For the ages

The first Kazakhstani store of the cult American furniture brand Ashley HomeStore opened in the Armada shopping center in Almaty in 2018. Now the network is represented in the country's three largest cities, and there is no end to customers.

The creator of this success is Botakoz Sadykbayeva, CEO of Ashley Furniture Homestore Kazakhstan, a talented and enthusiastic manager. Botakoz Sultanovna genuinely loves the Ashley brand and infected Museofnomad editor-in-chief Igor Toporkov with her passion. The conversation occurred right in the interiors of the first Ashley store in Kazakhstan, so it was impossible not to be enchanted.

The Ashley HomeStore brand is American, yet its fame is worldwide. What is its idea and uniqueness?

Chiefly, the brand's uniqueness is represented in one word - family.

It's unclear yet, but when you sit in these interiors, you feel warm and familial. But let's clarify anyway.

All Ashley HomeStore furniture is made with great love for human habitation; it contains love for home and comfort. That is the furniture you want to leave as a legacy to children and grandchildren. Each of us has the image of a grandmother's chest of drawers or a grandfather's chair, something so warm. Ashley HomeStore furniture is modern yet has a spirit that will stay with it for decades.

In general, the basis of the Ashley DNA brand is customer care. What does it mean to take care of a person who buys furniture? That means making the choice as easy as possible for them. And the choice of furniture is not the choice of a sofa or a chair. It is the creation of an image of the house in which you live. In the case of Ashley, you don't have to think about combining interior items, textiles, and accessories. The best and most economical options for your home will be selected for you since our stylists have a lot of ready-made solutions for combining and arranging furniture and accessories.

It's great, but many people are sure that their interiors are unique and will need more than ready-made solutions.

And for this, we have a service, "Try on." It is a 100% guarantee that the products the buyer chooses will be 100% compatible with their interior.

A few more words about the Ashley brand. And what is its mission?

From day one, Ashley Furniture has set itself the goal of inspiring people to love their homes. After all, it is at home that a person feels comfortable and calm; here, he lives, recharges his batteries, loves, brings up children, and finds new ideas for personal growth. We want quality and beautiful furniture from Ashley Furniture to help make your home a place you always want to return to.

Great. Let's return to the conversation about classics and modernity. People often criticize modern furniture for being too utilitarian.

These criticisms are often valid. But you need to understand: Ashley furniture does not imitate antiques; it has the best of European and American traditions and modernity. In the hall where we are talking, there are five styles. One of them is Family Space. These are folding sofas for the living room to watch TV, chat with family, play board games, and wooden beds. On the one hand, they are practical and convenient in everyday life. On the other hand, natural wood is used to manufacture this furniture. And wood is just associated with comfort. At the same time, furniture is sold at a reasonable price. That is, for affordable money, the client receives a premium design. There is almost no such thing in the CIS.

The brand has existed since 1945; these are proven processes and a style that has been successful for decades.

Ashley HomeStore is a multinational brand, but it was born in the USA. When American brands enter the world market, they somehow adapt the product and marketing to other countries. How did Ashley adapt to Kazakhstan?

The fact is that the idea that is embedded in the brand does not require any severe transformation for the Kazakhstani market. As I said, Ashley is about family comfort. And family comfort is hospitality, which Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia are famous for. That is the countries of the post-Soviet space where we have our branches. These are massive tables on which you can arrange treats for guests, sofas, and armchairs on which they can sit.

Let's take a closer look at the range Ashley has to offer.

When you enter our room, to your left is Vintage Casual furniture, to your right is Urbanology, then Contemporary, Tradition Classic, Family Space, and Modern Refinery.

Vintage Casual. What is the USA? It is a country that was once massively flooded by immigrants from Europe. They brought their home decor style with them but adapted it to the large American spaces. Vintage Casual is just about that.

Urbanology is a northern, Scandinavian style, more austere, with metal elements. Tradition Classic is a British classic. When we selected models for Kazakhstan, we kept in mind that 60% of our compatriots are more inclined towards classics and 40% - towards modern design. Based on this, we built the range. Ashley HomeStore came to Kazakhstan in 2018, and some of our decisions seemed controversial. For example, I was told that selling bar tables is a bad idea. And it turned out to be successful: those who live in private houses just swept them from the shelves.

Another feature of our furniture is that it is easily refurbished.

By the way, this is a sore point for antique furniture owners!

This is putting it mildly. The Italians came up with a design of chests of drawers in which the tabletop could be easily removed. Do you know why?

I'm trying to bring back all the key features of the Italian mentality to my head, but I still can't find the answer.

Because if the countertop's surface is scratched, it must be restored completely; just covering up the scratch will not work! You will have to remove the top layer, putty and apply restoration materials, and hope that the specialist will match the color of the original wood.

That's terrible!

At Ashley, the array is finished with a patina, and if a scratch appears on it, it will not spoil the look of the wood at all.

What other practical solutions does Ashley offer?

It is easy to clean - the fabrics on our armchairs and sofas are very tough to tear, thanks to the double seams. And our sofas can save lives.

That sounds really exciting! Tell us more.

The materials are such that if fire hits them or a half-smoked cigarette falls on them, the flame will not flare up. It just leaves a small hole in the couch.

There is a collection in the Ashley catalog named Nomad, which is dear to my heart. Tell me about it.

It is not some distinct style; this is a collection of furniture selected based on the preferences of Kazakhstanis. It is modern furniture with vintage elements in wenge color, with leather inserts. In the same group, some accessories are ideally combined with traditional home designs (shanyrak, carpets), which are trending now.

We took a bed of the same wenge color with a headboard made of red leather, took a dark chest of drawers, and a beautiful mirror that gives associations with traditional Kazakh motifs.

All the styles I mentioned earlier are not set in stone - furniture of different types can be perfectly combined.

Let's continue with the Kazakhstani market. We are sitting in the first Ashley store in Almaty, but it needs to be presented here in a single copy; plus, there are stores in Astana and Shymkent. How do they differ from each other?

After that, we opened the second store in the Tulpar shopping center in Astana. It captured the attention of the residents of the capital. Astana is divided by the Ishim River into left and right parts. And there is a city joke that residents of the left bank do not drive to the right, and vice versa. It's a joke, but the inhabitants of the Left Bank asked us to open a branch with them, which we did.

Before choosing a location for a new store, we always carefully analyze a particular area's population density and demographics. The right bank in Astana is more densely populated, so the store in the Tulpar shopping center is designed for more traffic. The store on the left bank is more private.

Shop in Shymkent. It is a unique city with very open people who love promotions and large-scale events. We regularly make yurt sales there and meet with designers and bloggers. It resonates with guests. One client from Shymkent turned out to be the owner of a restaurant, and after she bought furniture from us, she invited the whole team to her restaurant.

In the center of Almaty, in the "Golden Square," we opened a studio for our designers. We plan to hold public talks and meetings there. We opened another store in Almaty in a shopping center at the intersection of Tole bi - Rozybakiev; that area is being actively built up, which means that our products will be in demand. However, this store will be of interest to all city residents and the region: it is spread over two floors, and exclusive designer collections are also available there.

We generally hold master classes and meetings in all our stores, making us closer to customers and partners. We give each other vivid emotions: we exchange experiences and communicate. It is really precious to us.

Let's take our attention across the ocean. How do you communicate with the head office in the USA?

We conduct our marketing promotions in consultation with their marketing department. If there are any promotions in the US, we will adapt them to our market. Kazakhstani Ashley is supervised by an excellent manager Drew.

Together with him, we came up with two great promotions - Yurt-sale and Nauryz-sale. We installed yurts in the parking lot for Yurt-sale, selling our products at a discount. That was new to many; we were even asked if we were closing. We did the same on Nauryz - we treated our customers with national dishes and drinks. Of course, we do a Family sale, Black Friday, in August; another event that we came up with together with the Americans is the event of 12.12, a 50% discount on Sunday, December 12th. Alibaba has a similar promotion. However, they have it on 11.11.

In addition, we regularly attend training sessions with colleagues from the United States and adapt them to our needs. We discuss events held in other countries.

You opened in Kazakhstan in 2018. Two years later, the coronavirus pandemic hit. How did it influence Ashley?

Of course, we could not have known that it would come, but it turned out that, in a way, we were preparing for it. We perfected online sales and paid attention to Instagram, realizing this was the most crucial promotion tool. And when we were all quarantined, I immediately told my colleagues everything would be fine. All processes were debugged, so I was sure we would not suffer from the coming shift.

And it turned out to be correct. Purchases came in every three seconds; sales managers worked from home from 8 am to 2 am. Many managers even worked on two computers simultaneously to process all requests. The pandemic is over, but we continue to develop e-commerce successfully.

You talk about furniture with such love, and it feels like you have been doing this all your life. What was your road to Ashley like?

I graduated from the Faculty of Philology of Kazakh State University, Department of Russian Language and Literature. I am very grateful for this time: the Old Slavonic language and Old Russian literature - are some things that develop the brain very much. I was engaged in science, but the 1990s came, and I had to somehow survive and feed the children. Friends opened a furniture store and called to work as a cashier. I had no experience, but I agreed. Then became the manager of a kitchen furniture warehouse, then the director of a wholesale furniture company. That job was very successful for me, but the company eventually shifted gears into the restaurant industry, and that was not for me.

I started working as a buyer with Italian and Polish factories; thanks to my friends, teachers, and furniture makers from Novosibirsk, I got acquainted with American furniture and worked at exhibitions for about 15 years. And by the time of the invitation to Ashley, I knew this company well and kept wondering why they did not come to Kazakhstan.

My entry to Ashley was rather banal: my children had sent my resume from the Headhunter website. The founders invited me for an online interview and trusted me. We started with six containers in the mall, and now we have a network all over the country. Our secret to success is that we are fearless of anything new and have a great team. I appreciate our salespeople and believe this profession is undervalued in our society. After all, they perform the most challenging task: not only to lead the client to the final purchase but also to make sure that he returns. All our branch managers are our best salespeople, and our warehouse managers are our best accountants.

What are the plans for the Kazakhstan branch of Ashley HomeStore?

We will continue to develop the online segment. At one time, we made free delivery, first to Aktau, Atyrau, and Aktobe, then throughout the country. But unfortunately, logistics in Kazakhstan are still poorly established. There were many damages due to faulty delivery. So far, we have frozen this service, but we want to return to it in the future.

Are you talking about free shipping? Does it really work?

Uninterrupted! We deliver throughout Kazakhstan, and often customers from other regions buy online. Our managers do the selection and visualization, and as a result, the client gets what they actually want.

By the way, another important news for us is that Ashley HomeStore warehouses are opening in Turkey. That will accelerate logistics and make it cheaper; furniture will become even more affordable to our customers, reducing the delivery time. We will continue to improve the delivery quality because the loader is the same face of the company as the seller.

We will continue to develop our Ashley Care insurance program. Essentially, it is an extended furniture warranty period of up to five years. During this period, we will take care of the damage the furniture receives during operation; the service is premium, but the price is affordable, and the clients are satisfied.

You seem to be thinking about your job 24 hours a day. How do you distract yourself and relax?

What should I rest from? (laughs) I'm relaxing at work! And the word "peace" to me is associated with the word "rest in peace." I have a lot of strength and health; I get distracted when visiting furniture exhibitions in other countries. I look at workshops and working conditions in Europe. I dream that our talents, our artisans who make furniture by hand, will one day have the same ones.

Of course, I love books; I am ready to re-read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov, and I love the Soviet classics by Lew Kassil. I love music. I listen to hard rock, such as Deep Purple, but I also love the work of Shamshi Kaldayakov. By the way, I'm also taking Dombra lessons!

I am both surprised and delighted for you!

All of this for my grandson! He loves Kazakh songs, and I love to sing them to him. So I will also play them on the dombra.

What inspires you?

People. I admire our people. Of course, my family. We love to get together. For Nauryz, I cook Nauryz kozhe according to my grandmother's recipe. By the way, I prepare it for both clients and Ashley HomeStoreStore employees. My four-year-old grandson inspires me. He lives with his parents in Astana. He is very passionate about robotics; he has even won a medal in a competition.

Author: Igor Toporkov

Photo: Daniyar Asylbek @asylbekd

Make Up: Bayan Alaguzova

Requisite: Ashley Furniture HomeStore


Location: Restaurant&Club Bellagio

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