Dormify pops up well before back-to-school season

Discussion
Photo: Dormify
May 09, 2018
Tom Ryan

Dormify, the college and dorm supplies e-retailer, is opening three pop-ups, or “Style Studios,” in New York City, Chicago and the Washington, DC. between May 1 and May 15, well ahead of the back-to-school season.

At each location, customers can set an appointment with one of Dormify’s stylists, college students and recent grads schooled in dorm-room décor.

“On the day of your appointment, get one-on-one attention and talk small space décor,” Dormify says on its website. “Your stylist will show you pieces and collections that work with your style and answer any questions you have about designing your dorm/bedroom.”

Customers can order items at the pop-up for delivery, and if they like delay shipment to time out with their arrival on campus. Dormify’s Style Advisors are also available online for advice or through in-person appointment through its Fifth Avenue offices in New York City.

While attending college, Amanda Zuckerman and her mom founded Dormify in 2011 as a content-only blog. The two had grown frustrated heading to an “endless amount of stores” to find fashionable dorm décor and “found themselves wishing there was just one place that had it all,” according to its website. An online store was launched in 2013.

Dormify pops up well before back-to-school season
Photo: Dormify

Dormify’s direct competitors include Roomify, which promises “all-in-one” boxes for outfitting dorm rooms at savings versus the big-box retailers. Dorm Décor and Dorm Co. are also active in the space.

According to the National Retail Federation’s “2017 Back-To-College Survey,” college students and their families were expected to spend a record $969.88 million during last year’s back-to-school selling season — including $105.58 on dorm/apartment furnishings.

Bed Bath & Beyond, PBTeen, Wayfair, Home Goods (owned by TJX) and The Company Store (owned by Home Depot) also target the dorm décor space. The bigger discounters and department stores have ramped up their home essentials pushes in recent years. Last year, for instance, J.C. Penney opened “dorm shops” in 500 stores featuring a selection of bedding, bath and décor products while broadening its related assortments to include microwaves, compact refrigerators, portable air conditioning units and Packard Bell laptops.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are the major pain points college students and their parents face in shopping for dorm room essentials? Do you see high demand for the expert advice Dormify can provide or are mainstream retailers filling much of the needs of students?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"...the nightmare is having to go to 20 different stores to get everything. Sadly not even Dormify can accommodate dorm rooms completely."
"This seems like it fills a retail void."
"The biggest pain points are selecting the right merchandise that will fit into the limited dorm space and then having it delivered directly..."

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11 Comments on "Dormify pops up well before back-to-school season"


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Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

In my experience, mainstream retail fills the dorm decor need with value. Dormify may offer some useful tips and one-stop-shopping, but it is at at time when shopping is a fun part of the off-to-school experience. Good luck to Dormify.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

Dormify is a great example of specializing around curated assortments. As a parent of 3 daughters who attended college, moving into dorms is hectic! Dormify could relieve a lot of stress (at least for dad) by enabling pre shopping and delivery to the dorms. However, the back to school season is extremely short … what about the rest of the year? And there is no lack of competition from the retail giants who will be courting back-to-school purchases across social media with omnichannel options for delivery.

Max Goldberg
Guest

The biggest pain points are selecting the right merchandise that will fit into the limited dorm space and then having it delivered directly to the dorm room. As the article points out, Dormify faces stiff competition from a number of other startups, as well as big box stores. I’m not sure that the expert advice will be enough to separate Dormify from its competition. The company will also need to offer competitive prices, easy returns and fast shipping on products that might have been left off the shopping list. If you want to see chaos, visit the Bed Bath & Beyond store in downtown Boston on move-in weekend.

Sky Rota
BrainTrust
9 months 10 days ago

Being the younger brother of 3 college graduates I can tell you the nightmare is having to go to 20 different stores to get everything. Sadly not even Dormify can accommodate dorm rooms completely.

In my expert opinion, you can decorate from many stores, but you can’t survive without The Container Store products as storage is the main issue. I love the idea of pop-up stores, but I don’t love the Dormify pop up concept. How many one-on-ones could they do in that amount of time? Not enough.

I would set up the space to show different looks and room layouts to show new students. But please be honest, you know you can’t put holes, hang lights on walls or change beds to have a nice headboard, etc, in dorms. Please keep it real — NOT unrealistic, or your customers will just be upset with you when they purchase things they aren’t allowed to use in dorms. Remember, you want happy customers that share, not unhappy customers that share!

Jennifer McDermott
BrainTrust

Mainstream retail likely fulfills the needs, but Dormify, a provider who has built their audience and expert positioning through very niche content, is well placed to steal market share. I think the pop-ups are more of a PR grab than conversion driver, but the fact that they are even in a position to invest in such an activation signals they are doing pretty well.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Some people do not enjoy shopping, so Dormify or a company like them would be a welcome solution. Some people do enjoy shopping, especially for an exciting event, so would like to visit several stores and make their own choices. One complication is that most people living in dorms have at least one roommate and often try to coordinate purchases. Does Dormify simplify that process as well?

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Dormify has a long history of content, some retail and genuine hands-on customer experience. Being in the trenches for 8 years, solely focused on dorm deco, could launch Dormify into the realm of “small living space” style leadership. College kids graduate to move into first jobs and first apartments. Target?

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
While shopping for dorm furniture should be fun, it is usually a frustrating experience to find products that are right-sized for dorm rooms. Students moving away to college and meeting new students for the first time want to make a good impression. With the help of Dormify’s Style Advisors, they can choose the right products that fit the room, their personality and will make them feel confident when they start college. Parents and their students are time starved in today’s world. They are busy paying for the outrageous cost of US higher education and have little time to curate these somewhat disposable solutions, so there will be high demand for this advice. Many of the big box department and furniture stores have a lot of product options that will work for students, but they don’t have the personalized service that caters to their unique needs. This seems like it fills a retail void. Retailers like Meijer with their “Meijer Mania” are tapping into this market to grab the wallet early and often. We will likely… Read more »
Karen S. Herman
BrainTrust

This is a forward thinking by Dormify. I see these brick and mortar pop-up “Style Studios” with Style Advisors on site as a comforting and rewarding experience for college students and their families. The fact that they are rolling out ahead of back-to-school, for two weeks in May, gives an exclusive opportunity to learn about Dormify products, explore design ideas, and work with a Style Advisor to get everything just right. This is an experience that certain college students will relish, it builds a nice brand relationship with Dormify and sets the company up for a repeat showing next year … probably in many more locations.

Mike Osorio
BrainTrust

While mass retailers will remain the largest players in this space, there is plenty of room for growth for a niche player like Dormify. The key will be the cool factor: ensuring that the social media comments remain as positive as they are now. Check out their Instagram feed — most posts have over 2,000 likes. Clearly they are established as a style setter in this space. If they provide sustained excellent product curation, delivery and set up, along with after sales care, they will be positioned to not only grow market share in the back-to-school dorm space, but be able to launch year-round services in small-space decor (offices, studio apartments, rooms for rent, etc.). VERY COOL brand.

Ray Riley
BrainTrust

Whether mainstream retailers are filling the needs of students today or not shouldn’t be an emphasis. Generation Z, and the next cohort will be increasingly time poor, as will their parents. Being able to quickly select curated packages and organize fulfillment will be the future. Not only could Dormify focus on small, short-term dorm space pan out, it could also eventually create the space for a subscription-based furniture rental model on curated designs or “packages” in more permanent spaces e.g. apartments and rentals that removes the pain of moving for the roughly 100 million Gen Y/Z individuals living on their own. Excluding mattresses of course!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"...the nightmare is having to go to 20 different stores to get everything. Sadly not even Dormify can accommodate dorm rooms completely."
"This seems like it fills a retail void."
"The biggest pain points are selecting the right merchandise that will fit into the limited dorm space and then having it delivered directly..."

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