images above from the movie "shop around the corner" & the remake "you've got mail"
One of the things that I totally geek out over is retail spaces. It could be any kind of retail--hardware store, pie shop (YES please!), clothing store, restaurant supply, or even book store, you get the idea. I could go on and on.
image above from the movie "you've got mail"
Yesterday I was at one of my favorite stores to say good bye to some of the people that work there. The business started out as a small independent then became an incredible catalogue and eventually grew into a national retailer that specialized in a certain type of furniture and accessories. It wasn't always the best place to get "a deal" but it was the best place to get something that would last, unique and excellent service. Out of respect to the people that work there and what they are going through right now, there is no need to mention this place by name. I've been visiting them for years and even when I couldn't afford to buy anything, I would go into one of their stores for inspiration.
image above from the movie "you've got mail"
This particular location in L.A. was the one I frequented most. The sales staff was always unbelievably friendly, kind, knowledgeable and really cared about what they were selling. Yes, at the end of the day a business in there to make a profit, balance the books and keep stock holders happy (if they have them), but when you forget how all that happens and that they key to everything you are trying to accomplish is your customer, you've lost your way.
This company was bought by a larger one about five years ago and the plan was to make them a more "everyday, affordable brand." Well, that's a great idea on paper. Challenge was that their core customer, the ones that grew up with them and could afford to shop there or even aspired to shop there because of the unique goods and services, were not going to feel special anymore. The potential new customers they were going after and eventually did were not treated to the personal, individual and unique service and product this company had built it's reputation on. The well meaning individuals making those "expansion" decisions felt that their brand name would be enough for the customer to be OK with the new direction. Unfortunately, everyone, from the original high end customer to the new budget conscious consumer, got a watered down version of the original.
Now, I am certainly not against affordable design or style. Heck, it's my mantra! But, one of the sales people at this establishment said to me yesterday when I asked her what she thought went wrong with the company, "You can't have all the customers." Genius. It's true. She went onto say that she and her co-workers felt that their original customer was being ignored instead of being built upon. The sales team was the "front line" in understanding who the customer was and what they did and did not want. No amount of market research or focus groups was going to give the company anything more than what they already had. She went on to tell me that in the last five years since they had been bought, a day did not pass that their customers felt like they were being ignored with the new "agenda" to diversify the business.
She also said that she felt another VERY big retailer, that is one of the rulers of the retail kingdom (no names needed) was "doing it right." I was a little shocked to hear her say that since this place isn't her retail "cup of tea" in terms of style, but her words once again were wise, "They know their customer so well! Every time they open a new store or introduce a new product it's in keeping with their already established base. The just want to grow that base not find a new one." She couldn't be more spot on.
I will miss shopping, being inspired and seeing my retail friends. You were unique.
Onto a retailer that seems to know their customer and I for one am thrilled about that.
Even if I'm not looking to purchase anything, when a store knows who they are but even more importantly really understand their customer and does everything they can to address them, THAT is a "geek out" moment for me.
Room & Board is one of those stores. From the way the spaces are designed to the merchandise they sell to the customer they are selling to--it all just makes sense. They get their audience. There are many others that do it really well too. From national retailers to small, independent stores. The reason I am picking out Room & Board is that there is a new one opening tomorrow (OCT 5) in L.A.! There's one in Orange County, Ca. but it's more than a bit out of the way from where I'm at.
The other cool thing, the new L.A. Room & Board is located in the historic Helm's Bakery Building in Los Angeles. It's one of my favorite L.A. buildings AND a location already filled with other great home goods retailers (as well as places to eat). Sadly, Helm's Bakery no longer exists but their huge and beautiful building does and if you're ever in L.A. or even live in L.A. this is a must visit. H.D. Buttercup is also located in the building (another awesome place to get lost in the world of home stuff) and they have a brief historic display of Helm's Bakery along with one of the original Helm's Bakery delivery vehicles in their store. Cool stuff.
Check it out if you happen to be in the area or visit your local favorite retailer and be grateful their still around. Heck, purchase something from them if you can.