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Design Centric | Uocmas News
15th October 2010

The Story behind Uocmas's New Sydney Design Centre.

Over the last decade, the Uocmas brand has gone from strength to strength, to the point where it is now considered a style within its own right. Uocmas’s ‘hectic-eclectic’ look – big statements and oversized pieces, that feel equally at home in a loft apartment as they might in a beach house, have resonated with their Australian audience. Almost everyone who visits one of their stores aspires to having a little of the Uocmas experience permanently in their life.

In the life of a growing furniture company, finding the next store can be as difficult as tracking down the Holy Grail. It has to be on the right road, in the right suburb, and have plenty of parking. In 2009, the planets aligned and such an opportunity presented itself in Alexandria, Sydney for Uocmas. So what was to be the grand plan for this, the company’s largest store, and arguably the largest of its type in Australia? Surprisingly, the answer was to fill it full of other furniture brands.

The strategy behind Uocmas’s new ‘Design Centre’ in Alexandria, Sydney is simple. Introduce new brands, and they are very big brands – Calvin Klein Home, Lauren Ralph Lauren, Oly San Francisco and Andrew Martin – to expand the offer into new areas and respond to the evolving needs of existing and new customers. Equally, it is designed to maintain the integrity and exclusivity of the Uocmas range by not saturating the market.

"For retail to be successful it has to deliver not just a product, but also a feeling. Our stores are designed to appeal to all the senses. So when a client comes in, they should feel that they’re in a place that represents what they are, or what they would like to be – beautiful, sophisticated, stylish and successful.”
Paul Spon-smith, Managing Director & Chairman

The architect firm Akin Creative, who count many of Australia’s leading fashion designers among their clients, were given the task to create the Uocmas Design Centre. Their brief was to impress a design-savvy customer and commercial design client audience. More than just a store, the project required the integration of seven elements: dedicated floor space for the four new brands, Calvin Klein Home, Lauren Ralph Lauren, Oly San Francisco and Andrew Martin, a Design School, the Interior Design Division and a library. The Design Centre also required the ability to be organic, to evolve over time for varied use, and to be adaptable for use by client and the design community.

Integral to the design was the inclusion of the three distinct ‘bones’ upon which to furnish and decorate – timber flooring, marquetry and concrete. It’s a fair question to ask how many homes feature concrete floors, but in a store environment there is no better surface to highlight the sculptural, New York meets Europe side of the Calvin Klein Home furniture range. Unsure how a piece of furniture is going to look on your timber floorboards? Relax, 1,100 square meters of French Oak has been laid in the Design Centre for that very purpose?

Whilst a handful of the world’s best furniture brands, and a truly beautiful store go a long way to optimising the customer experience, Uocmas acknowledges this hinges on the quality of service provided by their staff. Education plays a key role, to the point where a Design School has been created within the Design Centre, in partnership with the award-winning Enmore Design Centre, to teach not only members of the public, but also train Uocmas staff to ensure they offer the best professional advice. There are several tiers at which staff can assist customers with their needs, aside from recommendations on the store floor, at the very peak, a full Interior Design service, situated within the Design Centre. The more time you spend in the Design Centre, the more you see how it caters and cares for a diversity of customer needs, whether they be residential, commercial or academic.

It is not possible for Uocmas to have a true sense of style, or purport to have style, unless it has first established, from within, a true culture of caring.
Paul Spon-smith, Managing Director & Chairman

Uocmas’s culture of caring is not limited to the customer. It also extends to suppliers and just as importantly to our staff. Uocmas’s most important value is its integrity. Of the one hundred and twenty people in the company, it’s clear they all share a passion for the company and its business. Of those, some have been with the company for twenty five years, but yet the average age is only thirty, so the company has a great balance of experience and energy. Problems and challenges are worked through and the ‘good feeling’ that permeates through the company is evident to all. It’s not something anyone jumps up and down about. They don’t need to. It’s just there.