Customers embrace upscale clothing retailer´s high-touch strategy.
The retail environment poses many customer-relationship challenges. High employee turnover and one-time customers are just two of the hurdles facing retailers trying to implement customer-centric strategies. But one Connecticut-based clothing retailer is overcoming these obstacles using one-to-one principles to boost its share of customer and keep its Most Valuable Customers (MVCs) coming back.
Serving an upscale customer base of professional men and women, Mitchells is a million family-owned business with locations in Greenwich and Westport, Conn. (The Greenwich store, acquired in 1995, goes by its original name, Richards.) The company´s database tracks each of its approximately 150,000 customers´ personal data and preferences, including size and style, as well as SKUs bought and prices paid since the tracking systems were installed in each store. In fact, chairman and CEO Jack Mitchell personally keeps at his fingertips information about his top 1,000 customers. To use his favorite metaphor, the secret to Mitchell´s success is "hugging" the customers.
"I remember meeting one of the country´s top retailers on the runway at an Yves St. Laurent fashion show and he asked me, ´How are your outerwear sales?´" says Mitchell. "I couldn´t believe he was asking about outerwear sales. My question was, ´How are your upper-end customers buying? Are they very satisfied? Are they coming in more or less frequently?´ He was product focused and I am customer focused. To us, it´s customers first and then the product—of course we search the world for the best product for each customer—and then the rest usually takes care of itself."
This customer focus is a mind-set, he says, from when his parents started the business in Westport in 1958. Today, there are nine Mitchells in the business, including Jack´s 97-year-old father, who started it all. "Every one of us makes a major contribution," Mitchell says, "and they all have the same mind set; it has been and always will be customers first."