The home furnishing chain has launched a new marketing campaign featuring Thom Filicia, the design guru of the hit makeover show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."
With the success of shows like "Trading Spaces" and "Queer Eye," it was time for Pier 1 to capitalize on the rising home decorating trend, said Phil Schneider, executive vice president for Pier 1 marketing.
National television ads featuring Filicia began airing Thursday.
"We wanted somebody that was renowned as a decorator-expert and Thom certainly has been well-connected in his career," said Marvin J. Girouard, chairman and CEO of the Fort Worth-based chain. "He's done some things that we think will really play well into the type of merchandizing and advertising that we're going to."
The Bravo channel's "Queer Eye" features five gay men helping straight men transform their style from slovenly to chic in categories including fashion, grooming, interior design, food and wine and culture. Filicia is the "design doctor."
The Pier 1 Imports ads will show Filicia helping customers find decorative furnishings that reflect their personal style. He replaces actress Alley, who for three years was the company's celebrity spokeswoman.
"Is there risk involved in big change? Absolutely," said Girouard, who has worked for the company since 1975. "But there's much more risk involved in not changing things."
Filicia was named one of America's top designers by House Beautiful and owns the New York design company Thom Filicia Inc. He said he uses Pier 1 items in his designs, so he had no problem signing up as a pitchman for a year.
"There's so much personality in their pieces," Filicia said. "This is a store where you can really express yourself."
Filicia's sexuality will likely be a non-issue with most Pier 1 customers, one analyst said.
"The 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' has been pretty successful, so that takes the pressure off Pier 1," said Thomas Cline, associate professor of marketing at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.
Michael Wilke, executive director of the Commercial Closet Association, a non-profit that educates advertisers about the portrayal of gays in mainstream advertising, said that a number of openly gay celebrities who have found spots in ads in recent years, including designer Isaac Mizrahi for Target and tennis star Martina Navratilova for Subaru of America.
"There's been such a change in the way our society looks at homosexuality," Wilke said
Because of recent television shows, movies and news stories dealing with gay issues, he added, "The comfort level is there now when it didn't used to be."
Pier 1 started in 1962 as a single store in California. The company moved to Fort Worth in 1966 and now boasts more than $1.7 billion in sales and more than 1,200 stores in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
"Thom Filicia is a bold move, but one that makes sense given his credibility as a designer and the popularity of the show he is on now," said Laura Richardson, an analyst in equity research at Adams, Harkness & Hill.
By Jamie Stengle
By Jamie Stengle