Insights from "Shops That Pop!"
By Mark Brock
At one level, Dorothy Lane Market in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, is a grocery store, but on another level it is so much more. The store’s dedication to offering a different kind of grocery shopping experience permeates every section, from the deli department that is a lunch and dinner destination to the Culinary Center that offers a wide range of cooking classes.
|Pamela N. Danziger.|
Not only will you find customer experiences unlike at other grocers, but Dorothy Lane also excels in its product offerings where flavor is an obsession. Deli items are prepared in small batches using only organic ingredients, and the store features prime steaks, European-style breads and its legendary “Killer Brownies” that are a must-have item for loyal shoppers.
Launched as a roadside produce stand in 1948, Dorothy Lane Market has continually evolved over time, owned today by Norman Mayne and family. The company’s ability to offer a unique customer experience is driven by its employees, including a large contingent of Millennials, who continually foster new ideas that appeal to customers of all ages. Regular shoppers are welcomed by name and the entire shopping experience is centered on the store’s motto: “Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble.”
“Shops that POP!”
Dorothy Lane Market is one of 17 specialty retailers featured in a new book, “Shops that POP! – 7 Steps to Extraordinary Retail Success,” written by Pamela N. Danziger with Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti. The book is based on Danziger’s years of market research, including in-depth case histories of specialty retailers that exemplify what it takes to transform ordinary retail outlets into stores that are engaging and contagious for customers – in short, “Shops that POP!”
Danziger is an internationally recognized speaker, author and market researcher who focuses on the American upscale marketplace. In 1992, she founded Unity Marketing, which conducts research designed to provide brands with actionable insights into the minds of their most profitable customers – the affluent and the near-affluent. Danziger has written five books and has received the Global Luxury Award for top luxury industry achievers from Harper’s Bazaar.
Lorenzetti is an independent writer specializing in market research and analysis, industry reports and business and technological coverage. Her clients include several advertising and branding agencies, and she also teaches marketing, copywriting and professional communications. Her writing credits include national trade and professional publications along with three books.
“We created ‘Shops that POP!’ as an inspirational tool for specialty retailers to use in exploring successful strategies across various retail categories,” Danziger said. “So many books today focus on large national retailers, but I see so much life and so many opportunities with independent specialty retailers who are following their passions.”
The 190-page book encompasses three major sections – a detailed overview of the changing retail landscape, presentation of seven steps for transforming an ordinary store into a “Shop that POPs!” and guiding principles that specialty retailers can follow in transforming their stores. Throughout each of the sections, the authors use real world examples of specialty retailers.
Opportunities for Specialty Retailers
“Shops that POP!” envisions a shifting marketplace that favors independent specialty retailers. In Danziger’s view, shoppers have grown weary of the impersonal monotony of large retail malls and Big Box stores. Shoppers today are increasingly in search of authentic, fun and engaging shopping experiences that only a specialty retailer can provide. Here’s how the book describes the shift in shopping in America:
“Consumers are beginning to look for something new and different and finding it on Main Street, not in the malls. This emerging retail trend, fueled by the desire of the highest-potential and highest-spending customers’ passion for a new shopping experience that they can’t find at the mall, will reshape the retail landscape over the next decade.”
Every retailer today, from the large national chains and Big Box stores to regional malls recognize that the retail landscape is changing in fundamental ways and they too must change. Large retail corporations have access to tons of big data to help guide their decisions, along with deep pockets to invest. “Shops that POP!,” however, argues that specialty retailers are in a better position to respond to the changing wants, needs and desires of the affluent and the near-affluent shoppers. Here’s how Danziger sees the advantages on which specialty retailers can capitalize:
“Small independents have the brightest future and the greatest opportunity, because these retailers are agile and quick at bringing true innovation, passion and drive for excellence to the fore. Their key advantage is flexibility. Small retailers can change on a dime. This isn’t to say that big retailers can’t change, because they do. However, they are just very slow to make the kind of transformations in their business and their way of doing business that is called for today in retail.
“Small, independent retailers, on the other hand, can manage transformation so much easier because every day they are up close and personal with their customers, learning about their desires and feeling their frustrations. Big retailing companies do a lot of things really well, but what they don’t do at all well is innovate, and that is what today’s consumer environment requires.”
New Ways of Thinking for Specialty Retailers
To succeed in the new retail environment where small is beautiful, specialty retailers are encouraged to shift their thinking in several ways. Product is important, but not the most important aspect of selling at specialty retail. The shopping experience itself is the driving force for the most profitable customers, the affluent and the near-affluent, who are motivated more by how they buy something than the actual product itself.
Conversations with customers must shift from price to value. Specialty retailers should engage shoppers with products so that they experience how the product will improve their quality of life and actualize unique personal visions. Excerpts from the book extol these principles:
“Product manufacturers and marketers tend to overemphasize the importance of product in why people shop and think that product, above all else, is the reason why people buy. Product features become important in so far as they create experiences for the shopper. It’s all about the feeling and emotions that the products promise to deliver to the shopper.
“Retailers must communicate that emotional experience to the shopper and create a context in the store where that meaning is conveyed. It starts with careful product selection, attention-grabbing in-store displays and engaging face-to-face selling. Today specialty retailers need to connect with the shopper by showing how the products ‘do’ (i.e. active verb) something for them, rather than simply ‘be’ (i.e. passive noun.)”
Affluent and the near-affluent customers make purchase decisions based on desire rather than need. They will purchase products that enhance the quality of life through personal transformations. Specialty retailers are well positioned to excel in a world where emotions overrule logic. Here’s how “Shops that POP!” outlines the opportunity:
“As much as we would like objective, quantifiable criteria, such as product features and price, to drive shoppers to make purchases,ultimately shoppers’ emotions play the dominant and most pivotal role. Emotions transform need into desire. Emotions color the way the shopper interprets specific product features. Emotions turn a shopper from one who can afford to make a purchase into someone willing to do so. Emotions play off and magnifyall the other factors – need, features, affordability – to make the item irresistible.
“At its most basic level, retailers must embrace an entirely new business model that focuses on the shopping experience, not the things or merchandise that they sell. And the next generation of customers, the Millennials, may well be more driven toward self-actualization at a younger age, because as a generation they have grown up in a digital, connected, virtual world of cell phones, Internet and social media. Living in a virtual world as they do, they use these media as the tools for self-actualization, so it is likely that such needs for self-actualization will propel them as consumers and shoppers as they mature.”
It’s All About the Shopping Experience
What kind of shopping experience do your best customers crave? They want to be seduced by an environment that feels more like a home than a business. Customers with discretionary income are inspired by good lighting, thoughtful choices of background music, tasteful colors and staff members who are not only product knowledgeable, but motivated to please people.
Specialty retailers should organize around an authentic vision for the business that’s reflected in everything from the look of the storefront to product merchandising and employee uniforms. Here’s how the book describes the challenge and the opportunity:
“Very simply put, shoppers will spend more time in a store that is a pleasant, engaging and happy place to be. Their happiness and delight will result in them spending more money, which will translate into greater success for the retailer who makes that happen. And this is exactly what the POP! equation is about – a seven-point recipe that specialty retailers can use to transform their stores into a place that shoppers want to spend more time and thus spend money.”
Every specialty retailer dreams of operating a store that is an important destination for their most profitable customers. How can a specialty retailer convert a bricks-and-mortar storefront into a place where shoppers are passionate about spending their money, while serving as ambassadors? Here’s the insight from “Shops that POP!”
“It is important to understand that shoppers today focus on the total shopping experience. They don’t love a store simply because they love the merchandise it carries. They love a store because it touches them personally and emotionally. Surely they connect with the merchandise, but what really evokes passion is the retailing experience.
“As a result, retailing isn’t primarily a products-based business, but a people business that creates shopping experiences for the consumer, with the objective of selling stuff purely as the end result of that experience.”
“Shops that POP!” harkens back to a time that Main Street, USA, was where people loved to shop. In the good old days before mega-malls and Big Box stores, the leading retailers were family-owned small businesses that knew their customers by name and were intimately involved in the community. “Shops that POP!” sees resurgence in the desire for a Main Street shopping experience.
“The secret of success for inspired, creative, independent specialty retailers to prosper is the ability for them to really know their customers and deliver the valuable, unique shopping experiences these demanding, savvy, eager-to-be-pleased customers crave.
“There is an emerging new retail marketplace where small is beautiful and independents attract a growing customer base looking for shopping experiences that are different, distinctive, and fun.”
Change is never easy and fundamental change is the most difficult. Transformational steps such as those described in “Shops that POP!” – even though they are backed by substantial research – will be too much for many retail shop owners. Those who decide against change face substantial risks:
“You can decide that your business is good right where it is, doing what it has always done before, in the same way it has always been done. The downside of that decision, however, may well be closing your doors for good because the retailing world is changing and your customers are changing and if you don’t change with them, you will be left behind.”
Specialty Retailers Adopting New Ways of Thinking
As “Shops that POP!” clearly illustrates, specialty retailers across the country are adopting new ways of doing business, including companies in the patio and hearth segments. Karen Galindo, owner of Outside In Style in Austin, Texas, is one of these retailers, serving as a strong advocate for offering an engaged experience for customers.
“So many of our customers come into our store with low expectations of how they will be treated after having visited chain stores,” she said. “We make our customers comfortable from the moment they walk in by greeting them in a friendly way and offering them refreshments, just like you would with a guest in your home. We have a huge opportunity to make a difference in what consumers can expect when shopping with specialty retailers.”
Galindo and her staff are well aware of the emotional triggers of their customers and tap into these by forming personal relationships. The goal is to make a connection with customers by learning about their needs and exploring, in a fun way, the various products the store offers.
During 2012, Outside In Style made a major investment in re-branding and remodeling its stores to assure that customers feel the energy and enthusiasm that Galindo and her staff have to offer. The project represented a dramatic departure for the company.
“I looked at the business with fresh eyes and knew it was time to change everywhere, from our name to how we merchandise,” Galindo said. “Customers appreciate the investments we made, and our sales are strong. I cannot help but believe that had we not changed, we wouldn’t be doing as well today as we are. There are just too many examples of retailers who waited too long to change and many of them are no longer in business.”
Specialty Retailers Featured in ‘Shops that POP!’
In her richly detailed new book, “Shops that POP!, 7 Steps to Extraordinary Retail Success,” Pamela N. Danziger, drew upon the success stories of 17 specialty retailers who demonstrate the essentials for capitalizing on an experience-based shopping environment. Below are excerpts from the book on six of these exceptional specialty retailers:
Boxwoods Gardens & Gifts, Atlanta, Georgia
With the warm look and feel of a cottage home, Boxwoods Gardens & Gifts is designed to be welcoming and to inspire curiosity. After you step inside, you discover small, intimate rooms that showcase assortments of merchandise, from fashion and gifts to garden. Owners Dan Belman and Randy Korando evolved the business from an earlier venture in landscaping, which resulted in their selling flowers, not as cut arrangements but as living potted plants. Regular trips to Europe and the Atlanta gift market assure that the store’s merchandise is continually changing; the owners are dedicated to offering customers value with each purchase.
“We have what we call the cell phone network,” said Dan Belman. “When we get a shipment from Europe in, we don’t even have time to get on the phone to call our customers to tell them because one customer will walk in on the morning a container comes in and three hours later we’ll have the whole parking lot packed with people, because one girlfriend will call another.”
Feast! Charlottesville, Virginia
Founded by Kate Collier and her husband, Eric Gertner, Feast! is recognized as one of the top 20 cheese shops in America by Saveur magazine. The store is staffed by employees who are food lovers and who live to please their customers by not only remembering their names, but also remembering their favorite cheeses. Feast! is all about the taste of cheese which translates into countless opportunities for customers to sample the store’s offerings. Customer engagement is also assured by encouraging customers to create their own hand-picked gift basket items.
“When we designed the store, it was important to us that if we were going to be at this place all the time, we wanted it to feel like a place that we wanted to be,” said Kate Collier. “So we wanted to have great music, good lighting, good colors and a vibrant staff. The staff is really special. They are young food lovers and have lots of creative energy. Fun is one of the things that make the store have the good energy it has.”
Godfrey’s – Welcome to Dogdom, Mohnton, Pennsylvania
Godfrey’s – Welcome to Dogdom is a specialty retailer that’s dedicated to helping customers celebrate the joys of dog ownership with pets that are healthy and happy. Owner Barb Emmett has achieved success through a customer-focused approach that includes off-leash dog parks, nutritional counseling, wellness clinics and a wide array of special events. Her content marketing strategy includes hosting a local cable television show, “Dog Is Family,” and writing a column for a limited circulation magazine.
“We are a safe place for people to talk about their dogs, ask questions and get answers,” Emmett said. “It may not be a product necessarily, but they need help that day and they are telling us something. When they walk out that door, they feel like a weight as been lifted. You can see it.”
Nell Hill’s, Atchison, Kansas
Nell Hill’s consists of three home furnishing stores in Atchison, Kansas, and Briarcliff, Missouri, which require long drives by most customers. Owner Mary Carol Garrity and her husband have proven that customers will go out of their way to shop when they are offered carefully curated home furnishing accessories and a level of personalized service unavailable in other stores. Her many secrets to success include hands-on assistance to customers, meticulous selection of every item in the store and continual changes not only in products, but also in merchandising displays.
“You can come in every four weeks and see different vignettes on the floor,” Garrity said. “People will travel a good hour-and-a-half to visit every couple of weeks because our merchandise changes so dramatically. There is a lot of energy going on here. People say, ‘I can’t believe how much everything has changed since the last time.’”
Tiger Lilly, Charleston, South Carolina
Manny and Clara Gonzales opened Tiger Lilly in Charleston, South Carolina, as a traditional florist shop and almost went out of business. The traditional approach of standardized floral arrangements through wire services proved to be uninspiring for the couple. They made a bold decision to transform the business by focusing on custom arrangements created by passionate designers using the highest quality flowers available.
The result has been creation of the go-to resource for unique floral arrangements that have garnered numerous awards and attracted fiercely loyal customers who are enthralled by the aroma of 2,000 flowers when they walk into the store and who relish the opportunity to hand-pick individual flowers at half price.
“If you were to stop and think about a florist, you’d probably think of a quiet, peaceful place,” Manny Gonzales said. “But around here it’s like walking into a kitchen of a five-star restaurant and all the energy. That’s why people buy flowers. They’re not buying flowers so much for the colors. They’re buying the energy. And we want them to get a taste of that energy when they come in.”