Innovation and creativity are vital components to keeping a business successful. In the home furnishings industry, we are constantly faced with new challenges on how to build and grow a successful business. This month we look at five retailers who have implemented hot ideas in their stores to help their employees, sales and customers. Check out what makes these retailers cool and discover new opportunities to make your business sizzle. ~ Melissa Dressler
Incentivizing with Modified Commissions
Jim Hering and Ron Werner, owners of HW Home in Boulder, Colorado
Since day one, HW Home has had salaried salespeople instead of commission-based. We strongly believe in being a salaried-based enterprise because we feel it is beneficial for our team and our customers. We also recognize that we have held employee pay for several years now just because we are dealing with a slow economy. To help keep our employees motivated and selling, we recently created a new incentive plan.
On certain orders, there has to be a minimum size to the order, we are going to start paying an incentive on those sales. The incentive is based on order’s size and discounting. If a salesperson has an order that meets the minimum order amount, he can lump two orders together. So if you sold a customer something today, and they return within a two week period, you can lump the second sale into the first one and tie the profits together. If there is no discount on the product, then our employees will get a higher payout. If there is an added discount, which is subjective by us, we are going to reduce the payout.
I think this gives our team a huge extra incentive. I guess you would call it modified commission. It is another way for our employees to supplement their current salaries. We wanted a way to help our employees while also helping the business. We needed to create a little extra motivation to get them hustling more. Instead of giving our employees a pay raise, we are now giving them their base salary, and then we now want them out their hustling to make the sale. So if they sell someone a bed, I want the salesperson to remember to ask for the mattress order and the additional add-ons. Is it going to cost us money? Yes. But I believe we will be successful in creating more sales.
Our staff also does a lot of team sales, so we developed a program where there can be two salespeople that can split the incentive. If two people end up helping a customer, we will split it 50/50. We will only split it between two salespeople, not three. We have to manage this thing, which I am sure will be some work. We are just rolling this program out but I feel it is going to be very successful.
–Ron Werner, Owner, HW Home, Boulder, Colorado
Keeping Staff Physically and Mentally Fit
When I took over as warehouse manager about three years ago, I had just lost 70 pounds. I was very into creating a healthy lifestyle for myself, some would say a fitness fanatic, and when I took over the warehouse team, if someone was doing something wrong I would tell them, “OK, drop, we are doing push-ups.” The warehouse team member and I would then do some push-ups.
The healthy (and buff!) members of the Michael Alan Furnishings warehouse team.
What was once considered a “punishment” eventually became a fun time for team-building. Everyone in the warehouse wanted to participate. We started to have challenges in the warehouse where we would do races up and down the alleyway, or run up and down an aisle. If one person was doing push-ups, others would join in. We eventually got an abdominal crunch machine for our alleyway, so every time we walk buy it, we do some abdominal crunches. Every few months, we have some sort of silly competition within the department, like the best abs or biceps on the team. The sales staff come out, feels our arms and judges us on the best biceps or stomach.
Along with the time our staff has been dedicating to fitness in the warehouse, we also sit down every day for lunch together, for what we call Family Time. This is the time for our warehouse team to connect and talk about everything—not work stuff, but about our personal lives and what is going on. Slowly, everyone started bringing healthier meals, and we now give each other a hard time if one of us is eating badly. We all take care of each other.
We have seen a shift in our team’s mental attitude. The team is healthier mentally and physically. One of our team members has quit drinking and has almost quit smoking. The entire team feels better and works hard—in fact, the exercising has made work easier for everyone. The challenges and abdominal machine are actually making our team stronger, which means they are less likely to get hurt on the job. I am very lucky that the owners of Michael Alan don’t give us a hard time about it and support everything we are doing. They see that it benefits our team to be physically fit and not have hernias or back problems. The strong the group is, the fewer problems you will have.
–Clint Pastorius, Warehouse Manager, Michael Alan Furnishings, Lake Havasu, Arizona
Using Real World Events to Inspire In-Store Events
The von Hemert Family during the Royal Wedding event (l-r): Mickey von Hemert, Kelly von Hemert, Barry von Hemert, Susan von Hemert and Carrie von Hemert
My goal for this year was to step outside the box and come up with a unique idea for an in-store event. We have been trying to get out in the community more and bring excitement to our company via social media, events, charities and networking. With social media, we started to really engage with people through Twitter over the last six months and hired a company called The Kaleidoscope Partnership to help us with our social media strategy.
Right after the Royal Wedding engagement, Leslie Carothers, owner of The Kaleidoscope Partnership, and I had been discussing the excitement surrounding the engagement. She had a few ideas for a Royal Wedding-inspired event to take place. I kept thinking about this idea, and decided we should throw a Royal Wedding event in our store during the month of April, which is historically the slowest month for our store.
We ended up holding the event on April 28, the night before the actual Royal Wedding, which made it even more exciting. We asked Emily Eerdmans, contributing editor of House Beautiful, to speak about English design during the event. We also wanted to have some fun and unique products from local vendors throughout Orange County, so I reached out to local fashion designer Oday Shakar (who has become well-known in the fashion industry) to see if he would be interested in lending us gowns for the evening. To my surprise, he was very interested and lent us two to three dozen gowns for models to wear throughout the night, as well as one for my sister and I. We were trying to create a hip vibe and bring in a younger audience with this event, and by having Oday Shakar in attendance, this really helped draw in some fun excitement and energy.
Union Jack Mini Cooper and the Royal Wedding Cake by Christopher Garren's Cake
Also on hand that night was royally inspired gems from the de Young collection in New York. The models wore the gems throughout the night and there were two tiaras, one of which was a Cartier tiara, on hand for attendees to try on. The Cartier tiara was worth over a million dollars! I also wanted a fabulous cake for the event, but knew that we couldn’t afford to pay thousands of dollars for one. I remembered seeing an episode of Access Hollywood where they had asked a local Costa Mesa bakery, Christopher Garren’s Bakery, how they would design a wedding cake for William and Catherine. I called him up, and he was willing to loan us the cake for the evening—it was 5 feet tall! We served Hors d’œuvres, red velvet and berry cake (not the one that was on loan!). The 300 people in attendance could walk throughout the showroom and see a beautiful display of over a hundred pieces of English furniture reproductions by manufacturer Theodore Alexander. We had a Union Jack Mini Cooper in the showroom for people to get in and have a photo taken. The car made quite a statement in the middle of our store!
The event created a lot of online excitement as well. During the night, we gave away a Joanna LHuillier Union Jack Beaded Clutch. Leading up to the event, we also held an online competition for one other person to win the LHuillier clutch on Facebook. We called it The Clutch Wars, and people had to grab an item from our website, post it on our Facebook page and say why they thought Prince William and Catherine should have that piece in their home. The winner of The Clutch Wars was from England.
There was also a lot of blog coverage on our event. One blogger who lived in England had heard about the event and wrote a blog on it—which was featured on the Harrods of London Facebook page as their blog of the week. It was very exciting to get the global attention on our event!
Five percent of von Hemert Interiors sales and jewelry sales from the weekend benefitted the American Red Cross Japanese disaster relief. It has also helped us bring more traffic and sales to our store. We still have people coming in after the event and finalizing their purchases. Overall, it was a magical evening and event.
–Carrie von Hemert, Owner, von Hemert Interiors, Orange County, CA
Selling Furniture Online
For the last six months, Michael’s Furniture Warehouse has been selling furniture online. At first, I will admit that I was hesitant about offering furniture through my website. Now I have seen it benefits my store in two ways. First, there are some people out there that don’t want to come into a store to shop. They don’t want to deal with salespeople and some people just prefer to buy things online. Secondly, the online store acts like another advertisement for my business because we can include the prices online and people can see the inventory our store offers. We send out promotional flyers, but you can only include so much information—with the site, you can give them an unlimited amount of information to help them make their decision.
We have seen an increase in sales. While there aren’t many new customers purchasing online, we are seeing that people who are familiar with our store are using it. It is easy to see what I have in the store, and they can buy it from their living room. I love having eCommerce on my site. It has given us the opportunity to sell furniture to more
–Darin Reisman, Owner, Michael’s Furniture Warehouse, Van Nuys, California
Connecting with Community Organizations
Thom Filicia, Marc Szafran, President of Thom Filicia, Inc., Bob and Cindy Masin at the DIFFA Fundraising Event.
Masins Fine Furnishings has been partnering with DIFFA (Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS) for the last six years by hosting events in our stores. Our latest event was held last May, and we raised $15,000 for DIFFA through a silent auction that was held in the store. We hired models to walk around the event showing off the latest designer fashions from Barneys. Thom Filicia, known for his time on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and now his a furniture and fabric collections, was the face of our event. This year’s event drew in a much more sophisticated crowd of clients—I would hope it had something to do with Thom! He is a great guy, very down-to-earth, and spent the event chatting with other attendees. We don’t sell any furniture during the night—it is more our way of allowing a charity we support to host an event in our showroom.
Seattle is a small community, so hosting charity events in our store gives us a chance to give back to the community that has been so giving to us over the years. Masins began partnering with DIFFA because our PR person, John Stevens, was on the board. We support many different charities, but DIFFA is synonymous with design and are very well recognized in the interior design field, so it is important for us to support them.
Most businesses have a charity that they like to give money too. You can easily reach out to these charities and offer them the opportunity to host an event in your store, and you can offer a certain percentage of sales to go back to the charity organization. Most organizations would be happy to share their mailing list and get a crowd into your store. A celebrity like Thom Felicia might not be a draw for all stores, so find something that will bring customers in for the night. It could even be as simple as wine and cheese. Ultimately, the more people you get into your store and visibility you gain, the better off you are. All of these efforts support the community and your business.
–Dave Masin, Vice President, Masins Fine Furniture, Seattle, Washington
Hot Ideas from Other Industries
Starbucks: Listening to your customers. Starbucks created a feedback site called MyStarbucksIdea.com, which has received almost 98,000 ideas submitted by customers—and 100 have been adopted. Among the ideas that Starbucks adopted are: donating unsold pastries to local homeless shelters and food ktichens, giving baristas name badges, selling reusable sleeves, and bringing back Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate.
Using this in your store: Create a customer feedback area on your website or social media pages and ask them what they want. Maybe they would like more design services, or a great assortment of dining tables. You will never know until you ask.
Nordstroms: The flagship Nordstroms in Seattle store created interactive window displays that caught the attention of customers. Using the technology through Microsoft’s Kinect motion controller, Nordstroms allowed passrsby to hand “paint” lighted letters into the display. A sign was posted instructing people walking by to “Please DO touch the glass.” Watch the video at http://tinyurl.com/nordyoutube.
Using this in your store: While using a Microsoft Kinect motion controller in your store windows might be pricey, think about creating window displays that will catch the attention of people walking by. This is especially great if your store is in an area that sees a lot of foot traffic, such as a downtown location. On weekends, hire models to sit in your store windows and showcase the beautiful furniture you are selling.