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Specialists Urged To Create In-Store Experiences, Reach Out To Women

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. — Specialty A/V dealers must create a luxury experience in stores and showrooms that appeal to male and female buyers alike, business consultant James Gilmore told dealers during the recent PARA conference.

“Many of your practices are designed for a previous era,” he warned. “Make staging an experience your foremost concern … and you’ll sell more products.”

At retail, he cited such examples as an Albany, N.Y., car dealer who designed its showroom to create the excitement of a car show every day. Another was New England’s Jordan’s Furniture, which created theme environments in its stores and populates them with animated characters.

To stage a compelling in-store experience, dealers must accomplish four goals, he said. First, customers must enjoy the experience. Then they must learn from the experience. Dealers should also have customers do something (by staging participatory events, for example) and dealers should create value in just being there (for example, by building a cappuccino bar where customers can hang out).

To reinforce a luxury position, dealers must design a store that is impeccably clean, is as quiet as a Lexus, has an invitingly crisp smell, inspires with sophisticated taste, and creates an inconspicuously plush look. It should also employ people who don’t treat all customers alike.

Dealers don’t have to create a luxury experience only in their showrooms, however. Dealers could emulate Steinway, which stages piano concerts in the homes of consumers who buy an $85,000 Steinway. Steinway sends out invitations and caters the event, and many guests buy $85,000 Steinways, he said.

To connect with high-end female customers, Gilmore warned, “Don’t address gender [when selling customers]. It runs the risk of stereotyping.”

Treat all customers as individuals, he said, “and gender will take care of itself.”

Nonetheless, dealers can make conscious efforts to appeal to women without putting off males, he said. For example, dealers should replace leather furniture with upholstered furniture to eliminate the “bachelor-pad” look. “You won’t lose anything on the guy side,” he said.

Other advice:

  • Because men like to show off their gear and women prefer to hide it, dealers should design showrooms that both hide and show off equipment. Dealers, for example, could display closed A/V armoires, “then open the armoire for drama” to demonstrate that a home theater room can be used for other purposes.
  • Think about occasions, not just individual rooms. “Hide” gear by decorating showroom displays with birthday or Halloween party accessories.
  • Gear efforts to a woman’s schedule. “They do more laundry, cooking and shuttling of kids,” he said. In-store kitchens are a “great idea,” he said. The next step is to build the “laundry room of the future.”