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[1] McMillanDoolittle LLP - Norm McMillan was a SVP at Target Stores and then a SVP at Montgomery Ward Stores during both companies’ financial turnarounds. Sid Doolittle was a SVP at Montgomery Ward Stores. Both joined together to form McMillanDoolittle LLP in Chicago, IL. McMillanDoolittle is one of the world’s leading retail consulting firms, with a broad range of retail capabilities and a number of highly successful clients. DECORADOR’s founder worked with both Norm and Sid at Target and MW. McMillanDoolittle was responsible for placing Bussey on assignment in Istanbul, Turkey eventually his first trip to Poland.

   DECORADOR focuses on being good at the other dimensions of the EST retail model. The Company offers reasonable (affordable and value-oriented) pricing, but will not be the cheapest. DECORADOR has a unique selection, but not the largest. The Company prides itself on offering a merchandise selection that reflects home fashion trends from around the world and with … a touch of class. The assortment focus is based on quality; and not quantity. This intentional focus on not being the largest will prove to be another winning position for DECORADOR in Poland and the other CEE countries. Not being the largest has proven the Company to be more diversified, resilient and flexible.

   “EST” Retailing: The DECORADOR business model was designed by the founder based upon his successful and unsuccessful experiences throughout his international retail career. However an important platform of research for the model was conducted by Norm McMillan with McMillan & Doolittle llp [1]. EST Retailing is derived from the word “best,” -- the premise of EST retailing is that there are four ways to build an edge with Clients and to differentiate your store from the competition. As shown below, under EST Retailing, the Company must perform the best in one of four quadrants to win with Clients:

   1) offer the best (lowest) prices

   2) the best (largest) selection

   3) the best (hottest) fashion

   4) the best (simplest) customer service.

its inspiring Presentations (in-store) where the stores present both the soft and hard home products in collections which assists the Clients in making their purchase decisions.

its unique Products (and Services) which consists of home fashions from around the world, a catalogue of exclusive private label collections and an extensive selection of special order home dйcor products and services

   Norm McMillan outlined several guidelines that pertain to successfully leveraging the EST retailing model in his article EST Retailing: How to Stay Out of the Black Hole.

        ​Occasionally, there have been retail chieftains who have declared, “We are going to be the best at all …..” McMillan says “Don’t even think about it”. By definition, if you head off in all four directions you will wind up in the middle, or in what he describes as the “black hole” – the place where mediocre stores eventually die and disappear in bankruptcy as did Caldor, Ames, Service Merchandise, Circuit City and most recently Borders Book stores.

   A research article written by William Ander suggests that in order to be the best in the Service quadrant of the EST retailing model, focus should be placed on providing effective and efficient customer service, or providing the “easiest” and “quickest” services to the customer. A number of characteristics define these two new EST dimensions. “Easiest” consists of offering solutions that result in an effortless and enjoyable shopping experience for the customer. “Easiest” retailers focus on innovative ways of meeting the most basic customer needs as well as their more complex desires and expectations. DECORADOR has in place simple practices as well as more elaborate strategies to ensure that the Company provides an effortless, yet stimulating, shopping experience for its Clients with … a touch of class. The Company’s disciplined approach to product signing and pricing, store layout, Associate access, and inventory management ensures that Clients experience a smooth and straightforward shopping experience each time they visit a DECORADOR store. Value-added services such as the e-commerce store, design studio, B2B, InfoKiosk, gift registry, Client loyalty program, and creative gifts center and in-store initiatives such as collection ensembles and complimentary Internet access are offered to personalize and enrich the Client’s shopping experience. “Easiest” retailers continually offer assurance to the customer that shopping in the store will always be an enjoyable process. This is done by consistently having the friendliest, most engaging People, the most fashionable and unique Products, and exciting and inspiring Presentations of its collections in its stores. In addition, DECORADOR provides guarantees and easy return/refund policies, and by supplying information that helps customers understand their options and assists them in decision-making. Finally, “easiest” retailers focus on efficiency for the customer through clarity of offer, appropriate assortments, well-merchandised and accessorized presentations and displays, and a seamless, transparent shopping process. DECORADOR’s disciplined approach of scoring itself with Associate and Store Metrics is the core value in the ‘1 @ a time’™ culture. The ‘1 @ a time’ culture has a single goal of insuring that the primary functions of retail; the 3Ps of DECORADOR (engaging People, unique Products, inspiring Presentations) are delivered with consistency across every shopping experience for every Client as if they are the only Client in the store.

   According to Ander, the other component of excellent customer service consists of creating an efficient and speedy shopping experience to those customers who desire it. Retailers who excel in the “quickest” dimension of the service quadrant are “location-convenient” and “time-convenient.” These retailers have accessible locations, are simply designed and easy to navigate, present efficient processes during all phases of the shopping experience (especially during check out), and are accurate and efficient in order fulfillment. DECORADOR’s e-commerce and varied-sized prototype store strategy embodies both location and time-convenience for the Client. The Company adjusted its prototype brick and mortar store strategy from fewer larger stores to many smaller, neighborhood-embedded stores and smaller mall-based stores to accommodate this location & time-convenience. In addition, much research, time, and planning has gone into designing a user-friendly e-commerce store and a logical store layout that facilitates a quick, efficient, effective, and convenient shopping experience for DECORADOR’s Clients.

   An oversimplification of DECORADOR’s ambitious objective is to “provide the best customer service – the easiest, quickest, and most seamless – to the Polish consumer.” Being the best in the service quadrant of the EST retailing model is reinforced and reflected in the Company’s “WOW” aspects of​​

its engaging People (Associates), who are friendly, helpful and are well-trained on their product and generally can call their Clients by name

     1. Profitability begins with customers. Identify customer needs, then figure out how you can address those needs better than the competition. A retailer will not achieve financial success until it places solving customer problems at the top of its priority list. Retailers that develop new prototypes or formats are generally trying to solve a problem they have rather than focusing on problems faced by the customer. As a result, customer-focus is the rule most abused in the process of developing new concepts. To solve the problems of a business, problems encountered by the customer must be solved first.

​     2. To make it to the top of the “profit list,” you must be clearly and obviously the best at something. In a market that contains many shopping alternatives (the universal case across all merchandise categories), long term success is murky and doubtful even if you’re “pretty good at something.” Security is achieved through competitive advantage, and being the best at something builds a necessary competitive advantage. …And being “damn good” at a couple of “some things” strengthens this competitive advantage.

     3. A business cannot be the best in all four quadrants. Conflict will arise. Choose and focus on quadrants that complement each other. Pick one quadrant in which you will be the best, and then pick one more in which you intend to be damn good. McMillan did not simplify or expand on this idea as he did in 1 and 2 above.

"ESt" Retailing