Around this time of year, we find ourselves searching the industry for words of wisdom, encouragement and inspiration, mainly as a way to learn from what transpired in the past and to establish new goals and better practices for the coming year.
A few of those nuggets came our way during a conversation with Alan Lavine, one of the regional CE dealers who participated in Dealerscope’s annual retailer roundtable. (Check out the December issue for the full report and visit Dealerscope.com for weekly outtakes. The reports are also packed with insightful and helpful quotes from a handful of other CE retailers).
Lavine, manager of Percy’s, an 80-year-old electronics and appliance institution in Worcester, Mass., is a retailer’s retailer. He knows how to throw a great sales event, take advantage of ripe opportunities (Massachusetts’ 2010 appliance exchange stimulus program was a fine example), change merchandising strategies when needed (bedding, Lavine learned awhile ago, is far more profitable than TVs), and work with valued partners to help him through tough transitions.
So we couldn’t help but smile when we read his comments about showrooming, one of the most pressing, debated and contentious challenges retailers faced last year.
We fully understand the frustration the practice causes dealers, but we always believed the best of them could take advantage of it. A customer using her smartphone in a store is most likely someone who has decided to buy something, somewhere. A good sales associate will make that “somewhere” his or her store.
Before Lavine talked about showrooming, he illustrated some of the improvements Percy’s made during the year. Lavine admitted that he and his team didn’t always do a good job listening to customers. When they began to open their ears, they heard a demand for layaway and added it to their service offerings. (Admitting weak points is always a good sign; fixing them is even better.) They also heard customers asking for lease-to-own and other payment methods.
Today, Percy’s offers a handful of alternatives. The more the team members listened and thought about customer requests and demands, the more they discovered what they could actually implement to improve overall service and increase satisfaction. That led to Lavine’s take on Percy’s version of omni-channel marketing. It’s what he calls his “Yes” campaign.
“It’s that we say ‘yes’ to anything. Can you buy online? Yes. In-store? Phone? Yes. Yes. Same-day delivery? Yes. Next-day? Yes. Whatever they can think of? It’s ‘yes.’ There is no ‘no.’”
While several retailers during the year have told us they’ve risen to the challenge of trying to tackle and leverage showrooming, we’ve never heard one say he actually “loves” the concept. That’s until we read Lavine’s comments. His enthusiasm is infectious and we’d dare any retailer to object to the attitude.
We think it’s a winning one and, based on what we know about the Percy’s team, we think we’d lose if we accepted Lavine’s challenge. We’ll leave you with Lavine’s riff on showrooming. And remember, if you have any strategies that have lead to improvements in your store over the last year or are rolling some out this year, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I love showrooming,” Lavine told us. “I think showrooming’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened. Have all the customers in the world come; my sales guys can outsell anybody. I challenge customers to leave without a product and to tell me what I don’t have. I want to be the showroom for the country. I am so confident in my management and that my sales team can outsell anybody, and that my services are as good as anybody in the country, and I want the opportunity to tell the customer that. So showroom the heck out of me… I want you to tell me I can buy this someplace else, or I can buy it online in two days. Tell me about all the great things happening online that I don’t know about. Showroom me.”