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Single Store Category: Williams Patio Furniture, Highland Park, Ill.

Single Store Category: Williams Patio Furniture, Highland Park, Ill.

Bruce Erickson and Mark Williams
Bruce Erickson and Mark Williams

Williams Patio Furniture is experiencing the same thing exhibitors at the wholesale markets have over the last year or two. Traffic is slower, but the customers they do have are serious.

“People aren't just wandering around and looking anymore,” said Mark Williams, president of Williams Patio Furniture. “Our customers now are pretty focused. We're just working hard to work with them to make the best sales we can from them. We have to concentrate on what we can do to service their needs.”

With its focus on high-end customers, the retailer already has a service-oriented approach.

“At the higher end of the market, you either have customer service or you have serious problems,” Williams said. “Our customers are demanding and expect us to fix things if things go wrong.”

Williams showroom display
A 2006 remodel still wows customers.

Thanks to Williams Patio's stringent standards, that rarely happens. Williams said his staff examines every piece of furniture it receives and assembles it for their customers. If there is a problem, the staff will make house calls and bring any damaged goods back to the warehouse to be repaired.

“There's definitely a cost to doing business that way,” Williams said. “The easiest thing we could do in an economy like this is cut out some of those expenses, but then we'd never satisfy the more discerning part of the market.”

Williams said the store is still reaping rewards of a major remodel in 2006. The work included new signage that improved the store's visibility from a nearby highway.

Williams is bullish about business in 2009.

“People don't need new patio furniture, but if they're spending more time at home it becomes more desirable to have a nice setup,” Williams said. “I think that's helped our industry overall for sure.”

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