You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Posted by: Chris Boebel
Date: November 5, 2013

I would be interested in hearing how your approach to measurement has changed over the years.  Do you think it’s gotten more sophisticated, as new tools come along that might assist with analysis, or have you cut it down to the essentials?

Transforming a bunch of data into useful, actionable information is near and dear to my heart.  It’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about, both in terms of personal investigation and as it applies to our retail operations here at Delta Sonic.

In an unrelated matter, I was thinking the other day about how we used to ask people for the last four digits of their phone number.  Long before loyalty occupied the coveted center square on the buzzword bingo board, we were doing it.  Neat!


Posted by: Tony
Date: November 8, 2013

You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

I still use the GAP [Gross Profit After Payroll] Report as my main source of information for productivity review.  Every week I skip to the bottom right hand corner to see if we are up or down for the week [as compared to last year], as well as taking a quick glance at our overall YTD number.  Then I start parsing out the departments.

For all the old-timers out there who are still rooting for the Stereo Advantage, the electronics division of the Advantage Co [now named 9Volt for easier reference] is having the biggest increase in GAP ever in the history of the company.  And the best part of it is that they have fully transitioned from Stereo Advantage Retail to Lifetime Service, Advantage Technology Integrators, and iFul Wholesale.

At its peak in 1992, Stereo Advantage Retail did $22M, while this year it will come home with a mere shred of that number.  Back in 1992, we had 240k transactions between Stereo Advantage [140k] and Sneaker Advantage [100k].  5195 Main Street was rocking back then.  LTS, ATI, and iFul, however, are the new engines of the Stereo Advantage these days.  All three are having record breaking years.  It took knocking down the Stereo Advantage building to convince everyone that the good old days were never coming back.  We weren’t going back to the old store, VCR‘s, and the Gusto.  They have found their success at 1955 Wehrle [and at our LTS facility on the West Coast].  It is nothing short of remarkable.

If you review our GAP Reports from the past 25 years, it would give you pretty insightful look at the maturation, success, or demise of just about every undertaking at the Advantage.

Next up in Measurement Time at the Advantage is our Cash Flow Report.  This is, essentially, a weekly Balance Sheet, and it gives us a good look at how we have done over the past 12 months.  It details how our assets and liabilities have grown, been depleted, or been shifted.  It is basically a statement of use and change.  Butch has personally been doing this one since he became CEO in 1997.  It’s his favorite perspective of the company.

Now we are starting our new Merchant Harvest Report which will compliment our GAP Report.  It will detail the progress of our programs and services on a weekly basis.  One of the most crucial Merchant Harvest activities we want to measure is customer referral.

The coin of the realm at the Advantage has always been word of mouth advertising.  As a retailer in the 21st century, we recognize that we must provide our customers with an incredible experience, and that experience must generate revenue.  The currency of that revenue is our customer’s advocacy.  Basically, our customers pay for goods and services with money, but they reward us for an outstanding experience with their referrals.  The sale is not complete until the customer enthusiastically refers us.  Our success depends on it.  I’m sure you remember that one.  It’s something I try to never forget.

The one weak link in our measurement chain is still our inventory analysis.  No matter how much we invest in data, we invariably end up buying by feel.  I don’t know if we will ever change, but, if we don’t, we will never benefit from the amazing analytic resources available today.

As for the onslaught of Big Data, it’s hard not to recognize the value in just about any information on your business activity, but it can be counter-productive if you become a slave to its collection, preparation, delivery, and analysis.  Along with social media, we are learning as we go.

Al in all, I think I personally did a better job of the analysis of our business activity before I used a computer.  Nothing beats that tactile connection to your inventory and customer.  It’s why I still love being a merchant.

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2013 TW&Co Marketing Strategy.


Posted by: Tony
Date: January 6, 2013
To: TW&Co Staff
Subject: 2013 Marketing Strategy

Over the years, I have been very specific about our advertising strategy.  At its very core it starts with word-of-mouth promotion.  We have always depended on our customers to be our enthusiastic and sincere advocates.  As a practical matter, however, I recognize that additional promotional activities could be advantageous if executed effectively and efficiently.  With that in mind, here is a quick breakdown of our marketing activities for 2013 [in their order of significance]:

  1. Word-of-mouth promotion.  While it is easy to dismiss this as simply a by-product of better satisfying the customer, to do so would not only miss the point, but rob us of our most productive and least expensive form of promotion.  For starters, we have to actually ask for our customer to promote us.  It is a necessary call-to-action.  To simply expect them to promote us because they had an enjoyable, or even remarkable experience is not going to get the job done.  We need specific and easy to deliver, administer, and track promotions.
    1. I would like to start with our Cento Club members by giving them a $100 Gift Certificate to someone they know who hasn’t shopped at TW&Co.  It will be a good start, and it will lead to similar inducements.
    2. Another program could possibly be for all customers that spend over $300.  They would be able to send a friend of theirs a Gift Certificate for 10% of their total purchase.  These are two specific programs that would encourage our customers to promote us.  We would be even more advantageous if we gave them the opportunity to say something nice about TW&Co in the email that we send to their friend with the Gift Certificate offer.  Nothing beats a sincere testimonial from a friend.  The possibilities are endless.
  2. Fliers.  While I recognize that they are a nuisance for everyone, I remain convinced that there is absolutely no better form of promotion.  Period.  The customer is in the store, now what better target audience for a promotion is there than someone who is already in the store?  It is our way of alerting them to What’s New and What’s Going On.  Of course, if we do not include incentives and a specific call-to-action, it will remain just a useless waste of paper, ink, time, and effort.  We can promote in a the newspaper or on billboards or in emails or in direct mail or in magazines, etc, but we will always struggle to hit our target audience with a bulls-eye [except with Janet Snyder].  However, a flier never misses its mark.  It’s something that can be personally, enthusiastically, and directly delivered to our customer who is already in the store.  Just as a focused, attentive, and engaging manager can increase sales dramatically; so can an effective mailer and in-store promotion program.  Our fliers need to be more creative, timely, and effective.  AIDA is the cornerstone on which our flier program must be built.
  3. In-store merchandising and POP.  It’s remarkable how much a simple ‘new’ tag can have on a customer’s impression of a product.  Imagine if we actually had a story to go along with it?
    1. Our merchandise lacks a story.  It is all presented in a dry and lifeless setting.  We need to ad a story and character to every brand and every collection.  There is a patient and curious customer that will read, enjoy, and, more importantly, repeat the tale.  We have an incredible selection of brands,  product, and services – it’s a shame we don’t tell their story.
    2. While our wall display posters have dramatically enlivened the store, they have done little to illuminate or promote the product they serve.
    3. Our complete lack of effective video presentation in the store belies our developing expertise and savvy in video production.  We need strategically placed TV’s throughout the retail space that deliver our promotions, programs, and identity.  It’s in-store entertainment.
    4. At least hand out the catalog.  It is by far our best effort ever and most customers can’t believe it’s free [and even though it cost us $4 per copy to publish, it is free to our customers].
  4. Programs, Events, and Promotions.  While we had a hit and miss affair with our programs, events, and promotions in 2012, nothing was as debilitating as the demise of our Fashion Board and Fashion Shows.  Nothing spreads the word to an appreciative customer better than the Fashion Shows, and it gives us a great foundation for our community and charitable activities.
    1. I expect to have a Fashion Show every week in 2013.  Yes, we are off to an atrocious start, but with the proper leadership, I think we can embark on a successful program of community events that will enhance our standing in the community while effectively promoting our product, services, and cache.  I believe we should include Gift Certificates and other incentives and charitable contributions in all of our shows, and we should track them as part of our ongoing effort to recognize and improve our offerings.
    2. Having our customers more involved in Runway Wednesday, Fashion First Friday, Gift Giving Registry, Web Wardrobe, Travel Club, What’s Mackenzie Wearing Today?, Monday Morning Madness, Two Girls One Deal, Corporate Shopping Nights, Courtesy Program, Cento Club, Trade-Ins, Private Shopping Parties, Birthday Club, In-Home Consultation, Tent Sale, etc. is essential to our connection with our customer.  So, before you start worrying about our radio ads, billboards, tv, magazines, etc., pay particular attention to our everyday promotional activities and we won’t need any other form of marketing to increase our business dramatically beyond what I have already detailed so far.
    3. Of particular concern is our complete lack of enthusiasm for my Modern Luxuri Guarantees.  In 2013, I want to build an entire brand, RiOT, around such guarantees.
    4. We need some instant promotions at the time of purchase.  I tried to jump start this with Derek, but I was completely dismissed.  Of course, my dessert tray is just one of the many initiatives that has fallen on hard times.  So it goes.
  5. Emails, blogs, websites, and social media.  Where do we begin?  Well, for starters, we need a schedule.  This constant blasting of ill-conceived gibberish that we unload on our customers at random is simply not effective.  All of our emails, blogs, websites, and social media must be coordinated with our events, promotions, and agenda.  I’ll spare you the usual AIDA rap, but I can not spare you the necessity to get organized.
  6. Traditional Media.  Radio, TV, newspaper, billboards, magazines, and bumper stickers all have their place.  To me, however, they are a last resort.  I believe they would be superfluous and unnecessary if we focused on the more cost effective marketing tools I’ve detailed above.  However, there is no denying that in certain instances they can all prove effective, especially with Janet.  Nevertheless, our buckshot approach that is further compromised by little or no association with our other marketing activities is an expensive distraction.  Once again, we need an organized and well-coordinated program that runs seamlessly throughout all of our marketing activities.
  7. Direct Marketing.  Last, but not least.  While you have no intention in participating in anything that even remotely approaches a direct marketing program, I am committed to developing an effective direct marketing program for all of our merchant activities in 2013.  In this regard, I will have to go outside the company to hire someone who is not predisposed to ignore this opportunity.  I’ll keep you apprised of my progress.

Of course, as we all know, nothing is more effective than a simple attentive smile.  A smile that says I am here for you and I look forward to making this a truly remarkable experience.  It’s cheap and effective, but, at times, very elusive and in short supply.  We need to teach it, promote it, encourage it, and demand it.  Start with yourself.  Nothing is better than a great example.  Try it, and I guarantee you sales will increase dramatically if we have everyone faithfully participating.

So, that’s a quick look at our marketing plan for 2013.  While our sales increase in 2012 was surprising considering all the renovation and expansion we undertook throughout the year, I can’t help but believe that we will put that unexpected increase to shame in 2013.

Be big, be a builder [and a great marketer].

What’s new for 2013?

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As always, this year will once again be a time of renovation, expansion, and renewal.  The 30 business units of the Advantage Co are all poised for a great 2013.

Front and center will be several new projects, programs, and businesses that we expect to launch in 2013.  Here’s a brief look at what’s new for the coming year:

  1. The Cento Club.  The Cento Club will be for our top 100 TW&Co customers based on their total TW&Co and Giancarlo’s purchases in 2012 and additional select customers who will be invited to join for an annual fee of $1,000.  Additionally, we will have day passes for special customers and out of town guests.  All Cento Club members will automatically be enrolled in all TW&Co programs and receive an additional 10% off all of their regular purchases.  There will also be a private Cento Club Concierge and three private Cento Club rooms available by appointment only:
    1. The Cento Private Club Room.  Construction is nearly complete on the private club room which will include a 400 sq’ private dining and dressing/showroom/lounge, along with a private spa treatment room and bath.  Cento Club members will be able to enter the Cento Private Club Room directly from TW B+B, the outside, or Giancarlo’s Cento Banquet Room.  There will also be a private patio right outside of the club room for summertime dining.
    2. The Cento Banquet Room.  Although there are several finishing touches still underway, Christina Karl hosted our grand opening of the Cento Banquet Room last night.  By all accounts, it was a very good time.  The new room is considerably larger than the Vantaggio Room, and it will accommodate all types of parties, meetings, shows, and banquets for our Cento Club members.  Cento Club members will also be able to eat lunch and dinner in the privacy of the Cento Banquet Room when no events are taking place.  With the addition of the Cento Banquet Room, Giancarlo’s can now comfortably accommodate parties of up to 160 guests.
    3. The Cento Bazaar.  Our new private back-room store will be for our Cento Club members only, and it will open at the end of January.  The Cento Bazaar will feature transition product from the previous season’s lineup from all of the TW&Co shops.  All product in the Cento Room will be exclusively for Cento Club members at 30% off.
  2. The TW&Co Gift Center.  I always feel better when we actually get to build a new concept, so, in 2013, we are finally going to build our long awaited TW&Co Gift Center.  The Gift Center will be home to our Corporate Gift Concierge, Gift Giving Registry, Gift Registry, Gift Wrapping, Ship It Free, Gift Cards, Gift Certificates, and video conferenced gift solutions.
  3. The Smart Center.  Yes, some day soon we will speak as fondly of the old Stereo Advantage as we do the Sneaker Advantage.  Just as the Sneaker Advantage morphed into the Tony Walker & Co array of premium shops, so will the Stereo Advantage transform itself into the Smart Center.
    1. The Smart Center will offer consumers, businesses, schools, institutions, and the government complete technology integration and entertainment solutions, providing the finest brands, Lifetime Service, and system architecture professionally designed, programmed, and installed by The Smart Squad and Advantage TI.
    2. Computer/Internet Technology.  It is up to us to integrate computer/internet technology with entertainment and business solutions.  Furthermore, we have to make it universally accessible.  Whether it’s in our customer’s living room, office, business, or online – it’s up to us to seamlessly integrate our customer’s access to all of their information and entertainment resources.  No one is better equipped to provide the myriad of expertise necessary to deliver the whole package.  We are the future.  From System Architecture to Technology Integration to Lifetime Service – we are the vanguard of our industry.
  4. The Resource Center.  Since 1981, the Advantage Co has embraced my Root Philosophy.  At the core of this business philosophy is the desire to always develop new opportunities for everyone involved in the Advantage experience.  Accordingly, The Resource Center will identify and enable the utilization of all our resources, products, and professional service offerings to expand current business operations and to, more importantly  launch new business opportunities.
  5. Advantage Brands.  We are fortunate to nationally represent Sumbody, Bogavia, Piece Apparel, Modern Luxuri, and, soon to be launched, RiOT clothing and accessories.  The representation, sale, distribution, and fulfillment of these brands to accounts nationally [and online direct to the consumer] will provide TW&Co with unlimited access to customers worldwide.
  6. The Advantage Sales Group.  Once we are finished with all of the above, we will be able to turn our attention to renovating and expanding our second floor operations at the Walker Center.  Fortunately, we currently have space for our iFul and Advantage Brands’ sales operations, but the full promise of the Advantage Nation Sales Program will not be realized until we have everyone under one roof.  By the end of the summer, we will have the Advantage Sales Group, iFul, Advantage Global Management, and Smart Squad Design all in one contiguous space.
  7. IaaS.  It’s official as of yesterday.  Our Autonomic Resources partnership is the first to receive an authority to operate from FedRamp.  This is a remarkable achievement.  Yes, the Advantage Co is much more than meets the eye in Williamsville.  Please read the entire announcement:

Autonomic Resources ARC-P Cloud Receives FedRAMP’s First Issued Authority to Operate  CARY, N.C., Dec. 27, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Autonomic Resources, a Government Cloud Service Provider (CSP), has received a Federal Risk Authorization and Management Program (FedRAMP) provisional Authority to Operate (ATO) from the FedRAMP Joint Authorization Board (JAB) for their ARC-P cloud solution. The FedRAMP program supports the U.S. government’s objective to enable U.S. federal agencies to use managed service providers that enable cloud computing capabilities. 

Of course, there are several other projects, programs, and new business waiting to sprout in 2013, but this is enough for a first glimpse.  I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.  The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.