Elliott & Company Shares Secrets of Success

Discussion
Feb 15, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


What is the difference between successful retail operations and those that fall by the wayside?


The 2005 Canadian Gift and Tablewares Association’s (CGTA) Retailer of the Year, Elliott & Company, would tell you it is customer loyalty.


The lifestyle store founded in 1987 by Mark and Krys Elliott and located in St. Catherines, Ontario has a check list for making its customers feel at home with the retailer.


  1. Greet customers with a smile when they come into the store.

  2. Get to know your customers personally. Find out what they like and dislike so that you can better serve them.

  3. Give customers space. Offer help but don’t follow them around the store.

  4. Inform and educate consumers on new products rather than trying to sell them.

  5. Offer free wrapping on every purchase.

  6. Stand behind products and accept returns, no questions asked.

  7. Deliver oversized merchandise locally for free.

  8. Thank customers for shopping with you with words and additional customized services for free or at a generous discount.

Moderator’s Comment: Do you think there are lessons for other retailers in Elliott & Company’s list for winning customer loyalty? What is your list
for winning customer loyalty?

George Anderson – Moderator

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8 Comments on "Elliott & Company Shares Secrets of Success"


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Vasanti Ballinger
Guest
Vasanti Ballinger
15 years 17 days ago

I agree that their practices build customer loyalty. I also think that this is attainable by many retailers today. If it is a question of completing a task with speed, such as courtesy wrapping of purchases or gifts, hire a person whose sole responsibility is to wrap purchases as well as other tasks. This can be located somewhere else in the store, not necessarily at the checkout counter. The key is to find ways around the obstacles. Customer loyalty is very important, especially when retailers are competing heavily in similar product lines. These details may take a little more off the profit line, but the profit will grow as people choose that retailer more often.

Sarah Wilner
Guest
Sarah Wilner
15 years 17 days ago
I used to shop at Elliott and Company. It’s a single outlet store with something like 500 square feet in a town of 130,000 people. It’s not too hard to get to know people and execute on customer service when there are only 2 customers in the shop at a time. (it’s also why they don’t need to follow customers around; they can see everyone in the store from their cash register.) Frankly, I went there for their picture framing (their original business, before they got into giftware) and while their work was impeccable, they were always excruciatingly slow to finish work. Each time I needed something done I would debate whether or not I would use them because I couldn’t count on them to deliver on time…not quite an award-winning customer service model. Customer service is harder to do well when the scale is much larger and consistency is an issue. Bravo to the small-town retailer for remembering that service counts, but better to learn from would be the big guys (like Wegmans, Target)… Read more »
Doug Fleener
Guest
15 years 17 days ago

I will second what Bernie said. So many retailers believe they do what Elliott & Company does, but a visit to their stores proves otherwise. It’s the execution that is the challenge. It’s keeping it fresh everyday. It’s helping employees improve upon their skills. It’s helping employees to want to do these things. And it is measuring and rewarding employees for doing it.

I think the most important item on the list for creating loyal customers is to create loyal employees. Turn it around. Does management greet and welcome employees with a smile? Do they get to know them personally and help them grow and develop? Do they give the space to do their job? Do they inform and educate them on new products so they can be experts? Do they stand behind their employees and their career aspirations? At do they thank and reward the employee for a job well done? Loyal customers begins with loyal employees.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 17 days ago

Personally, I’d like to shop at Elliott & Company, as I’ve NEVER been in a store that did all that. And, maybe that’s a takeaway point. Retailers don’t have to be perfect. But, they should figure out what they stand for and what they can REALISTICALLY execute, and then CONSISTENTLY do a few great things that stand out in consumers’ minds. The inconsistency of the shopping environment and experience within chains and even within individual stores is sometimes mind-boggling, and much of it is because it’s so much easier to come up with neat plans than it is to execute on those ideas.

Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
15 years 17 days ago

The “secrets” that Elliott & Company are sharing are not very well kept secrets. There are similar lists by most of the major retailers. Many of the retailers have acronyms for them such as GREET or GREAT or GUEST. While a plan is good, what is important is the execution. The retailers who do it well add some additional components to ensure success. Those components are an initial benchmarking, the measurement of the improvement of the list of behaviors and then reinforcement or retraining of the program elements. To do these additional components, the more successful retailers will use secret shoppers/mystery shoppers to get an assessment. They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. It’s great that Elliott & Company has the commitment, but to win retailer of the year, they transferred that commitment down to the store floor and executed on their plan. Congratulations to them.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 17 days ago

The guidelines given have the same political positioning as motherhood. Who could be against it? Doug’s comments are very interesting. How many retailers could answer yes to his questions?

Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 17 days ago

As Bernie and Al have both commented, the difference between good retailers and great retailers is customer loyalty driven by customer service. This great customer service is foremost in each retailer’s drive for a successful retail environment and they know that once a customer has developed loyal shopping habits, it is much easier to keep that customer. Price, location, and even product availability are all secondary when it comes to customer service. Once a customer feels that they are being catered to, and that the retailer is making every effort to meet their needs (and make them feel special), they will tolerate many other failures in the retail environment before they switch to another retailer. Customer service is the “secret sauce” behind customer loyalty, and everyone is searching for the best way to communicate this to their target market.

Mark Elliott
Guest
Mark Elliott
15 years 4 days ago
I’d like to take a few moments to respond to the comments made by Hivemaster, and to address several statements that were made by him/her. Elliott & Company House and Garden Ltd. was first opened in 1987 as “The Framer’s Workshop” and occupied 1380 square feet of retail/workshop space. The name was changed in 1992 to reflect the changes that we were making in our product lines as we began selling decorative accessories, garden and home decor, and the business was expanded to occupy 4200 square feet of retail/workshop space. Today, 18 years later, Elliott & Company, has become a home decor/lifestyle leader in Niagara (and indeed in the country, receiving recognition as the Canadian Gift and Tableware Association’s 2005 Canadian Retailer of the Year). Over the years, both The Framer’s Workshop, and Elliott & Company have taken great pride in producing the finest picture framing available. Our reputation extends from Ottawa to New York City and our marketplace is much larger that the 130,000 residents of St. Catherine’s. Clients come to our store from… Read more »
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