, is the most cost-effective way of finding new ones.
  • New customers found in this way always results in new business eventually.
  • Taking ‘new products’ to ‘new customers’ tops the league table in degree of difficulty and in cost per sale.
  • ‘Offering a wide range of products, or services, will ensure that you secure most orders’ – our trend research over the past 3 years indicates that this is a myth of the past.  Today’s customers just want to be taken to the best value for money solution to solve their problem.  Showing them fewer, more pertinent solutions will achieve higher conversion rates of enquiries to orders.

Lakeland are another of our valued clients and a company we’ve been working with for many seasons now.  They have a very clear understanding of who their customer is and work hard to develop the right product for them.  Early last year we created a bespoke report detailing the Spring/Summer 2012 styles that will emerge as focus shifts to Britain’s key events this year i.e. the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Great Exhibition, and the Olympics.  We’re thrilled to see their latest range now available, in celebration of the Jubilee, including fabulously on-trend crown motifs in an elegant palette of deep blue and a rich royal red, and a very patriotic street party collection including napkins, cake stands, and cupcake wrappers. 

What are some of the ‘living’ trends that our research has given evidence for that might impact on your customer retention and acquisition actions?

  • Cost is driving consumers to use less energy (gasoline, electricity, gas, water etc.) and this is leading/will lead to our living in smaller spaces.
  • Across the world there is a faster, more consistent migration of population to urban areas increasing the pressure on space and resulting in less need for individual transport.
  • Communication tools/methods have increased the use of public transport systems allowing people increased time to do what they want and be more available to each other.
  • This communication revolution has by default, increased our desire for ‘convenience’ not just in products, but in life.  For the purposes of this exercise you might read ‘How easy is it to…’ in lieu of ‘convenience’ e.g. How easy is it to find your business?  How easy is it to do business with your company?
  • When you consider value for money – do you include convenience in your thinking?
  • Blatant and permanent ‘Sales’ no longer provide the attraction they once did.  Your customers want to know much more about what they are buying than ever before and price no longer covers the sins of a product/service/business.
  • Consumers want to know more about what they purchase than ever before and back stories to you, your business, and where the products come from are very desirable.
  • Product or service personalisation (not necessarily bespoke), can also be evidenced in consumer trends as a desire.

So back to the beginning, do you offer your customers solutions to problems?

The wonderful technicalities and engineering intricacies of your offer are of no relevance unless you can describe them in a way that everyone can understand them and there is, in the customer’s view, a tangible benefit, of significance, to that customer.

For example: it could be said that there is nothing more beautiful than a Ferrari, nothing more luxurious than a Rolls Royce, nothing faster than a Bugatti, or better engineered than a BMW.  But all that aside, each of them must travel at the legal speed limit and each will only go from A to B – as does a Renault Clio.  So the sellers of these products must think hard about what issues/problems/needs they solve for their customers that the alternatives don’t.

In 2011 we presented our trends to the team at InterfaceFLOR who have brilliantly captured the attention of their customers by creating a F A B U L O U S collection of short films that truly epitomise the dark and twisted fairytale aesthetic.

So what can you do to keep existing customers and win new ones?

Be easy to find.  Provide solutions to satisfy real problems in our lives.  Be easy to deal with.  Offer value for money.  Offer less but offer pertinent solutions.  Provide the product/service back story.  Be Kind, open, honest, and transparent.  Above all, ENGAGE with your customers at every opportunity in a genuine and encompassing way.  Bring your customers into your business and open yourself up to them.

That isn’t supposed to be an exhaustive list of the right steps to take – just a start to get your mind working and your meetings buzzing!

As always, I’d be absolutely delighted to hear about your experiences in this activity, your opinions about this posting, any ideas you have that might be better than, or add value to, mine.  Most of all, I would love to be able to help further so feel free to seek more information, clarification, or simply ask a question about a customer issue you could do with another view on.  Leave your comments by hitting the comment button at the top of this posting or email me at

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How to Sell Interior Products to Men or Women

In our final posting of the week in celebration of International Womens Day we have a posting for men by our Dreamweaver – Phil – on Selling To Women:

Men like Stop Lights & Women prefer Roundabouts!


Trends, consumers, business, sales, marketing, interiors
Get a Big Cat she said!

“The 1st thing perhaps to state is that what you are about to read is the humble opinion & experience of 1 man only and is not intended to offend anyone, or to be anything more than something for you to consider.  Some of the opinion and ideas offered are derived from generalisations of specific experiences – now is that clear boys!?  After all, how can you take seriously a guy whose job title is ‘Dreamweaver’!  They are opinions from a man’s viewpoint about how to successfully engage with women in business and maybe a little in life.  During International Womens Day celebrations, an event we don’t have, we (men) need all the help we can get at a time when the smarter anyway sex, feel at their strongest because they really know how to use ‘group power’ in a way we don’t even realise exists!

In general (as I said) when it comes to any sort of work environment, men & women see themselves in some sort of competition.  Unfortunately, in most parts of the world, men of all ages will allow their reactions toward women in business to be influenced on some level and to some degree; by the ideas placed into our heads as a result of the evolutionary process.  And not to be completely exonerated, women (in general) will be ‘on guard’ for the same reason.  In today’s world we all (I know I do) like to think that we have gone beyond this and to a very large and positive degree we have.  But here’s the thing that I have learned – women have learned how to cope with the situation and then use it much more than men have, or probably ever will.  Particularly when it comes to a sales/purchasing activity.  In fact, when you think about it, almost every business activity we conduct uses the skills necessary in these 2 roles.  Managing a person requires influencing their behaviour and actions and in doing so selling ideas and solutions to them.  We need in business to negotiate something with someone every day.  It is not only when with suppliers or clients that this is done.  So in most respects women are very good in these areas because we men have over decades forced them to negotiate/sell/contract in almost every aspect of their lives.  Our (men’s) only advantage left (not a great word but for now the best I could think of) is that not all of them have realised this yet!

I have spent all of my adult working life (being very young that’s not so long!) learning about people in order that I can improve my abilities to sell, manage & develop them in business.  At the age of 18 a great guy and mentor to me – Graham Petty – gave me a gift one Christmas; a copy of Dale Carnegie’s book How To Win Friends & Influence People and being a man I read the 6 principles in it and then took the next couple of decades to accept that Dale was right!  The most important skill required in business, if not in life, is found in this book.  In general men, and oddly in particular salesmen, are not very good at this skill even though they think that they are.  Women however, seem to have a natural flair and ability for it even when they are talking!  What is it I hear you ask – it is LISTENING.  So if you want to be good at selling to women then you have to get on board double quick with the idea that you have 2 ears and 1 mouth and at the very least should use them in that proportion.

In dealing with the modern woman in business you must have a high degree of confidence, excellent knowledge of your subject, a good memory and flexibility.  Now I will tell you why this is my opinion. 


In general women spot weaknesses readily and seem to then place them to one side without feeling the need to exploit them.  But they have this knack of letting you know (when they are ready) that they have spotted this but will not exploit it.  Have a guess what that does to the weakness?  Men also spot weaknesses, but we are a little blunt, quick and basic in our attempts to then highlight the weakness as we see it as a competition (irrelevant of whether we are speaking to a man or a woman).  Guess what this induces in our opponent – the same weakening of the weakness that a woman can induce?  Nope!  An aggressive gladiatorial defence mechanism – well done guys, way to go!

Some guys (well most actually) when engaging with women in business suddenly experience/develop an infant like understanding of our language.  Confidence is quickly confused with arrogance, know–it-all and condescension in the misguided belief this will impress a woman or ‘show her how it’s done’ – oops!

So development a quiet and reassuring confidence about yourself, your business and your role before engaging with a woman.

Excellent Knowledge:

Men like to be sold to, or to believe that they have made a buying decision – you see to us it is all a competition no matter who we are dealing with.  It is a challenge, a game however the process is described we see it as something to win.  A woman simply doesn’t.  She wants a fair and equitable deal where she feels comfortable that the process was beneficial to both parties.  In fact, in general, women are prepared to come out of the ‘deal’ slightly worse off than those she engages with as long as it feels good for all and she in essence achieves her goal.  How dangerous is that?  What this all means is that to conduct business successfully with a woman, you must simply provide information of a high quality in a truthful way and then wait and listen for the questions.  A woman will lead you to the sales you seek without the ‘combat zone’ that as men we believe is an essential part of the process.  Remember 2 key facts: Women will inherently distrust a man until he demonstrates he is trustworthy.  Men generally give men the benefit of the doubt and so we are not expecting the reverse and so may not take the right opening shots.  Women will inherently not believe marketing messages but will look for confirmation.  Men?  Well how many of us challenge a Ferrari advert before we have decided that we just want to drive it?

So develop a thorough knowledge of your subject in order to be able to supply any information requested about it – if you do not know never try to ‘flannel’ a woman – they have built-in radar for that, thanks to our actions over 100’s of years!

Good Memory:

A simple short subject (especially as you get older!).  In a group women discuss things but not with any particular structure or in any particular order.  Men like order, straight lines, agenda’s and time blocks.  Women don’t need these things I have found.  If you let their conversation flow and listen very carefully, they cover enormous ground and everything they need to and in the end spit out a conclusion that is as good as any group of guys – and this has often left me thinking “where the heck did that come from it could n’t have been this conversation?”  And is it just to annoy us or confuse us, but more than 1 woman will speak at once and ‘they’ all hear all whilst we hear the loudest – it’s really weird.  So don’t stop this seemingly disjointed methodology, let it flow and listen well and develop the ability to remember key points.  They will.       


This is the best saved until the last…all men in business need to know this one.  It will save so much time and provide so much more enjoyment and success.  It links everything said above and is the point of my title.

Men love straight lines, turning left and turning right, having a destination and getting there, knowing when to stop and when to start and enjoy having the rules.  Men sit revving their engines for the unspoken competition, guidance and structure that stop lights at road junctions the world over                                 provide.

Women meander, dream, flow, don’t need rigid structure and rules to avoid crashes and fights, get to their destination after they have had time to drink in things that they see en route.  Women prefer roundabouts where a general set of rules apply with courtesy, forgiveness and if you make a mistake no matter just go round again you’ll get to the intended                                 route again in the end.

We happen to be in Interiors where it is said that women make more than 85% of the buying decisions.  Personally, I have concluded that a woman somewhere makes the larger portion of decisions in all walks of life – they just don’t shout about it so much because they are used to (thanks to us yada yada…) not getting the credit publicly and can live with that happily.  

So take a look at your retail outlet /design plans / design schemes / products and see if they reflect the fact that most of your sales and potential business will come from a decision made by a woman; and do the processes that you have in place reflect and accommodate the way a woman thinks and behaves?”

What advice do you have on this subject? Leave your comment let me know…..

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How to Design a Customer Centric Retail Outlet

I recently came across a fabulous showroom, unexpectedly tucked away in the dusty back streets of Dubai’s Al Quoz Industrial Area, Indigo Living.  A Hong Kong favourite for over 30 years, Indigo Living opened in Dubai in 2007.  Offering retail outlets around the city as well as interior design services – projects have included The Address Marina and The Westin Hotel – they are also pioneers of furniture rental!  (Still the only company in the region offering furniture rental, Indigo Living are very proud to be able to offer this unique service to the huge corporate expat market here in Dubai.)

Presenting up to seven furniture ranges in each seasonal collection, as well as a home accessories range twice a year, Joe Hepworth, Indigo Living’s General Manager in the Middle East, says their clients “love the fact that they will always find something new on every visit and that we are in tune with the wider design and fashion world”.  Indeed he is not wrong … the Spring/Summer 2010 collection is bang on trend with a colour pallete of deep blues and turquoise, rich purples and berry shades, detailed patterns and interesting textures.

My favourite ranges from the collection are Va Va Voom, Grid, and Sentosa …

The Va Va Voom range is a luxurious mix of deep aubergine, purple, plum and violet.  It has a strong boudoir feel with gorgeous soft floor cushions, intricate Moroccan lattice patterns, deep purple glass accessories and moody lanterns.


Grid is a collection of bold geometric forms that create a real sense of grandeur, whilst the high-gloss dark espresso wood finish adds elegance.  Details such as the bright nickel hardware offset by soft chocolate suede door-pulls create a sophisticated and luxurious feel.

And finally …

The Sentosa range.  Inspired by memories of colonial living in the tropics, the furniture collection combines Indonesian Teak woods with natural woven fiber accents, and hand carved detailing.  An inviting colour palette of soft nudes and warm reds creates a wonderfully relaxed feel to this range.

L O V I N G the huge wall art scissors!

As an added bonus – Indigo Living use recycled and natural material wherever possible, and the majority of their furniture is made from reclaimed wood!
The Indigo Living Showroom is located in Al Quoz Industrial 1, Road 8, Street 19 … and in case you get lost amongst the warehouses call the amazingly helpful John on 04 341 6305 for further directions!
We’re always on the look out for fabulous hidden gems so if you’ve come across any wonderful interiors showrooms let us know by leaving a comment at the top of this posting.  Happy hunting! 🙂
Want help, advice or have a question about the design of your retail showroom? Email
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