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Multistore Category: Patios Plus, Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Multistore Category: Patios Plus, Rancho Mirage, Calif.

By sharpening their focus over the past year, Jim Schultz and Kristine Schultz Hutchinson, owners of Patios Plus in Southern California, have their two stores going in the right direction despite a downturn in the local economy.

Shultz said he learned from the recession in the '90s that high-end consumers are virtually unaffected by fiscal fluctuations. So he and Hutchinson began targeting that audience almost exclusively.

“We don't try to be everything to everyone,” he said. “We carry only seven major lines and have exclusives with a few vendors that help us.”

Both Patios Plus stores are also carefully merchandised. Hutchinson, an interior designer by trade, has taken a more active role in display, creating color-coordinated ensembles that blend multiple product lines and switching up vignettes to keep the stores fresh.

Patios Plus hasn't been immune to the nationwide drop in consumer spending. But this summer, Schultz turned that into an opportunity by hosting his first tent sale.

But the bread and butter for Patios Plus continues to be the high-end consumer who wants a unique outdoor environment.

“We had one salesperson sell $80,000 worth of furniture,” Schultz said. “It's all relative. Someone who buys a $4 million house can afford $80,000 worth of furniture,” said Shultz. Our individual sales have gone up, we're just making fewer sales.”

Schultz said he doesn't expect that to be permanent and is keeping his seasoned sales team intact. All of them know the value of good customer service, which is why the retailer earned its ninth Apollo Award nomination in 10 years.

“We bond with the customers and sell the store before we get into product,” said Shultz. “We all work very closely to help make our customers happy.”

Jim Schultz and Kristine Schultz Hutchinson

Hutchinson, an interior designer, has taken charge of visual merchandising.

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