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Last Update: Sunday December 16, 2018

Key Idea: Stay Focused on Your Target

Carol Schroeder wrote the book on specialty retailing.  She says that successful shopkeepers who have made it through the Wal-Mart shake out know that they can not sell anything people can buy at Wal-Mart.

Key Question:

A: 

Every specialty shop has a feel to it. You start to analyze the products individually and you can understand why the merchant made them part of the product mix, but no one product makes a specialty shop. The magic or personality of the shop is in the mix. And, what it doesn't have is just as important as what it does have.

Q:  What makes Orange Tree Imports unique?

A: Almost everything about it, from the location on historic Monroe Street to the interesting variety of vendors, products and people. What makes this shop work over the long haul is Carols ability to listen to customers.

They started with Scandinavian furniture that they discovered early on was heavy and very difficult to deal with -- they had to carry it up by hand from the basement. Today's product mix is based upon a philosophy Orange wrote about in her book, Specialty Shop Retailing. “You cannot be all things to all people. The ability to find out what customers want and get it for them quickly is one of the strengths that sets a good specialty shop apart from its mass market competitors.”

One of the biggest concerns is alkways space. Real estate is about overhead and the more space you have, the more overhead you have. Carol started with one building. She bought an adjacent building ten years ago in order to expand. Also, a shopkeeper must answer the questions, “What is my niche? Who are my customers?” The answer to those questions will get you started; however, you will still have hundreds of choices.

Next ask yourself, “What do I want my shop to look and feel like?”

Once you set some parameters, you must track what turns for you. The faster inventory turns, the faster you make money. When an item sits on the shelf, it ties up your money. When it sells, you have cash to reinvest. Carol avoids lines that are carried in the big stores and she has a clear focus on what will sell in her store.

Carol goes on to say, “There's so much merchandise out there, and you really have to discipline yourself not to just buy what you like, but to think about what your customers have told you they like. They vote with their dollars.”

Think about it

Are you doing anything or selling anything right now that is taking you away from your target customer? Are you listening to your target customer? What could you do to learn more about your target customer?

Clip from: Orange Tree Imports with Carol Schroeder

Madison, Wisconsin:  Meet a guru of specialty retail, Carol "Orange" Schroeder (just above). She is the author of the book, Specialty Shop Retailing,  and she truly walks her talk. With her husband, Dean, they started their business, Orange Tree Imports, soon after graduating from college. That was 1975.

Today Orange is a master retailer and a quiet hero in her community. She was an early leader in the movement to revitalize the old downtown. Soon after buying the building on Monroe Street, Orange organized a neighborhood business association to do joint marketing-and-promotion to change the orientation of their old shopping district to be a vital area for specialty shops and restaurants. That worked miracles. Monroe Street now draws people from well beyond the neighborhood, even Wisconsin!

Go to all the key ideas and video of this episode...

Orange Tree Imports

Carol Schroeder, Founder

1721 Monroe Street
Madison, WI 53711
608-255-8211

Visit our web site: http://orangetreeimports.com

Office: 608-255-8211

Business Classification:
Specialty Retail

Year Founded: 1975

Stay Focused on Your Target

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Today's product mix is based upon a philosophy Orange wrote about in her book, "Specialty Shop Retailing": `You cannot be all things to all people. The ability to find out what customers want and get it for them quickly is one of the strengths that sets a good specialty shop apart from its mass market competitors.'

CAROL: I had a lot of people coming to me for advice, and I wanted to kind of consolidate that advice in one format. And now when they come and ask me for advice, I ask them if they could read the book first and then ask questions on what they hadn't learned from the book.

HATTIE: Always the merchant. `Buy my book.' How do you get people to come into the store?

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