October 4, 2011, 3:28 PM

The Garden Gates builds a new photo studio to better capture upscale products

It’s one of several steps the small home furnishings retailer is taking drive growth.

Lead Photo

What sold upscale home furnishings retailer The Garden Gates on its new 15,000-square-foot web fulfillment center was actually a small enclosed, air-conditioned room inside that previously housed medical supplies.

Garden Gates, No. 983 in Internet Retailer’s Second 500 Guide, is now using the room as a studio to photograph products for its growing network of online stores, says co-founder Chad Harris.

“Our products are very high-end and so the photography and imaging part is very important for us,” he says.

The Garden Gates, which also operates a retail store in New Orleans, brought in under $1 million in web sales last year, but is taking several steps it hopes will  lay the groundwork for significant online sales growth.

Within the studio, the retailer is finishing construction of a cyclorama, or a concave, ramp-like structure, which will serve as a background for photo shoots. That makes for easier editing. “When you shoot photography on it, it requires almost zero editing,” Harris says. “You just connect the camera to your laptop, crop it and load it. You don’t have to cut any backgrounds out, or wall corners out.”

Additionally, the retailer recently purchased about 400 internet domain names such as SummertimeBackyard.com, TheCustomLinenStore.com and DecorativeMossBalls.com and plans to launch niche sites in stages over the next several years. To manage them all, the retailer has shifted to a multi-store e-commerce platform from Znode Inc. This allows Harris and his team to customize the customer-facing portion of each web site, but operate only one back-end system.

Harris, who until recently has run his business with his wife and one other employee, also has hired six new full-time employees—one content writer, one photographer, two developers and two search engine optimization specialists. He says he expects to increase web sales to at least $5 million to $10 million by 2015.

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