Clive Daniel Home is headquartered in Naples, Fla., which co-founder Daniel Lubner
calls “one of the jewels of the United States.”

NAPLES, Fla. — It’s a trendy, high-end city on Florida’s southern Gulf Coast, and it’s getting attention from the home furnishings industry, both local and out of town.

The Naples, Fla., region is home to more than 350,000 people according to the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, which offers plenty of opportunities for furniture sales. While the city itself only has a population of 19,372, it boasts a median household income of $118,141, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It also draws more than its share of wealthy snowbirds and owners of second (and third) homes, which presents the opportunity to sell better and best-tier goods.

“Naples, as a city, is one of the jewels of the United States. While it does boast tremendous wealth, whenever you have second and third homes, it’s going to come with affluence,” said Daniel Lubner, CEO and co-founder of Top 100 retailer Clive Daniel Home, which is headquartered here. “The restaurants and beaches are amazing. There’s an understated affluence. It’s not a flashy city, but you’re going to see your share of exotic cars.”

While Naples qualifies as a hotspot today, it’s always punched above its weight.

“Historically speaking, Naples has always been one of the top markets in Florida. After the peak of the COVID crisis, the influx of long-term resident migration from other states has drastically accelerated its popularity and growth,” said Eric Chien, president and chief financial officer of Robb & Stucky. “According to the ‘Best Places to Live in the United States’ report by US News & World Report, Naples was ranked seventh in 2021. It dropped a little to 12th this year, due to increasing living expenses like rent for workers.”

Robb & Stucky is another major retailer making its home in Naples, Fla., tapping into this affluent market with wealthy snowbirds and second and third homes.

Clive Daniel and Robb & Stucky are joined in the higher end home furnishings ecosystem here by Baer’s, Natuzzi, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and a host of others. Soon, Chicago-based Walter E. Smithe will open its first store outside of its home market here.

Colleen Smithe, director of advertising for the family-owned Top 100 retailer, noted that there are plenty of Chicagoans who migrate to Naples and other Florida locales in the winter, and she said many of them have clamored for their hometown store to come with them.

“Florida appealed to us for many reasons. The prevalence in the market of Chicago-based snowbirds and retirees will help with initial brand awareness as we open,” said Smithe. “We have happy clients who are thrilled we are opening in Naples, and nothing beats word-of-mouth advertising. Additionally, we pay attention to real estate trends, and Florida tops the list in terms of demand. New home buyers will need quality furniture to fill their homes, and we are standing by ready to get to work.”

Smithe said many of those snowbirds decided to make Naples their primary residences in the aftermath of COVID and the rise of work-from-home.

“We saw the effect of the work-from-home boom over the off-season in Naples, where restaurants remained packed when, typically, the crowds thin out,” she said. “Employers have never been so flexible, and that’s not going away any time soon if ever. We see a lot of larger companies in Chicago downsizing their offices to account for the shift to work-from-home and flex schedules. Where are their employees? All over the state and the country, including Florida.”

She said Naples will provide a blueprint as Smithe considers more markets in the future. “Our mission is to fulfill our clients’ dreams for their homes; that is not unique to the Midwest. Our Naples store is just a start. We have clients all over the country who are asking us to open in their state. Stay tuned.”

While the shift Smithe observed is key to the store’s move here, local retailers noticed it as well.

“Naples experienced a lot of full-time residents moving down,” Lubner said. “Once corporations gave people the ability to live where they want, we saw some tech giant people moving here and making it their full-time home.”

As residents continue to leave traditional business centers, Naples and other destinations are poised for growth.

“I think Naples will continue to grow exponentially year-over-year, as its natural beauty, recreational opportunities and planned infrastructure enhancements are the backbone of its community success plan,” Chien said. “Walkability in a thriving downtown business, dining and arts district has become a top priority for new home buyers seeking to re-locate from congested cities, and Naples has poised itself perfectly for this new trend.”

As word gets out about Naples, is there room for more retailers to divide share?

“There’s plenty to go around in Naples. The strongest will continue to survive,” Lubner said. “I do think coming off these historic numbers, there could be some smaller companies that are in harm’s way with added competition. I hope everyone is able to make it. With added competition taking a piece here and there, I worry there will be companies that don’t make it.”

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