Great Ideas for your Small Business: Put a Pig in Your Window
Iris fuller, founder and president of Fillamento in San Francisco, cried for two hours after attending a retailing seminar by Peter Glen. They were tears of joy and inspiration. “He made such a difference in the way we do what we do,” said Fuller, whose 10,000-square-foot, upscale home- accents store is a Pacific Heights landmark. The spacious store features dinnerware, lamps, pillows, candles, glass- ware, and unique gifts.
Fuller subsequently hired Glen, a former actor turned retail guru, to meet with her staff and push them to new heights in visual merchandising. Glen also inspired her to surprise her employees with an overnight trip to Las Vegas so they could collect ideas from Cirque du Soleil’s magical performance.
The magic appears to be working: Fillamento is posting double-digit sales increases and posts sales of about $5 mil- lion per year. “For sixteen years, I’ve kept a customer’s point of view,” said Fuller. “The store is crispy clean, we have fresh flowers—it feels good, and it smells good.” Fuller, who does all the buying for the store, is one of thousands of small retailers who rely on Glen’s advice and zany ideas to get them out of a rut. Glen, who is a popular keynoter at retailing conferences, insists that smart retailers will not just survive, but flourish, if they set them-selves apart from the competition.
Small retailers, Glen says, must create “cheap miracles” to attract shoppers. For example, Glen suggests spending $40 to tie a big ribbon around your store. Put a pig in the window, or a bull in your china shop—as one New Zealand shop owner did. Do whatever you can to create a stir. “The retail business is routine and can kill you one day at a time,” said Glen, author of It’s Not My Department (Berkeley; 1992). “Retailers have to face the competition instead of whining about it,” he said. “Most are waiting for Wal-Mart to kill them.”
Surprisingly, he urges small retailers to sell merchandise at regular price. “Don’t discount it, and don’t give it away,” he said. “You have the unique ability to provide real customer service and keep a customer for life.” He warns small retailers to pay attention to customers when they step into the store. “If you don’t want someone to interrupt your discussion of who’s in the hospital, why not just shut down?” Glen urges retailers to “love your business again.” “Retailing is a terrible job—nobody is in it for the hours or the money,” said Glen. “Concentrate on what you do best and go in that direction—furiously.”