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The Lounge Co promises customer-centric approach to selling sofas

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The Lounge Co promises customer-centric approach to selling sofas
The Lounge Co promises customer-centric approach to selling sofas
A new multichannel sofa brand launches today with an approach to selling sofas that it says is designed around the customer.

The Lounge Co is launched by manufacturer Sofa Brands International, whose brands include Parker Knoll, G Plan and Duresta. It offers furniture buyers the ability to research and buy online, through a local store or over the phone - but puts the emphasis on the offline channel. The Lounge Co's London gallery launches in Chiswick, London, today, and over the next month will be opening concessions at 20 independent retail partners.

Julian Neal, director of SBI and chief executive of The Lounge Co, said he had seen the furniture market go through "significant structural change" – but that at heart, consumer behaviour had not changed at all.

"People use the internet to research our products and expect speed, ease of use and extremely high-quality content," he said. "However, customers who are investing significantly in an item of furniture that they'll own for a decade or more want to experience the product first."

He added: "It's critical to us that customers have a gallery nearby because they need to see the products, touch them and assess their comfort. The business model was designed entirely around these needs, which is why accessibility was fundamental."

Each gallery will feature one of each style of sofa available, as well as two touchscreen kiosks where shoppers can configure their own version from the 18,500 combinations available. "We invested a significant amount into this technology as part of the in-store experience because customers need to be able to visualise their ideal sofa before they buy," said Neal.

Sales will be attributed to the local gallery, which has an exclusive catchment area, no matter how customers choose to pay for their sofa. "Ultimately it shouldn't matter where customers want to pay for their products," said Neal. "They still need to be given the same excellent customer service across every touchpoint and we want our partners to be rewarded for their contribution."

The move puts The Lounge Co, aimed at 30 to 50-year-olds, into competition with existing online-only brands including Made, Sofa.com and Loaf. It worked with digital agency Thinking Juice to develop the brand, with a focus on content and high-quality images and video that aim to offer both inspiration and product information to customers. Over the next five years The Lounge Co aims to boost its awareness among its target demographic, and says future uses of technology could include augumented reality, as part of the configuration process.

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