The Whole Foods of DIY moves into Dallas

Discussion
Feb 19, 2016
George Anderson

TreeHouse has been referred to as the Whole Foods of home improvement and “Home Depot for hipsters.” Now, the Austin, TX-based startup is hoping its emphasis on products for greener homes will play just as well in North Texas as it opens a store in Dallas.

“TreeHouse was born in Texas, and it is going to grow up in Texas,” said Jason Ballard, chief executive and co-founder of TreeHouse, in a statement. “Dallas was an easy choice for the next location. Many of our investors and board members are based there. The Dallas community has been supporting us for four years, and now it’s our turn to give back. Many people have said to us ‘Sure TreeHouse works in Austin, but what about other places?’ We look forward to showing that quality, beauty, health, a good earth, and good homes are universal values.”

The 25,000-square-foot store will be located at The Hill, a shopping center in North Dallas that is close to the city’s growing Millennial populations to the east and south.

According to Mr. Ballard, energy efficiency is of interest to consumers regardless of geographic locations, political leanings or other distinctions. TreeHouse plays up its point of difference with products not readily available in most DIY stores. The retailer was chosen to sell the upcoming Powerwall home battery from Tesla. It also stocks and sells Nest smart home products, Kentucky’s Big Ass Fans, Bole Flooring, Roma Bio Paint, and Soma Water Filters.

A Dallas Morning News report says TreeHouse has a number of influential investors, the biggest being Container Store co-founder Garrett Boone. Other investors include Gary Kusin, former CEO of FedEx Office, and Justin Cox, son of Berry Cox, a longtime board member of Home Depot.

TreeHouse closed a $16 million round of funding back in July.

Photo: TreeHouse

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think the TreeHouse concept can have the same type of success in home improvement as Whole Foods has had in grocery? Are Americans ready to spend big on eco-friendly home improvement materials and technologies?

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"TreeHouse seems less like a concept for DIYers and more like a showroom for trending home tech and eco-friendly home fashion that may be too complex or unfamiliar to select online."

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11 Comments on "The Whole Foods of DIY moves into Dallas"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
3 years 6 months ago

Last time I looked, Whole Foods was not doing so well, so the comparison may not be apt. TreeHouse needs to differentiate itself from Home Depot, Lowe’s and local hardware stores through the products it sells and the knowledge and skill of its sales people. It does not have to compete on price, but it can’t become “Whole Paycheck” either. Being eco-friendly is important, but it breaks the bank for DIYers.

Tom Redd
Guest
3 years 6 months ago

No no no. Food is a bit cheaper than DIY and many of the eco-wacky products are already available at real MAN DIY stores like The Home Depot. This TreeHouse is best for outfitting mini-homes or homes of the really rich that have the cash to waste on supposedly eco-friendly products or IoT early entrees. I will just keep going to my Store 487 Home Depot. Big Ass fans is not new to anyone and shopping online for a fan is just fine — good discounts from them online — they have been around for years. Give them a few stores in Texas. Spread too far and they head south, no matter their investors.

J. Kent Smith
Guest
3 years 6 months ago

The “hardware store” concept is long overdue for a rework, especially those serving urban markets. Too early to tell how wide TreeHouse’s appeal will be. It’s probably never going to have the store count of Ace or True Value, but if it can channel the Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s consumer it can reach several hundred stores, and based on what I see — I hope so!

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
3 years 6 months ago

TreeHouse will be a good experiment to see how large the market is for this concept and these products. If they have an online presence that would also help determine the size of the market beyond Texas.

James Tenser
Guest
3 years 6 months ago

OK, I concede that high-income hipster homeowners can be a lucrative target segment, but I’d hesitate to roll these stores out in an aggressive fashion.

TreeHouse seems less like a concept for DIYers and more like a showroom for trending home tech and eco-friendly home fashion that may be too complex or unfamiliar to select online.

I can visualize some innovative display merchandising going on, as well as a proliferation of facial hair and yoga pants among store associates and customers.

TreeHouse could have opened a second store across town in Austin for this test, but I suspect it knows something about the “urban-gentrification aftermarket” that indicates a one-store-per-city strategy.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
3 years 6 months ago

I don’t know how TreeHouse can go after Millennials with a website that doesn’t allow transactions.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
3 years 6 months ago

I don’t know; there’s a superficial similarity, certainly, between people who “eat green” and those who “build green” — or at least in our stereotypes of them — but I’m not sure there are enough of the latter to sustain a chain. Everyone eats, not everyone lays floor tile. I wish them well.

Kai Clarke
Guest
3 years 6 months ago

No. The eco-friendly home improvement concept is not user friendly, and requires and entirely different housing base. The majority of home owners are simply trying to fix or improve something in their house and the increased costs of eco-friendly products will deter consumers.

Tim Moerke
Guest
Tim Moerke
3 years 6 months ago

TreeHouse and similar stores will remain a niche concept at best; there is probably some room to grow for them, but not on a large scale just due to the cost of what they sell.

Having said that, though, home improvement retail is definitely ready for shaking up once the right company comes along, even if TreeHouse isn’t it. Of all of the subsectors in retailing, home improvement seems like it has been one of the last to really start adapting to Millennials, probably because they’ve become homeowners later than previous generations and Boomers/X-ers have been where they money’s been at in this part of retail up until now.

Compared to other types of retail, home improvement and hardware stores don’t operate all that differently than they did thirty years ago, and for some, even longer than that. There are starting to be some changes, what with things like urban store formats and increased use of technology, but there is a lot more that can be done.

Shilpa Rao
Guest
3 years 6 months ago

Eco-friendly does not always mean expensive, and with focus on the environment and greener homes, this is sure to be a success. Small choices do make an impact and consumers are moving towards greener and more efficient choices.

Jenn Markey
Guest
3 years 6 months ago

While e-commerce penetration has accelerated in DIY, the industry at large has done a good job of avoiding the “race to zero” with a combination of localized assortment and pricing, and good old-fashioned customer service. Ace Hardware with its neighborhood value proposition is an outstanding example of this approach. TreeHouse is a next logical step to moving beyond price. While it will be interesting to see the size of shopper appetites & budgets for “premium hardware,” it’s interesting to note that Restoration Hardware started out selling doorknobs!

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