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If I Owned

If I Owned: George Whalin



Author and retail expert draws from best retail practices across industries to build his dream jewelry store.


[span class=note]George Whalin is president and CEO of Retail Management Consultants based in Carlsbad, CA. He is a highly sought-after speaker at industry events and has written two books: Retail Success and Retail Superstars. To subscribe to his free e-mail newsletter, send your name and e-mail address to [email protected]. [/span]

[dropcap cap=I]n my book, Retail Superstars: Inside The 25 Best Independent Stores In America, I profile several specialty retail stores that draw more than a million visitors a year. The consumer appeal of these stores hinges on incredible visual design and dynamic in-store merchandising along with highly desirable merchandise. These would be the top qualities I would look to incorporate into my store.[/dropcap]

aving spent 24 years as a consultant working with specialty retailers in every merchandise category, I’ve learned the importance of distinguishing a store from every other store both online and in the community. I would start by carefully selecting merchandise that’s not available in other local stores. I only want merchandise from designers and suppliers that adhere to a very limited distribution policy by selecting one retailer in a marketplace.


I would also look for merchandise from designers and companies that have a compelling story to tell. This may include the history of their business, materials used to make the products, or even how the designer or founder had a unique vision for the business. Compelling stories help build a stronger connection to the store and our commitment to quality. Ultimately, regardless of everything else, customers buy because of the merchandise.

[blockquote class=orange]“The most  successful retailers I know are good citizens.” – George Whalin[/blockquote]

NEXT, my store must be visually dynamic. Shoppers love interesting looking stores. The floor plan must utilize innovative, unusual design and creative merchandising.

The third tool to distinguish my store from everyone else’s is marketing. My primary advertising tools include direct mail, radio, and television. I will use my comprehensive database that contains such customer information as mailing and e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, purchasing history, relevant dates including birthdays and wedding anniversaries, and anything else that will help me better serve the needs of customers.

I want a vibrant website that can be updated or changed regularly to show the newest merchandise, fashion trends, facts about the store, and monthly calendars highlighting upcoming special events. My store’s weekly blog can include customer stories, happenings in the community, and other timely information.

I will actively make use of social media websites and build an online community of fans and friends. The goal is to expand our influence, and when properly used, these marketing tools will keep a steady stream of new and current customers coming through the doors.


The fourth way to distinguish my store from everyone else’s is to hire the very best, most capable and likeable sales associates. Then I provide constant product training along with ongoing coaching on how to develop long-term customer relationships. They will learn to be highly customer focused, first-class jewelry salespeople.

Finally, it is important to play an active role in the community by contributing to charities and participating in popular local events. Encourage your staff to participate as well.

Retailers must do more than simply run their businesses.

The most successful retailers I know are good citizens and do all they can to give back and develop a relationship with people in their communities.

[span class=note]This story appeared in the July-August 2011 edition of INDESIGN. [/span]



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