Pristine Pools & Spas dives in with Retailmakeover
Cinde W Ingram -- Casual Living, 1/6/2011 6:12:03 AM
Pristine Pools & Spas lived up to its name as it installed pools, spas and other water features for clients in the Pacific Northwest after it opened in 2007.
Owner T.J. Brown and his staff began to realize over time that their clients needed outdoor furnishings to match their high caliber outdoor living areas.
"We were building these magnificent pools and, at the end of the process, the clients were buying outdoor furniture at the big boxes," Pristine spokesman Stuart McDonald said. "The owners were saying there has to be an opportunity here. If we build our own retail stores, we could cover the bases."
During those formative years, Pristine operated a design center, a separate warehouse facility and dipped its toe into a small retail store. When property became available last year, Pristine's owners dove into retail in a bigger way. In January, they began building a store and office complex with a large parking area and three customdesigned pools out front. Just before the store's official opening in mid-May, staff members took a few photos and submitted them for consideration in Casual Living's 10th annual Merchandising Awards Contest. "We were really pushing the limit to submit," McDonald said.
When Pristine Pools & Spas was named winner of the Best First-Time Entry and Best Store Front Merchandising Awards, the prize was a Retailmakeover consultation with Barbara Crowhurst. Crowhurst quickly found out the store was the newest side of the Meridian, Idaho-based business. The company had built its reputation building water features in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and handling exclusive pool products in the Pacific Northwest.
"They were very enthusiastic and respectful of my professional services," Crowhurst said. "I could immediately tell they were open to hearing from an outside expert. They are really passionate retailers, and the team has been made responsible for such a large space."
1From Pristine's perspective, "there was a great deal of excitement," McDonald said. He said having a retail expert review the store's design, signage, product placement and other points proved to be quite helpful.
"To have that level of service available was incredible," he said. "I have worked with consultants over a number of years. I have been in the industry for about 35 years and the owners also have extensive experience, but it's always good to get the outside perspective.
"We were going through our growing pains," McDonald added. "There was probably more Barbara could have done had we been in business longer. But since we're so new in retail, practically every step we've taken is a baby step."
Although the company's approximately 60 employees are accustomed to building pools year-round, the store has transitioned into its first season of selling Christmas holiday goods.
One aspect pushing Pristine into early maturity was its decision to join the Casual Classics Buying Group, headed by casual industry veteran Buzz Homsy. Being part of the 225-plus store buying group allows volume purchasing, cooperative market ing, advertising, financing and business operations. That has been an advantage, McDonald said, although member stores have some leeway to buy what is needed for their specific marketplace. Pristine's owner and head of retail attended the recent Casual Furniture & Accessories Market in Chicago.
Part of what Crowhurst reviewed with Pristine's principals involved store design, signage directing in consumers and product placement. "My work was to increase sales and marketability," she said.
McDonald said Crowhurst's coaching led the Pristine staff to implement more of a vignette approach on its sales floor to improve its merchandising and the flow of customers as they walk through the 14,000-sq.-ft. store.
Crowhurst questioned whether the patio, spas, pools and bbq lettering on Pristine's front entrance provided enough information to attract new customers, especially when viewed across a large parking lot from a busy street.
"Unless you're an existing customer, you don't know exactly what is going on inside the building," she said. "Retailers have to be pretty specific to get people to turn, to look, to stop and explore."
Improved signage was absolutely on their list of actions to improve their new retail store, Crowhurst said. The Pristine staff was most comfortable handling the specialized needs of the spas, whirlpools and hot tubs. She found the staff was making good decisions, but lacked confidence in its new direction selling outdoor furniture and accessories.
"When you talk to an expert, it leaves you feeling a lot more secure," Crowhurst said. "They moved forward on a lot of initiatives that had to do with product placement and store design. As a coach, I'm stressing these are not negotiable."
McDonald said the Pristine staff completely understood Crowhurst's concerns about signage. Because the retailer shares a driveway with a Lowe's home improvement store, they have been careful to make sure consumers would perceive their signs as "a cut above anything you would see at Lowe's," he said. While waiting for their exterior signage to be installed in mid- September, the staff spent time and effort coordinating indoor signage and price tags, too.
"We do have very high-end products, but we don't want to scare away the average Joe," McDonald said.
Efforts to make sure their store includes products for young customers, who may be able to afford more later, was part of the thinking as Pristine worked on a calendar of promotional events for the next six months to a year.
To provide real-time information to all retailers, Crowhurst launched the online Retailmakeover University at the end of September. Her hope is that it will empower them to manage their businesses more efficiently.
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