The relationship with your retail customer doesn’t end when the sale is made. It doesn’t start there either. Successful home furnishings and lighting retailers know a lot goes into making that shopper feel at home in your store, from the atmosphere as they walk through the door to the desire to connect outside of the store. Learn how the proprietors of home furnishings establishment Coco & Dash, home and gift store Leon & Lulu, and lighting and plumbing supplier B.A. Robinson Ltd. keep their customers happy and coming back for more.
Coco & Dash
For Teddie and Courtney Garrigan, the mother/daughter duo behind Coco & Dash and Ciao Coco!, their retail shops have been the start of something bigger, as the two branch out into the interior design world. Theirs is a unique aesthetic that customers have come to embrace and want to see in their homes. See how this eclectic retailer connects with its customers.
How do you interact with your customers to make them feel at home at Coco & Dash and Ciao Coco?
Our goal in our shop is to make everyone feel comfortable and happy whether they buy something or not. The experience we strive for is one of being inspired. We have people who come in and want to look around for a little bit. We don’t want our customers to feel like they are going to be accosted. There’s breathing space when you walk in the door. If they haven’t been in before, we let them know a little bit and then let them free-range.
Customer service is very important to us. Everyone’s questions are answered, however they find us. It’s important that we’re kind and we give them what they need. Our motto is, “Be good to people and they’ll want to come back.”
What do you look for in sales associates to ensure they connect with your customers?
We have a staff of four, including Mom and me. We are so blessed as [our sales associates] Heather and Trey treat the store like their own, and they have an innate ability to connect with people. It’s important that they understand the aesthetic of Coco & Dash. We want them to have pride in what they’re selling. We don’t follow people around or push a sale; however, it’s important that we’re there to answer questions. Our store is not a big place. We make sure to greet everyone as they walk in the door.
How do you connect with customers between store visits?
We use Instagram as one of our tools to connect with customers to show them exactly what Coco & Dash is all about. We want to help people understand who we are and decide if they want to have a relationship with us. We also share glimpses into our personalities and into our personal lives and intentions in life every now and then. It’s how we view the world and that manifests itself in the way we do business. Instagram people feel more selective about who they follow and who they want to hear from.
Leon & Lulu
Mary Liz Curtin, owner of Leon & Lulu and Three Cats restaurant, outside of Detroit, has taken historic sites — the old roller rink and theater — and transformed them into a shopping destination that leaves her customers wanting for nothing, even if that’s a meal. The latest addition to the Leon & Lulu portfolio is the full-service restaurant (right next to the store), where you can have a bite to eat and buy the table where you’re eating, if that’s your preference. Talk about creating an experience. At Leon & Lulu, you can buy a custom sofa, a greeting card or that special outfit for a night about town. Curtin’s overarching approach to her customer relationships is, “You want your customers to know that they’re treasured and appreciated.” See how this retailer who “does it all” connects with her customers.
How has adding a full-service restaurant added to the appeal of Leon & Lulu?
The store is good for the restaurant and the restaurant is good for the store. It definitely appeals to all of the senses. And customers can shop while they’re dining.
We do everything we can to promote unusual gifts. For example, the wines we serve in the restaurant and sell won’t be found in the regular places. They’re all domestic, some from Michigan.
In the restaurant, we use only mix-and-match vintage plates and flatware. Someone will sit down and it will be her grandma’s plate and we’ll give them a piece. We might sell it and give the money to charity or we gift it to them. It’s interesting how emotional a customer will get seeing the dinner plates she had growing up. It brings back so many memories, and it’s a way to create that experience. Shopping remains a social activity. You have to give people a reason to come in.
How do you keep your merchandising mix fresh so customers see something new when they shop and understand how products will work in their home?
We’re big believers in shaking it up all the time. We’re constantly bringing in new things. Some are products we’re not sure will sell but we know will keep our customers engaged and active. We are also constantly moving things around, including furniture that we’ll re-merchandise. We incorporate a lot of accessories in our merchandising, such as
lamps and pillows. We sell rugs and throws too, especially during the holidays. For home furnishings, we merchandise all the things that finish the room. When you buy a dress, you
need some jewelry.
For our home furnishings customers, we talk to them about their needs. Where are you going to sit in this room? Do you need a lamp and a place to put your feet up? How comfortable is this? We ask them to bring measurements so they can plot out the room. And we ask about pieces such as end tables and lamps, because they don’t think about these things. For home furnishings customers, it’s about what your family needs and we go from there.
B.A. Robinson Ltd.
Penticton, British Columbia, Canada
B.A. Robinson won a Showroom of the Year Award in the $5 Million and Under revenue category in 2019, in large part because of the company’s dedication to its customers. Showroom Consultant Sara Rasmussen shares that the lighting and plumbing supply retailer “strives to make the customer feel welcome, helping them quickly and efficiently. We try to relieve their stress and help them to the best of our abilities. We want our customers to feel invited in right away and to leave happy, so they want to come back.”
Lighting and plumbing are technical categories. How do you train your staff so they can assist customers who may need a bit more knowledge before making a purchase?
We have 10 people in total who work here. Two in the showroom and two that come in to help when we get busy. We are always constantly in training. We want our associates to understand the quality, where products are made, if it will work for the customer’s application and the do’s and don’ts of installation. We like to be well-versed and find answers for our customers. We’ll help them pick finishes and colors to create a functional space. We want our customers to be happy and confident in their choices.
How do you stay connected with your customers if they aren’t shopping?
We’re part of the Home Builders’ Association and the Chamber of Commerce in our community. We participate in charity work and events around town. These events help us connect with community and builders and designers. This is so important for us. We all have families here and we’re very much like a family, and we want people to come in and feel like family. It’s more than just business for us.
We also have an online presence. We just launched an e-commerce site. We’re always there to help, whether it’s online or in the store. Customers can order online and pick up in the store as well.