Consultants can help navigate change

In the past, I’ve written about the creative energy of change in a small business.  I often

ask myself and my staff what can be changed to improve our store and our customers’ shopping experiences. Whether it’s trying out new business practices or creating a shoe department, I don’t mind shaking up the status quo now and then. Remember our Nicole Miller store-within-a-store or our Men’s Night Out? I’m never afraid of committing to new concepts!

Change is good – and in fact, change can be fun. It can also be challenging, to say the least. I’m like a lot of you out there who own your own business. Maybe part of you loves to innovate, but on your other shoulder a more conservative voice is questioning each and every move. In times of major change, I often hire outsiders to help increase the likelihood of success in waters I have not previously charted.

A confluence of events recently spurred our latest change. First off, our fine jewelry business has been a strong growth category over the last five years. Secondly, after a local fine jewelry store closed, one of their associates wanted to join Tres and help us expand that category.

At first, I was negative about that idea. After all, didn’t I already have a successful business without the havoc of a major change? Well, one’s true nature usually triumphs and sure enough, I couldn’t resist the siren call of a challenge. Two new associates joined our staff and I began plans for expanding our fine jewelry business.

We had already outgrown our existing fine jewelry space. With plans to expand the category, an upgrade and expansion of space was critical. We decided to rearrange our store to give more space to fine jewelry. So I researched jewelry store designers to help us create that new environment.

Did you know that there are professional designers that just specialize in such areas? I found Shane Dunn in Phoenix and began working with him. I’m glad to report we are on track and I love his vision.

Just one hitch.  When we expand fine jewelry, that will displace accessories.  And when we find a new home for accessories, that will displace something else. You know the domino effect.

Remember how when you got a new couch, suddenly you needed to repaint? After you painted, then you needed new carpet and so on. It’s like that.

So we decided to take this opportunity to revisit the whole store!  Shane works with a noted specialist in store design, David Larson out of Phoenix, so we hired him, too, to “remerchandise” and transform our other departments.

I am a tad skeptical of anyone I don’t first meet in person, but we corresponded. When he wrote that his most important point was making our store “that kind of business that makes your clientele excited about their next visit (with) a mix of entertainment, retailing and relaxation,” he had me at the proverbial “hello.”

He has years of experience in fashion merchandising – basically the art and science of display and arranging lines of clothing and accessories on the selling floor – and taught store design and merchandising on the college level for eleven years. David has worked with a variety of retailers, from Nike to the flagship Disney merchandise store at Disneyland.  About 20 years ago, he worked with some Downtown stores here.

We enjoyed meeting him at our store last Saturday. He talked about the psychology of shopping, the flow of a store, “merchandise adjacencies,” balance, alignment, and first impressions. He discussed how spatial arrangements can make shopping easier, more user-friendly.

Having a fresh new ambiance is all fun and exciting, but can remodeling pay off? No one can predict, but he gave an example of a store he worked with that sold metal home goods, such as Nambe and fine copper. He completely re-arranged their displays and the owner told him the next year that sales were up 160 percent. Interesting!

We’re eager to see what he comes up with as he arranges our various puzzle pieces and analyzes our existing departments. “You are brave,” he told me. “This type of tinkering with an established business, and the budget that it requires, is not for the faint-of-heart.  But the rewards are real.”

In spite of the remodel, we’ll stay open. And we’ll be reminding ourselves: change is good!

Please Pardon our Dust!

Please Pardon our Dust!