Used By
77
Top Brands
A/B Testing
Shoplift
Shoplift is Shopify's first fully integrated conversion optimization platform. Convert browsers into buyers with A/B testing and personalization beyond your wildest theme.
Learn More

Under The Hood: Ashley and Chad From STARK

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Chad: I grew up in the business, playing hide-and-seek in showrooms and helping my father, who took over STARK from his father, calculate commissions on sales at the kitchen table. After college, I worked at a few startups but I returned for a multitude of reasons. Above all, I recognized the opportunity to leverage my experience and propel my family's business into the digital era.

Chad and Ashley Stark

Ashley: Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a part of STARK. My grandmother would take me to the STARK showrooms as a child to teach me about the different types of rugs and carpets and really nurtured my interest in the business. I started interning at STARK in college and learned every aspect of the business from the bottom up.

What channel is driving the most growth for STARK and Ashley Stark Home? Are you actively leaning into the channel or trying to diversify away?

Chad: After launching Ashley Stark Home in 2022, we learned that DTC was a true growth opportunity for STARK. As it has evolved, we’ve been able to develop DTC offerings across all of our brands providing access to our products to a diversified group of consumers.

Are you optimistic about the future of direct to consumer?

Chad: We’re very optimistic about the future of DTC for STARK and Ashley Stark Home. Not only are we able to gather new customer data, but also to broaden our reach beyond our physical showrooms.

Additionally, while we have a positive outlook on the future of DTC, I’m a firm believer in the significance of face-to-face interactions with clients. I strongly prioritize maintaining traditional relationships with clients, which involves investing time in getting to know our trade customers on a personal level.

Stark Home

Engaging in business dinners and conducting one-on-one meetings plays a vital role in fostering repeat business. Our clients appreciate feeling heard, and many insightful conversations have directly influenced our business decisions in ways that might not have occurred otherwise.

What’s one thing that you didn’t necessarily expect to be true about building a DTC brand?

Chad: One aspect of building a DTC brand that took us by surprise was the stark contrast it presented from the traditional model we were accustomed to with STARK. Ashley and I quickly realized that the dynamics of marketing costs, customer churn, and return rates were notably higher in the DTC realm. Moreover, we observed that the average order value tended to be lower, necessitating a greater investment in customer education to establish our brand's value and heritage. It was eye-opening to witness how, with relatively modest resources and compelling imagery, a new online brand could exude the same sense of legacy as established companies like STARK.

Chad: To adapt to these nuances, we focused on enhancing the customer experience by developing tools tailored to their needs. For instance, we introduced a visualizer tool to help online shoppers envision how our products would complement their homes. Streamlining our online inventory was another crucial step we took to prevent customers from feeling overwhelmed by choice fatigue.

Chad: Additionally, recognizing the importance of physical interaction, we leveraged our network of showrooms, encouraging online customers to visit and experience our products firsthand. Overall, navigating the intricacies of building a DTC brand has underscored the importance of innovation in meeting evolving consumer expectations.

How did your experience launching Ashley Stark Home inform your decision to open DTC sales for STARK?

Chad: The decision to launch Ashley Stark Home was strategic, driven by a desire to cater to Ashley's vast online community. Ashley had been approached by various brands seeking collaborations and found herself at the nexus of design inspiration and consumer demand. We decided we would create a new online destination where Ashley could share the products she loved, outside of just rugs, that inspired her, which was just what her 1.5 million Instagram followers were looking for.

The synergy between STARK and Ashley Stark Home proved to be transformative, propelling both businesses to new heights of popularity, particularly within the design community.

Through curated content and transparent pricing, Ashley Stark Home shattered misconceptions surrounding STARK's products, opening doors to a wider demographic of interior designers and homeowners alike. The success of the direct-to-consumer business model informed business decisions for STARK, namely the introduction of online retail for non-trade professionals. Going DTC was a significant milestone in STARK’s  85-year history which was partially fueled by the success of Ashley Stark Home and feedback we had received from new customers.

What’s the most challenging aspect to building STARK and Ashley Stark Home that other DTC brands might not face?

Chad: In an industry that likes to hold onto the past, our willingness to disrupt ourselves on behalf of our industry sets us apart. We are very future oriented and get excited by the prospect of change. The response to STARK’s new retail approach has been overwhelmingly positive. Homeowners and designers alike now have access to STARK's diverse offerings, empowering them to explore styles and customize selections with newfound ease.

While this expansion was met with enthusiasm, we’ve remained steadfast in our commitment to the design trade, and implemented a commission protection policy to safeguard the interests of designers. Our policy is that if a designer is sourcing product from us and their client goes around them and buys from us directly, we will give the designer a check for 25% of what the customer paid.

This policy is a reassuring reminder of our unwavering support for the design community and serves as a reminder that just because we are expanding access, it doesn't mean we are abandoning the trade.

What’s the most challenging aspect to building STARK and Ashley Stark Home that other DTC brands might not face?

Chad: In an industry that likes to hold onto the past, our willingness to disrupt ourselves on behalf of our industry sets us apart. We are very future oriented and get excited by the prospect of change. The response to STARK’s new retail approach has been overwhelmingly positive. Homeowners and designers alike now have access to STARK's diverse offerings, empowering them to explore styles and customize selections with newfound ease.

While this expansion was met with enthusiasm, we’ve remained steadfast in our commitment to the design trade, and implemented a commission protection policy to safeguard the interests of designers. Our policy is that if a designer is sourcing product from us and their client goes around them and buys from us directly, we will give the designer a check for 25% of what the customer paid. This policy is a reassuring reminder of our unwavering support for the design community and serves as a reminder that just because we are expanding access, it doesn't mean we are abandoning the trade.

What are some of your favorite tools & Shopify apps that you leverage at STARK and Ashley Stark Home?

Chad: We utilize Octane, a quiz-generation platform that navigates clients through our wide range of products to a curated selection. It offers a seamless experience and provides valuable data and analytics on users in the consideration phase, helping us match them with their ideal products.

Triple Whale serves as a consistent and reliable source of truth. The attribution and post-purchase data we collect inform our strategies for paid social ads, email communications, and multi-touch channel journeys.

Restock Rocket is a straightforward yet indispensable tool that notifies clients when inventory is replenished, driving additional revenue effortlessly.

Shoplift is an excellent platform for optimizing conversion rates, offering numerous pre-built themes and templates to handle fundamental tasks and the capability to test more nuanced or segmented variations.

If you go back to the early days and give yourself one piece of entrepreneurial advice, what would it be?

Ashley: My great aunt, Iris Apfel always taught me to trust my instincts and never listen to the naysayers. I initially envisioned Ashley Stark Home to offer a diverse array of products ranging from rugs to tabletop items, wallcoverings, and décor. However, we've been pleasantly surprised by the exceptional success of certain collections and lines. Particularly noteworthy is our collaboration with Diane James on a faux floral collection, which has surpassed all expectations, selling out five times since its launch in 2022.

Chad and Ashley

Despite our efforts to replenish stock and introduce new seasonal arrangements, the demand consistently exceeds supply. Valuing customer feedback and preferences has been instrumental in our journey, allowing us to develop lines that consistently resonate with consumers and attract new audiences of devoted, engaged customers.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders of family businesses?

Ashley: Chad and I feel very lucky to be able to work together like our parents did and are so grateful for our amazing team who supports our vision and goals for the company. My advice to other CEOs or founders of family businesses would be to diversify in a way that speaks to your team's strengths and needs.

One way STARK has accomplished this is to look outside of the industry for thought leaders who can bring a fresh approach to our business while enabling leadership to loosen the reins on touching every facet of the business.