The company also learned that saving a few dollars may not be the primary motivation for One Kings Lane’s customers. Of the 803,000 unique visitors to the website in July, 51 percent had household incomes exceeding $100,000, according to Andrew Lipsman, a vice-president at comScore, an Internet research company.
People now come to the site not just for a lamp but for an aspirational experience akin to flipping through the pages of a design magazine. “We wouldn’t just sell you that mint-julep cup,” Mack says. “We put it together with several other pieces and inspire you to say ‘I want this in my home.’ ”
A big step in the company’s evolution came in 2010, when they acquired the design firm Helicopter, where Joshua Liberson (and his co-founder Ethan Trask, who also joined One Kings Lane) had helped launch Domino and Radar magazines.
“It’s one thing to say that we curate products, and it’s another to say we invest in the imagery that brings curation to life,” Liberson says. In New York, the creative hub of the company, employees spend the day steaming cashmere throws and painting sets for photo shoots before heading to the office’s late-afternoon happy hour. It’s hired full-time photographers and stylists and can shoot products in India and China. Photographs now incorporate more natural light, and styling has become increasingly rigorous. The company’s offerings have also diversified. It launches 2,500 new items for sale each day, selling everything from $45 salad-plate sets to $5,000 antique settees. According to Mack, “scaling the business isn’t the challenge.”
This fall, One Kings Lane will offer two proprietary bedding and bath collections. In 2014, it will launch Hunters Alley, a companion site where individuals can sell their furniture directly to one another. And it’s rumored that, for the past year, the company has been more cautious in its spending in preparation for either an acquisition, possibly by Scripps Networks, which it is currently partnered with, or an IPO.
“I think there’s an opportunity to build a true lifestyle brand as an online business, and no one’s ever done that before,” Mack says about the company’s future prospects. “And what I mean by a lifestyle brand are those companies like Ralph Lauren, or Nike, or Michael Kors, where you build deep, deep customer loyalty.”
That’s typically a challenge for flash-sale sites, where Pedraza likens the shopping experience to “one-night stands.” So it’s not surprising that of all the numbers—membership growth, sales figures—the one executives at One Kings Lane find most promising is that 80 percent of sales is repeat business, lending some credence to their motto, “Design is never done.”