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A well-curated store

From the HGO Merchandiser

 15 January 2018     Ashley Newport 

When a typical consumer walks into a furniture store, she definitely expects to see an attractively presented assortment of case goods, sofas and accessories – not just all of those things plus a variety of handbags, jewellery, candles, kitchenware and other, more personal pieces.

Embracing every aspect of lifestyle retail can – and, in this case, does – work, especially if you’re Fanny Vergnolle de Villers, the owner and operator of the vintage/industrial furniture and home décor brand VdeV, which boasts locations in both Montreal and Toronto. Its boutique approach gives it the look and feel of a chic and welcoming home goods store that certain discriminating shoppers have grown to love. Unlike its more corporate (and even independent) contemporaries, it enthusiastically pairs armchairs and coffee tables with cutlery, bath products and fashion accessories like sunglasses.

Product from across the store’s assortment is merchandised and displayed collaboratively, as seen in this vignette in VdeV’s Toronto store. “It’s about lifestyle; it’s a mix of things, all the categories get the same kind of attention – jewellery, bags, furniture, etc.,” Vergnolle de Villers explains, adding that while some categories tend to sell more at different times of the year, her overall sales mix is about half and half.

Vergnolle de Villers founded the first VdeV store – located on St. Laurent Blvd. in the Mile End area of Montreal – five years ago. After enjoying considerable success in what has become her home town, she headed west, opening a second location on Ossington Ave. in Toronto’s trendy Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood.

“Honestly, I fell in love with the city,” she says. “I knew I wanted to expand the store and at the time I was looking for a second spot, I visited Toronto and thought it would click with the city.”

Although Vergnolle de Villers studied political science at the Université de Montréal and, therefore, wouldn’t seem to be someone interested in launching a stylish furniture and accessories brand, design and décor runs in the family. Her mother owns and operates the popular Zone Maison – a six-unit brand also specialising in furniture, home décor and personal accessories with stores in Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa.

“Growing up in that industry, I always had an interest in it. I was always aware of it,” she says. “My passion has grown since I’ve been more involved in the business.” That said she is emphatic that VdeV is a separate entity with its own unique identity.

Fanny Vergnolle de Villers“My mother and I work together all the time,” she continues. “She helps me a lot and I try to help her as well. Having two people in the same industry is definitely beneficial. We don’t have the same products, though. It’s a dynamic relationship for sure.”

While it’s no secret that the furniture business is a difficult one – as furniture is almost always considered to be more of a need than an anytime want – Vergnolle de Villers believes it’s incredibly helpful to offer customers a selection of bigger (yet affordable) items alongside smaller pieces they can buy on a whim to enhance their living room or compliment an outfit. It’s the variety that makes the store stand out while offering customers something special.

“Our selection is pretty unique and comes in different prices and different styles,” she says. “The combination of uniqueness, originality and affordability makes us stand out. The store evolves based on trends, but the vintage industrial vibe is a guideline for us.”

While VdeV honours its vintage appeal by sticking to pieces that speak to the trend, it’s also not afraid to keep things current and interesting by introducing new pieces with a more art deco or bohemian style. “There’s a lot of movement, but vintage/industrial always stands. It can be mixed with other styles,” its owner observes.

Interestingly enough, Vergnolle de Villers says customers don’t quite appear to favour furniture over personal accessories or kitchenware (think table settings and cutlery, not necessarily standard cookware).

“I think it’s half and half,” she observes. “This time of year, the little items are doing well. More into summer, furniture will be bigger. There are moments when some categories do better than others,” she says. “But our mission is targeted around home decor.”

Click here to finish Ashley’s profile of Fanny Vergnolle de Villers in the HGO Merchandiser.

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This HGO article was written by:
Ashley Newport
Ashley Newport

A regular contributor to HGO Merchandiser, Ashley Newport is a Toronto-based freelance journalist who writes primarily for trade and business publications. Her specialties include food, hospitality and emerging social/business trends.

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Home Goods and its accompanying newsletter - HGO This Week - covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. HGO is also a forum for the dissemination of market research and hard-hitting articles on best practices for Canadian retailers.

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