Bucking the Big-Box
The 29-year-old retail/custom establishment Pacific Sound & Video boasts three outlets in what president Jamie Stephens characterizes as “three very unique markets” in North Dakota—and manages to cater successfully to local needs and tastes that vary surprisingly widely in each.
Business in the Bismarck market at his flagship store “is just screaming now,” says Stephens. Even though a Best Buy is just a block away, Bismarck betters the big-box by being able to “sell customers the TV they saw in Best Buy. Then all of a sudden, we’re in their home and taking them to a $15,000 sale by selling them in-wall speakers and multi-room stereo.” Abetting Pacific’s success in Bismarck is a recent housing development boom along the banks of the Missouri River, which has bumped up demand for its custom installation services among new homeowners. That trend has gone a long way in Bismarck toward growing the custom side to the point where, says Stephens, “last year, our custom division did as much business as our retail division.”
In Dickinson, population 16,000, the setting is more bucolic and Pacific’s marketing tactics there are tailored more to the rural client. “We offer things like TV delivery service, and there are a lot of car stereo installations, because kids need to drive at a young age to get from their farms to their schools,” relates Stephens. “There’s also a good deal of oil well money there, and lots of new homes going up. We’re the only player in that market, and while there are a lot of contractors, no one else is pushing custom. Even the Sears is locally owned.”