The Room Collection co-owner Alison Ludditt (left), speaks to a customer while Mary-Ann Zaitsoff, (right), wraps his purchase. The downtown Vernon store recently won The Canadian Gift Association’s Canadian Retailer of the Year award. (Heath Fletcher image)

Vernon retailer claims national honour

The Room Collection named Canada’s retailer of the year

When the president of the Canadian Gift Association phoned Alison Ludditt to tell her The Room Collection had won its most prestigious retail award, it took Ludditt a minute to understand what she’d just been told. Shocked by the news, she expressed her thanks and hung up before hollering across the store to her business partner the only words she could muster: “Retailer of the Year! Retailer of the Year!”

Ludditt’s partner, Karen Miller, thought she was outright lying, or joking at the least. They whooped. They hugged. They cried. And in the warmth of all the surrounding carpet rolls, candles, fabric swatches and pillows, they let the big news settle in.

“Day to day, we put our heads down to run the business and give our customers the best experience we can,” says Ludditt. “Then it was like we looked up and realized, ‘We have built something here.’ And to have that thing you’ve built receive recognition is amazing.”

Ludditt, along with her husband Russell and Miller, bought The Room Collection four years after it opened.

The furniture and home décor store offers a unique and curated collection of everything home, from Sid Dickens art and locally-made cards to candles inspired by Vancouver settings and custom upholstered furniture. The judges said they were beyond impressed with the beautiful offerings, and that the decision was unanimous. In addition to the store layout and appearance, the Canadian Retailer of the Year award judges applicants on several factors, including innovation and originality, business achievements and community involvement.

Ludditt and Miller are proud to have the chance to support local groups such as Teen Junction and NOYFSS, to mentor participants in the Enterprize Challenge and to be members of groups like the Downtown Vernon Association, Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce and Business Exchange, hosted by Community Futures North Okanagan.

Over the years, The Room Collection has received a handful of awards: a Tommy Award silver finalist for their interior decorating of a showhome; finalist for Small Business of the Year and winner of the Customer Service award at the chamber’s Business Excellence Awards and Best of the Okanagan winner for best furniture and home décor store in the North Okanagan.

“It’s been seven years of hard work and learning, and we’ve had a few big turning points during those years,” says Miller. “Each of those points gave us chance to reflect on where we’ve been as a business, and where we are going next. One of the things we always reflect on is how much we appreciate the customers, designers and businesses that support our store.”

One of their key milestones was moving from the original Anderson Way location to their current location on the bustling corner of 30th Ave and 34th St.

“Moving downtown gave us more visibility, more space for stock, and a stronger connection with other businesses,” says Ludditt. “It feels like people are becoming even more passionate about what their home looks like, how it reflects them and how comfortable they feel in it.”

The new location also called for additional staff, so their team grew from three to five, and includes the store’s founding owner, Mary-Ann Zaitsoff, an integral part of the team.

“We all love working with customers, but also try to work to our strengths and passions,” says Miller. “For example, Mary-Ann creates our striking window displays, and Alison focusses on our social media presence.”

Instead of attending a semi-annual buying show in Las Vegas in January, The Room Collection team will head east to the Toronto show, where they will attend a gala, receive their award, and make a speech.

“It’s a bit nerve-wracking to think about, but in that context, it might put the award into perspective,” says Miller. “And it’s such a wonderful way to kick off some of the other exciting things that will be happening at The Room Collection this year.”

For more information about The Room Collection, visit www.theroomcollection.ca.

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