Joss and Main: Who Said Romance Was Dead?
By Duke Ratliff
Flash sales site Joss and Main has become one of the trendiest--and fastest growing--home furnishings retailers by putting a modern spin on a tried-and-true strategy. Taking a page from traditional retailers such as Williams-Sonoma and J. Peterman, Joss and Main takes romancing the product--and even the entire shopping experience--into the Internet era.
A division of online powerhouse Wayfair, Joss and Main has nearly three million members (membership is free) and it has reached more than $100 million in annual revenue after being in business less than two years.
Joss and Main offers mainly upscale items--everything from soft goods to tabletop to small appliances--at discounts up to 70 percent. Members log onto jossandmain.com to check what's new, with most items being available for only 72 hours.
But the retailer doesn't simply rely on price and a hoped-for shopping frenzy. Instead of just offering products for sale, Joss and Main creates and emphasizes "events" that contain home items.
For instance, pre-holiday events included "The Season's Soiree: Inspired Tabletop for a Winter Celebration." Shoppers were romanced (with ad copy) to "arrange cups of eggnog custard on classic servers, set a cozy ambiance with flickering mercury glass votives, or craft an elegant tablescape with garnet-hued goblets." Home furnishings items included everything from appetizer plates to credenzas. While some items are branded (Lenox, Broyhill), others are not.
Another event targeting holiday celebrations was "The Perfect Pairing: Host a Stylish Wine & Cheese Soiree." Potential customers were advised to "indulge in perfectly cubed fontina with sleek knives, beautiful mahogany cheese board and holiday-inspired dinnerware ..." Items featured in the sale included fondue sets, dinner plates, cheese knives and cheese boards.
"When we think about marketing, it's about presenting and showing how to use the pieces and put them together," said Mitra Morgan, co-founder and chief curator of Joss and Main. "For instance, mid-century modern is trending now, and we'll show how they can incorporate that chair into their living room which may lean toward being more traditional."
Joss and Main also mixes in category-focused events and one-source sales events. An event dubbed "Stylish Storage" offered boxes, servers and trunks. Last month saw sales events for Surya, CBK and Zafferano.
Joss & Main's merchandising concept has evolved. Originally, it was more focused on brands.
"Today, we bring together a huge number of suppliers to tell a particular story," said John Mulliken, co-founder and general manager of Joss and Main. "There are plenty of wonderful brands, but to make a compelling showroom experience that's appealing to consumers, there has to be imagery offered from various sources."
This year, the company began tapping into popular culture such as movies, books and celebrities for events. Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and the much-discussed novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" have all received the Joss and Main treatment. The James Bond event showcased retro-chic chairs, glittering lamps and, of course, barware for the shaken martini. The "Fifty Shades of Grey" event featured button-tufted beds, chaise lounges and a pair of handcuff cufflinks.
Joss and Main also creates buzz through curator-based events where guest designers and bloggers pull together items to be sold. Last August, the retailer launched the Celebrity Curator for a Cause program with actors including Matthew McConaughey, Courteney Cox and Orlando Bloom lending their names and personal styles for charity-oriented sales events.
"We're constantly in the process of launching a little mini-lifestyle magazine, where you can buy everything you can see," Mulliken said. "We can build on a movie or a new novel. We're able to stay very current."
All in the Name
Joss and Main is a division of multi-category e-commerce retailer Wayfair (formerly known as CSN). The not quite two-year-old company has nearly 44,000 "likes" on Facebook.
The name Joss and Main perfectly reflects the website, according to co-founder Mitra Morgan. "Joss" is a colloquial expression for good luck, while "Main" evokes a destination, like Main Street.
"So we're coupling the thrill of the find with a trusted destination," Morgan said.