How to Turn a Store into a Destination
A popular ALA Conference speaker, Jon Schallert explains how to differentiate your store.
 
Jon Schallert

Residential Lighting: Tell us about how to become a destination store.

Jon Schallert: I teach a 14-step business differentiation process that acknowledges that consumers don’t buy simply on selection and price. There are other reasons why they bond to a business, and you have to know them. If you do, you can tell your story correctly, elevate the business differences that matter and the consumer will come in, even if you’re out of the way and your prices are high.

RL: What’s the first step?

JS: Strategy. Most owners think their business has to dominate their immediate marketplace. Actually, you have to think globally: “How is my business different from everybody in my industry?” Until you put that focus on your business, you have a false sense of security. People will shop where they need to, so think big.

RL: And step two?

JS: Unique positioning. Explain how you’re different in a two-to-four paragraph statement with a killer first sentence: “Texas Bright Ideas. The foremost venue of timeless and trendy lighting and ceiling fan concepts. Our products are demonstrated solely by certified Lighting Specialists on a staff with over 100 years of lighting and home-building expertise.” The consumer’s going to conclude they’re the experts.

The problem most owners make in trying to drive in more customers is they typically think tactically. They think advertising, marketing, websites, publicity — things their competitors can copy. But if you think strategically — “how’s my business different?” — you’re going to magnify your uniqueness, and the marketing will happen easily if you have business components that you “own.” 

RL: Who’s a good example?

JS: The best home décor destination store is Nell Hill’s in Atchison, KS. In a town of 11,000, Mary Carol Garrity, a third-generation retailer, has a multi-million-dollar business that draws people from hundreds of miles. Some fly, because she’s altered how decorating happens. She has high-end and low-end products mixed together and imports from Europe mixed with things from estate sales. She’s figured out how to integrate them so that, when you bring them home, you have a look no one else has.

RL: How can we be like that?

JS: Maybe you already are. Some businesses really are different. They’re just poor storytellers. They don’t know how to get the word out to customers. I worked with a 4,000-square-foot toy store. He says, “We’re pretty old.” How old? Turns out, he’s the oldest toy store in the South. They’re telling that story now. They’ve also decided to be jack-in-the-box experts. They sell tons and carry a full range. It’s an example of product spotlighting. You pick a narrow category of product, “explode” it and become master of it. 

RL: Where can we improve?

JS: You have products that are super-important for the world, for being green, for energy consumption and for saving money. But I’m not sure the lighting companies are doing a great job at explaining the new features and specifications. If they’re not doing it well, how will showroom owners translate those benefits to salespeople and customers?

Sometimes there’s a disconnect with companies that have technical products, translating into layman’s terms. Geico has a little lizard that says, “You can save 15 percent or more,” and I get that and give them a call. They’ve made their positioning simple.

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