In an era of virtual showrooms, ubiquitous e-commerce, metaverses and NFTs, Thibaut remains proudly old-school. In business for more than a century, the fabric and wallcovering brand has been through a lot of changes, but it has never strayed too far into newfangled ideas or inventions. That basic concept—beautiful product, shown in real life—has driven the company’s strategy through good times and bad. “You have to have real touch and feel in this industry,” chief marketing officer Stacy Senior Allan tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “You’re never going to have virtual everything. You have to touch it, you have to see the quality.”

Established in 1886, Thibaut is the oldest operating wallpaper company in the country. Although some firms have stepped away from physical sample books in an increasingly digital world, Thibaut continues to produce them exclusively for designers. In addition to showcasing the patterns, the company also invests heavily in photography, sometimes renting homes in order to photograph Thibaut’s wallpaper in actual spaces. “Even a designer that has great vision and great creativity can look at a small sample and get an idea, but they really need to see it on the wall,” says Allan.

Though the brand doesn’t obsess over digital innovation, Thibaut is taking steps toward meeting the modern age, such as introducing online ordering for designers, utilizing the LikeShop feature on Instagram and hiring a digital transformation director to oversee the brand’s IT and improve its efficiency.

“Having somebody like [that] on the team is part of our new initiative,” says Allan. “I think we’ve accomplished a lot in the last few years, but now we’re moving toward marketing and digital, and [considering] where else we can show our brand properly to lots of different audiences.”

Allan also discusses how Thibaut manages its distribution—choosing to sell through trade-only showrooms and high-end retail locations but never online. (The company turned down the possibility of working with major e-commerce players like Wayfair to keep its distribution exclusive.) The goal is to reach homeowners but protect its designer customers from being shopped too.

Elsewhere in the show, Allan dives into Thibaut’s showroom relationships, including its New York flagship and partnerships with other showrooms. “[Designers] can go to the showroom, get what they need, get pricing, get follow-up—that showroom takes care of a lot of their business,” says Allan. “Through COVID, it’s been proven for Thibaut that having good showrooms and good staff is really important.”

Despite taking steps to expand into the digital space, Thibaut’s sample books and showrooms are here to stay. “We really believe that the sample book is a great tool for the designer, and the showroom is a great resource for the designer,” says Allan. “If you make a beautiful showroom that is inviting, and has great displays, and is easy to browse and shop, and has all the samples at their fingertips, what designer doesn’t want that?”

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by Serena & Lily and the Future of Home conference.

Homepage photo: Courtesy of Thibaut

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