Why we have decided to close our retail doors and go appointment-only.

An elderly gentleman recently stopped into our retail store carrying his sound bar and a set of directions—well, I assumed they were directions—for what he possessed was paperwork. He came with an issue and a plea for help.

“This doesn’t work,” he proclaimed.

As we always begin, we asked, “What is your last name so that we can look you up in our system?” The man looked at my front-of-house salesperson with a straight face and replied:

“Oh, I did not purchase this here. I just need help.”

“Well, all our technicians are currently on the road, would you like to set up a service call?” she replied.

Also by Heather L. Sidorowicz: A Disappointing Dining Experience That Reminded Me of Our Industry

“No. No. I don’t want to pay for someone to come out. I’m sure it is simple. I’m sure you can tell me,” he counteracted.

And this, dear readers, plus countless other illustrations, is why we have decided to close our retail doors. This was not a decision we came to lightly; it was multiple clients over months, weighing the potential dollars, which led me to this decision. Clients coming in requesting parts that they cannot Google because they do not exist; people that will not, even with the best salesperson, turn into clients; tire kickers; those who believe you owe them because they shopped locally.

Secretly, I have begun to believe that the general public assumes we are federally funded. How else do they think we can exist if we do not charge in some way for our expertise?

Full disclosure: This idea originated about a year ago. When we began construction on our exterior, we had already decided not to stay open late – regular retail hours, making our showroom hours only ten in the morning until five in the evening. Last summer, we let go of weekends as well. We just needed this final push to change over to appointment-only, which is what will happen beginning July 15th.

We have always been small, and since the day I purchased the company in 2014, the only sure thing I did know was that I did not want to be open during typical retail hours. Even then, retail was changing. Plus I had small children, and I was not willing to sacrifice their upbringing for the sale of a TV, an ever-eroding product.

Then we began paying close attention over the course of the last few months before we concluded it was time to move to appointment-only.

Our hope is that, once a client has committed to making an appointment, they have already registered us as an advisor — similar to what you might find if you were searching for someone to remodel your kitchen or bathroom. The Do-It-Yourselfer’s out there are not our clients (for the most part) anyway, so why spend hours answering every question to have them purchase online with your expertise? History is no longer a good enough answer.

Also, by changing our retail path, we can refocus our showroom into a commercial demonstration space, an area we have steadily grown.

Most often, when I tell this story I am met with, “You’re dropping residential?”

The answer is, “Absolutely not.”

Through appointment-only we will be able to better serve our residential partners by opening up the time to work for them to find the best solutions for their needs. As we looked back at our best clients over the past three years, some have never set foot in our showroom. We have won them over by going to their home, by proving to them that a long-term relationship is our number one priority. For those that want to visit, we will have the ability to custom build and create an area to demonstrate the right system.

Also by Heather L. Sidorowicz: I’m Remodeling My Retail Store. Am I Crazy to Make the Investment?

Understand this was not an easy decision to come to, as Southtown Audio Video grew up as a retail company selling hi-fi equipment in the ’80s, to rental of tapes (Beta and VHS) in the early ’90s, to satellite sales and install, to selling and ordering those fantastic flat screens — the picture tube ones that were not curved that weighed an unbelievable amount. You know them, right?

We understand our DNA and are ready for the next phase of business. If mall shops are shutting their doors at such a quick pace, does it make sense to fight that war or play within it?

What do you think is the future of retail?

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