At the Shoppes at Westgate in the West End of Richmond, Va., the Viall family runs a thriving gift shop called Tweed.
In 2003, with 19 years of experience at building her bookstore into northwestern New Jersey’s largest bookseller, Carol Viall created Tweed by broadening her merchandise to include gifts, home accents, and women’s accessories. What really made the venture more exciting for Carol was that, for the first time, her whole family would be involved in the business with her.
Bringing the Family Into the Fold
Carol’s husband Paul, a former mineral industry CEO who taught economics at the collegiate level, is the company’s chief financial officer. He also oversees the engraving and monogramming to personalize many of the store’s gifts.
The Viall’s two daughters also got in on the action. Kate, after graduating in arts management from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., married and settled in Richmond with her husband Robb. Liz had just finished a master’s degree in design at the New England School of Design and had decided to make Boston her home with her husband, Tom.
Tweed’s first New Jersey store did very well, and within six months, the family discussed opening a second store. In April 2004, younger sister Kate opened the doors to the new store in Richmond. Kate serves as vice president of operations, and customers see her friendly face daily at Tweed. Older sister Liz uses her design skills remotely from Boston to assist with advertising and display.
By 2007, the Richmond store was so successful that the family decided to focus all of their resources there. They received a trademark for their name Tweed, sold the inventory of their New Jersey stores, and sold residences in Boston, New Jersey, and Florida to permanently relocate to the Richmond area.
The family expanded the Richmond store in 2010, 2012, and 2015, and have just added a separate receiving, distribution, and administrative center two miles away. They have grown their staff to 40 people, and sales increased 250% between 2009 and 2013.
Something for Everyone
Today, the nearly 6,000 square-foot Richmond, Virginia Gift Shop: Tweed carries a variety of home accessories, women’s accessories, and gifts, including wedding and wedding party gifts, collegiate items, and gifts for the home, men, babies, pet lovers, and for every occasion. Tweed features an extensive personalization department including embroidery, vinyl personalization, hand personalization, and engraving.
Tweed also runs an e-commerce website where customers can shop and choose to pick up their order in the store or have their gifts shipped anywhere in the United States.
Q&A with Tweed
Smart Retailer (SR): What shows do you attend as a buyer? Do you have a favorite?
Tweed (T): We attend the Atlanta Gift Show twice a year. We have found that Atlanta has the most products with all the newest and hottest vendors.
(SR): What are some of the challenges you face in the gift industry?
(T): As with every industry, there are always going to be challenges. We see a challenge as a good thing because we constantly want to get better and be our best. One of our challenges is our growth. We have expanded our store three times over the last 12 years, and a big challenge for us has been to grow and yet remain the same in our core values and customer service. The store has grown from 1,100 square feet to almost 6,000, so we are able to carry more variety and depth of products. Our challenge has been keeping the “feel” the same. Despite our larger size, we still want our customers to be greeted and have an intimate shopping experience, where we are interacting and helping them find that perfect gift!
(SR): What do you consider to be some of your customer perks?
(T): We special order anything we can to fulfill our customer’s needs. And we have a warehouse that is about two miles from our store, so we are able to carry more inventory to satisfy our customers. We have gift certificates that never expire, and we offer complimentary giftwrap, which is a huge perk for holiday shoppers!
(SR): What’s the biggest trend you are seeing in your store?
(T): In this economy, the trend is gifts, gifts, and more gifts. The option to redecorate homes comes with a good economy, and when times are tougher, we’ve found that gifts never go away. So we have definitely adjusted our inventory to be more heavily weighted on gifts, and that has made a difference for us in the last couple of years. The biggest trend in gifts: initials and personalization are still going strong.
(SR): What products sell best in your stores?
(T): We have over 500 vendors in the store, and we are constantly adding new vendors and products. Some of our most popular vendors include Scout, Simply Southern, Mud Pie, Vera Bradley, Lilly Pulitzer by Lifeguard Press, Corkcicle, and S’well. Our best-selling categories are women’s accessories, gifts for the home, collegiate, jewelry, baby, and anything personalized. Purses, shoes, tote bags, entertaining ware, housewares and more: it truly is a little bit of everything. Our store has something for everyone. Also, a key factor for us is price point. We try to find the unique and reasonably priced items.
(SR): What has been the best event you’ve held to date?
(T): Our best event by far is our holiday open house. This year our open house is from Nov. 7 to Nov. 20. Everyone can choose one day during the event that is “their” open house day, where they will receive 15% off everything they purchase, and we have gifts with purchase and door prizes. It’s a great kickoff for holiday shopping! The second runner-up is the grand reopening party we had when we moved into our new location in June 2010. We had a band and fabulous food. Over 300 guests attended on a Tuesday evening in the summer. We were thrilled! We didn’t offer a discount, but we had plenty of giveaways, plus artists and vendors on hand.
Richmond, Virginia Gift Shop: Tweed Facts at a Glace:
Location: 4035 Lauderdale Dr., Richmond, VA 23233