Market Niches: Architectural
More than just stone
Charles Luck Stone Center takes a different approach to its decorative stone business. Using the fashion world’s business model, it doesn’t follow trends but sets the trends.
By Tina Grady Barbaccia,News/Digital Editor
The difference between the newly relaunched and rebranded Charles Luck Stone Center and its former identity, Architectural Stone Division (ASD), is like the difference between Gucci and a regular department store. Both carry good products, but Gucci is a high-end, luxury brand on the cutting edge of fashion that sets the trends, whereas the average department store follows the trends.
The Luck Stone ASD transformed itself into a trendsetter by providing an upscale backdrop for its products. “It was a typical stone yard with bins, pallets, and loaders with a slightly nicer office than a trailer, but not too many shades away from a typical contractor yard type of set up,” says Anderson McNeill, president of Charles Luck Stone Center.
He says ASD had great products and relationships with quarries all over the world. However, regardless of the quality of products and their appeal, McNeill says, it wasn’t an environment in which some may be comfortable looking at stone.
“Some (people) like to go to marble slabs and look at the bins, but there is a whole other set that don’t want to spend an afternoon in a dusty stone yard,” he says. “It’s just not inspiring.”
As more mom and pop operations moved into the decorative stone business, ASD knew it had to reposition and rebrand itself. “There are a lot of little stone yards popping up all over the place,” McNeill points out. “We wanted to change the paradigm about how people view stone and look at stone and get in at the beginning of the project.”
An influential vision
That’s when ASD changed its vision to become a nationally respected brand in the design and architectural community.
To achieve this vision, McNeill said two big fundamental shifts in positioning took place. The first was repositioning the stone centers from an efficiency model to a model set up to influence the architectural and design community. “We were geared toward the contractors, installers, and they were designed for convenience so a truck could pull up, get a load, get on the scale, and get out,” McNeill points out. “We went from that model to focusing on serving the architectural and design community while still servicing the contractor.”
The second shift was adopting the fashion world/fashion retail business model for the stone center, noting how it developed products, trends, and addressed color, McNeill explains. “We were interested in how they were always onto something new and creating a lot of energy around what’s new.”
Part of the transformation was becoming a trendsetter. Charles Luck Stone takes a unique approach to its craft, inspired by the latest fashion trends and artistic processes, to provide its customers with luxury products that are not only relevant in today’s design and architecture worlds, but are also timeless and classic.
The Charles Luck Stone Center also recently launched what it is calling the “Vogue of the stone world:” Perspectives. This is a comprehensive trend report which incorporates the latest in culture, fashion, art, textiles, and the luxury market to illustrate how key design and architectural trends are interpreted in stone.
“Perspectives is our trend and design forecast,” McNeill says. The biannual report enables employees to figure out trends, overarching design themes, colors, textures, and more to develop the appropriate products. “This is the difference between leading a trend and being trendy,” McNeill says. “There is a big distinction between subscribing to and following trends versus getting out in front of them. You have to go to the global shows and see what’s going on just like in the fashion world.”
Charles Luck Stone Center stays ahead of the trends in stone by having a staff expert who spends the majority of the year travelling to look for new stone types, new looks, and new quarries. The stone center also launched Elements; a semi-annual portfolio featuring new products and relevant design themes. “Elements provides style-minded homeowners and design professionals with updates on the latest trends and fashions within the stone world,” McNeill says. AM