San Antonio — The Progressive Retailers Organization was at the Westin La Cantera Hill Coun
1412 North Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks, Calif. 91360-5127
Lyn Perry, president
Annual Sales (fiscal 2002): $10 million
Number of Stores: 1, plus another to open October 2003
Product Mix: Mid- to high-end A/V, furniture, custom installation
Thousand Oaks, Calif.— This specialty retailer has come a long way since its founding in 1954, when it was operated out of a small, fifth-floor office in the Wilshire area of Los Angeles. Back then, Wilshire's clients came mostly via word of mouth, and most of the sales were done over the phone.
Lyn Perry, a customer, purchased the business in 1978 and learned the tools of the trade from founder Loretta Wuebker, as she lay terminally ill. Perry took all the orders and delivered them in his station wagon.
Today Wilshire has 37 employees, with 14 more joining when the company's new state-of-the-art store opens in Valencia, Calif., this October. Current customers wander more than 5,000 square feet of retail space in a 12,500-square-foot facility, which includes three home entertainment rooms with luxurious touches like a plasma TV displayed over a real fireplace. The average client spends $20,000.
But some things remain the same: namely, 87 percent of Wilshire's customers are repeat clients or referrals. According to Perry, customer service and a highly trained retail staff are the draw. (A member of PARA, HTSA, NARDA and CEDIA, Wilshire's employees follow the training guides of the latter two industry groups.)
However, some of Wilshire's success may also come from the so-called little things. It sends thank-you cards with enclosed theater tickets or a gift certificate for dinner to referring customers, and all new clients get a thank-you card.
On the pragmatic side, every month the management team tracks 30 business indicators to ensure that such things as the inventory mix is the best it can be, "so we're on top of our business and maintain our cash flow," Perry said.