3 ways Australian lifestyle brand Coco Republic is raising its U.S. profile

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. market may be more familiar with contemporary and modern furniture retailer HD Buttercup than its Australian sibling Coco Republic, but that’s starting to change under the leadership of Skye Westcott.

Westcott, president-North America for Coco Republic since August 2022, is stepping up the lifestyle brand’s profile with the launch of a new e-commerce site in May and the addition of Coco Republic retail stores in Culver City, Calif., at the HD Buttercup Design Center there, and at interior design center SOCO and The Mix in Newport Beach, Calif. Coco Republic already has a flagship showroom in San Francisco, which opened in fall 2022.

Both HD Buttercup and Coco Republic have a spot in the U.S. marketplace and will co-exist, explained Westcott. While HD Buttercup has served as a broader platform with a range of partners, brands and price points, Coco Republic offers a branded house with a specific lifestyle-driven aesthetic, she said.

“We can have one in the other or the other in the one,” Westcott noted, such as the HD Buttercup Design Center now housing a Coco Republic flagship, or the Coco Republic store in Orange County offering an HD Buttercup outlet.

Westcott, who had previously worked with HD Buttercup from 2015 to 2017 and counts merchandising, design and marketing positions with Ballard Design, Arhaus, ABC Carpet and Home and Ikea as part of her furniture industry résumé, said Coco Republic “was always meant to be an omnichannel retailer.” Adding an e-commerce site offers consumers the chance to pre-shop online before visiting one of the retail stores or to buy online if they aren’t able to visit one the brick-and-mortar locations.

Coco Republic is using furniture software company Storis and e-commerce platform BigCommerce for the U.S. launch, with a rollout in Australia in the fall, she said.

“In today’s environment, you need to make it easy for the customer,” she said. Under the new platform, both retail and trade customers will be able to monitor their purchases online, changing orders, tracking stock levels or closing transaction through their log in.

Skye Westcott

HD Buttercup, which already had a U.S. website, has been able to grow its business by 50%, said Westcott, but there were limitations on what services could be offered to online customers. “This just offers more capabilities,” she explained. “We wanted the right platform for all countries.”

The synergy between the updated e-commerce system and the Coco Republic stores should translate to its bottom line. “We have a sense for what the website will do,” said Westcott. “I think it will contribute a decent amount of growth to the retail sites.”

The retail locations include Coco Republic’s 30,000 square feet in the HD Buttercup Design Center, which was just set up as a “store as a service” center for it and other tenants, such as home and housewares brand Timothy Oulton and bedding brands Matouk, Pom Pom, Society and Coyuchi.

In late May, Coco Republic will debut in the HD Buttercup space at SOCO and The OC Mix. The 40,000-square-foot space is being renovated and will include a 7,000-square-foot HD Buttercup outlet and could also feature some of the same partner companies from the design center, she said.

Rather than seeing other home-oriented companies as competition, Westcott views them as providing opportunities for consumers to do some one-stop shopping. “I’ve always love it when competitor or home furnishings stores opened next door. It’s the convenience factor of having multiple shopping options,” she explained.

Along with the current options that HD Buttercup Design Center’s partners add to Coco Republic’s indoor and outdoor furniture lines, Westcott has on her wish list vendors in the paint, rug, fabric, wallpaper, lighting and tabletop categories as well as case goods furniture that would complement Coco Republic’s offerings.

This broader assortment is especially important for trade customers. “The more we can offer them in one place, the better,” she said.

One of the key aspects of the HD Buttercup Design Center that excites Westcott is the ability to do events. “We’re making retail fun,” she said, by offering speaker series, like a panel discussion on design, in-store trade events and pop-ups. “As a customer, if I have a great experience, I’ll go back again.”

While Coco Republic has concentrated its U.S. expansion on California, which Westcott likens to the Australia in terms of a coastal, laid-back, outdoor-oriented lifestyle, there are other parts of the country — Texas for one — that have a similar mindset and could be a target for growth down the road. But for now, she said, the focus is on launching the e-commerce platform and building out the California retail sites.

Getting the word out has meant deploying a multi-pronged approach that uses social media and digital outreach; influencers in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Orange County; and even going “old-school” with four-color advertising and direct mail.

Westcott acknowledged that furniture retailers benefitted during 2020 and 2021 “and the crazy growth.” But she doesn’t adhere to the premise that people are tired of buying for their homes now.

“There’s still plenty of opportunity; designers are all super busy, and it’s still hard to get a contractor for a small project.” The current economy “just makes you do your best and be on your ‘A’ game,” she said.

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