TWICE Names 15 'Retailers To Watch'
By Alan Wolf
New York That it's tough out there in today's rough-and-tumble retail environment is clearly an understatement.
But despite price compression, discount competition and an economy stuck in neutral, some CE and major appliance dealers have managed to rise above the rest in profitability and stature, if not necessarily sales.
With the goal of sharing best practices, TWICE decided to examine and honor 15 of those merchants who through marketing, store design, service, selection and/or business model have earned the admiration and respect of their peers.
Our first annual Retailers To Watch list, based on industry input and the judgement of TWICE, spans all store types and channels, but is by no means comprehensive. It is, however, representative of the best of breed in specialty CE and appliance retailing. Congratulations, dealers.
1200 North Milwaukee
Number of Stores: 1
Product Mix: Consumer electronics, major appliances, furniture
Glenview, Ill.What can be said of Abt Electronics that hasn't been said before?
Beloved and admired by vendors, merchants and generations of loyal customers alike, the family-held business has ably served the Chicagoland market for 67 years, steadily growing sales an average of 10 percent a year while fending off specialty chains and fellow hometown retailer Sears.
Along the way, Abt has collected myriad honors for its irreproachable business practices. These include the Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics from the Better Business Bureau and Loyola University's Illinois Family Business of the Year award not to mention a Retailer of the Year citation from TWICE.
According to the company, the recipe is simple in concept if not execution: expert sales advice, competitive prices, hassle-free returns, free shipping and unparalleled customer service. Indeed, as president Mike Abt sheepishly concedes, "We take a loss on customer service to ensure that customers stick around but we're working on that. Our attitude is take care of the customer no matter what it costs."
Conversely, manufacturers also relish doing business with the former NATM and current PRO Group dealer. "We don't push vendors around," Abt said. "We pay our bills on time, we don't have huge demands for advertising or floor models because we're just one store, and we don't return damaged goods unless they're really broken and we've tried to fix it three times ourselves. They don't have to take a big loss on us."
The store itself is a 58,000-square-foot paean to product that also makes room for the lighter side of retail. Witness its signature Fountain for Charity; imported two-ton rotating ball for kids; 20-foot fish tank surrounded by a bank of camcorder displays; a fully A/V-loaded Hummer; and a museum of antique appliances and electronics.
The showroom is part of a 350,000 square foot facility that sits on 29 acres in this Chicago suburb. Opened in May 2002, this latest of five relocations also features a 200,000-square-foot warehouse with 80 docks for enhanced logistical efficiency, and houses Abt's successful, five-year-old e-commerce operation, which was one of the industry's first.
© 2003 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.