HUNTINGTON, N.Y. – For some 20 years now, Appliance World has thrived in the shadow P.C. Richard & Son with aplomb.
Aplomb, and a vendor-lauded, must-see showroom, combined with a steadfast commitment to its customers and community.
The two-store, premium whitegoods chain, located on Long Island’s tony North Shore, is renown by consumers, designers, specifiers, homebuilders and manufacturers for its fully functional kitchen vignettes and warm, personalized service.
Guests are immediately handed a bottle of water upon entering, and are encouraged to visit often by a full calendar of cooking classes, chef demos and product trainings (free to purchasers of complete appliance packages).
Principal Kevin Nathan said he spends $2,500 a month on bottled water and coffee, and that showroom events are held an average of two to three nights a week, 250 days out of the year.
“It’s important for the customer to learn all the features of their products to get full use out of them,” he told TWICE.
The events also provide an opportunity for customers and staff to share a glass of wine and get to know one another, which helps build relationships and promotes referrals.
“It’s still a referral business,” Nathan said, “and there’s nothing better than a referral from a kitchen resource.”
The bonds are especially tight with the trade, which makes up 65 percent of the company’s $33 million in annual product sales. Trade partners are each assigned an Appliance World sales associate, who often forges long-term ties with customers and even knows their families. Commercial clients are also feted in an annual “Thank You” gala at the flagship showroom here, which drew 400 attendees this month.
The NECO dealer is also active in the community, supporting the local Lion’s and Rotary Clubs and holding 30 to 35 major charity events a year.
The main showroom is 15,000 square feet and features 11 live kitchens representing such lines as Aga, Bosch, Dacor, Electrolux, Thermador and Wolf/Sub- Zero. There’s also an outdoor products display with a working Wood Stone pizza oven, and a play area with video games and a popcorn machine where parents can leave their kids while browsing.
The company also operates a 3,500-square-foot showroom in Oyster Bay, N.Y., and carries a selection of Samsung and LG TVs and Sonos wireless systems to keep any CE-minded customers from straying.
Nathan started out as top salesman for Friendly Frost, the defunct Long Island appliance chain. After conferring with NECO distributor DMI, he decided to “give retail a shot” and opened a small, low-end white-goods store on the south shore in 1992.
Over the next five years he bought out his partners and moved his business and product mix north, where demand was strong for $3,000 and $4,000 refrigerators.
Knowing he couldn’t compete with the ad budgets of Sears and Long Island native P.C. Richard, he chose to out-service his big-box rivals and “wow” customers with his product knowledge and showroom experience. The business took off “like wildfire,” Nathan said, and the fuel of full-kitchen packages and a designer-community partner program further fanned the flames.
Today the company services the greater New York metro area, spanning New Jersey, Manhattan and the Hamptons, where it caters to a celebrity clientele. To cover the ground it maintains a fleet of company-owned and outsourced trucks, and is in the process of doubling its warehouse space. An additional showroom may also be in the works.
Nathan said the business held up “extraordinarily well” throughout the recession, having never experienced a down year and posting single-digit increases in 2008 and double-digit gains since 2011. He added that the company continues to outmaneuver its big-box competitors, whom he compared to the Queen Mary vs. the nimble little speedboat that is Appliance World.
His parting advice to other independents: “Don’t dabble; you have to be fully engaged or you’ll get your head handed to you.”