One of the most admired appliance dealers in the Northeast, if not the nation, is Yale Appliance + Lighting, the 96-year-old BrandSource member.
Now helmed by third-generation owner Steve Sheinkopf, the company successfully competes in the rough and tumble Boston market with an alluring mix of luxury appliances, plumbing fixtures and lighting; two spacious and attractive showrooms; an emphasis on stellar service; and a well-honed staff and highly disciplined approach to business.
To gain insight into Yale’s operation and share in its best practices, BrandSource’s Power Dealer contingent, in town this week for its yearly powwow, paid a visit to Sheinkopf’s larger 14,000-square-foot store, located in an historic brick warehouse within the city’s Dorchester section.
Led by sales VP Dennis MacDonald and operations VP Leo Goncalves, the members – themselves comprised of some of BrandSource’s largest retail chains – toured the three-floor facility, from the downstairs scratch-and-dent section to the loft-like main showroom and the phone sales centers above.
Among the takeaways, visitors were impressed by Yale’s stringent sales training standards. Following an extensive sales training program, new staffers must first make their bones working the phone sales queue, MacDonald noted, which still represents a significant sales channel.
Dealers were also impressed by little touches like the use of Masonite to protect customers’ floors. Yale’s stance is that there is free delivery and then there is exceptional delivery. The coverings are one small example that sends a message of care and concern, and also help justify Yale’s higher-than-box delivery prices, MacDonald said.
Others made note of a simple floor display that used a loud and intentionally unattractive custom refrigerator panel to demonstrate the difference between standard and counter-depth models.
MacDonald also pointed out an empty space on the sales floor with an overhead digital clock in countdown mode. The space, he explained, will be home to a forthcoming Gaggenau display, while the clock is ticking down the time to keep the vendor and Yale on point to hit the project’s deadline.
MacDonald also had some tough love for his fellow members back at the Power Dealers meeting. Taking independents to task for dwelling in the opening-price-point zone, he said he didn’t buy the oft heard excuse of “‘Well, the box stores sell it.’”
“That’s a death statement,” he declared. “Start pushing your yourselves; if your core price is $399, why not $429?”
MacDonald also urged dealers to take a “fresh eyes” approach to their businesses – to see their stores through the eyes of a first-time customer, beginning in the parking lot and even extending to the restroom. All can make an important first impression, he said.
Members described the store tour and idea-sharing as beyond beneficial. “It’s so valuable,” commented Jason Horst, marketing director of Famous Tate Appliance & Bedding Centers in Tampa, who even gleaned some forklift tips. “It can’t happen over emails or through phone calls. It’s in the conversations we have while visiting other showrooms that we can pick up ideas on how we can do things better,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sheinkopf and company are busy preparing for the fourth-quarter opening of a third location that will their biggest yet at 22,000 feet, and are planning for the next 96 years of serving the greater Boston community.