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Retail Excellence : Schaefer's: Setting the Experience Benchmark

August 8, 2012 By Nancy Klosek
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Before the term ever became popular, “interactive” was a byword at Schaefer’s, a 66-year-old family-owned electronics/appliance dealer in Lincoln, Neb. 

“It’s all about creating a unique Schaefer’s experience,” said Jeannette Howe, executive director of Specialty Electronics Nationwide, the store’s buying group partner. “Their customers can touch and feel, play with and enjoy.”

What started out as a drugstore that also sold radios and TVs, is now a CE retailer that is often considered a benchmark of interior store design, product choice and display, and industry involvement. 

“We are definitely in the experience,” said Ron Romero, who leads the store, along with Ronnie Romero, director of sales, and Roxie Romero, director of operations. “We want the customer to experience everything.”

An 800-square-foot home within the store lets customers sample what Schaefer’s has to offer. There are also 12 kitchen vignettes, most of which are “live,” where a home economist gives cooking lessons on weekends. There are also 16 working dishwashers. “People can come in and see how they clean,” Ron said. “You go to a box store and see a row, and a salesperson can tell you, ‘Yeah, that one’s quiet, but this one’s quieter.’ Well, how quiet is quiet? We can show it to customers,” Ronnie added. “It’s not just sitting there on the showroom floor, not plugged into anything.” 

Devoting that much space to live demos is worth it to the Romeros. But they also constantly re-think their floor plan to make the most of every inch. They’ve never hesitated to reallocate real estate. In the case of the 15-to-32-inch LCD TV area, where there are fewer brands and models available, consolidation was in order. “We moved them over to one wall, which allowed us to knock out a couple of walls and really open the back of the store up,” Ronnie said. 

The redesign of the newly opened-up area is in process and it is expected to draw more customers into the mini home and to the audio room, which was difficult to see from the front area. “It will also open up our floor for adding more furniture SKUs. We’ve started having some real good luck with furniture pieces like recliners and home theater seating.”  



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