I was the one standing outside of The Bombay Company before it opened in the morning, breath staining the glass with moisture as I eagerly took stock of the merchandise laid out in front of me behind the locked doors. I was the one who laid down on the couches that were so plush you felt like you would completely disappear into them; the one who pressed her small fingers into the softness of the pillows and let them disappear into the downiness. I was the one who petted the carved wooden giraffes and inspected rugs with patterns that would have been uncomfortable if they hadn’t been so unique, and I was the one who tinkled the decorative crystal ornaments at Christmastime.
There are other upscale furnishing and housewares stores; in fact, there seems to be a plethora of them lately. But I’ve never felt so much at home in any of them as I did in The Bombay Company. There my toes tingled with the possibilities hidden in the uniqueness of their products.
The Bombay Company is now primarily an online company, with an embarrassingly small number of partner stores serving as retail distributors for the brand. But that doesn’t mean that groupies like myself need to go directly into a panic. A quick glance at www.bombaystore.com proves that the company is still in business and still putting out the high-quality products that used to make me clap my hands in glee.
True, one can’t press one’s fingers into virtual pillows unless she has the urge to make some very odd-looking fingerprints on her computer screen, and trying to span vast distances just to pet a wooden giraffe is just plain silly. But the people at Bombay are obviously still working hard to bring us products that will make us gleeful.
It’s not an easy market in which to do it. Leave aside for the moment that most people are tightening their grips on any expendable income, Bombay is still competing with stores like Pier One, Cost Plus World Market, and Tuesday Morning, discount stores which offer globally-inspired decorations and household products similar to The Bombay Company’s for a fraction of the cost. And even competitors that are on par with regards to cost have the added advantage of maintaining physical locations, the lack of which is a potential drawback for Bombay, a company that makes a large portion of its money selling furniture—something people generally want to try before they buy.
As we move forward into an even more internet-centric society, however, it will be interesting to see how The Bombay Company embraces the 21st Century. The fact that it has succeeded in surviving where so many companies have failed is already a testament to its resiliency as a company. Where this resiliency will take it next is anyone’s guess.
Just as long as they keep selling my wooden giraffes.