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BrandsMart’s Robert and Michael Perlman

Devouring the competition, helping customers

January 2008 By Nancy Klosek
Building a business around people’s love of home entertainment is not a new notion for members of the Perlman family, owners of Miami-based BrandsMart U.S.A. It stems from well before this regional retailer was established in 1978 by Robert Perlman, its current chairman.

“My dad was in the piano business and had a store on Kings Highway in Brooklyn,” Robert Perlman said. “Pianos used to be the center of entertainment in the home, and were considered as high tech as computers at one time.”

Robert Perlman recognized from the family business that popularity can easily translate to volume sales, a model he adopted to fit the world of consumer electronics. But he also understood that without a deep focus on customer satisfaction, sales would never gain volume.

“We started basically as a wholesale company to retailers. But the retail business was phenomenal and we slowly got out of wholesale,” Perlman said, speaking of what is now an eight-store dealership with roughly $1 billion in annual sales. “We didn’t have to make a large margin if we could do that type of business selling to customers one at a time.”

Although the product mix has radically changed, the philosophy hasn’t. “Over the last 30 years, BrandsMart has built one of the industry’s great retail operations, primarily based on a keen understanding of its customers and a commitment to offering a broad product assortment,” said JVC’s CEO and executive vice president, Craig Geiger, who counts BrandsMart as one of his key retail partners.

Michael Perlman, CEO and son of founder Robert, said the linchpin to BrandsMart’s artful survival amidst big-box dominance is following basic strategies better than any competitor. “I think the nationals are driven by stock prices, not necessarily what’s the right thing to do for the company or the customer,” he said. “We’re steady. We lead the U.S. in sales per square foot and sales per location for anybody with more than two stores. We have people who call up with problems, but we solve them.”

Perlman came into the family business after earning an undergraduate degree at Johns Hopkins and then a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Houston. “My dad said he needed a little help,” he said. “I figured I’d try it for a bit and if I didn’t like it, I’d go back into chemistry. It was certainly different from chemistry.”
 

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