07 November 2009

A retailer to know: Monica Schramm

Local Home + Gifts Media PA is a stylish home decor store in the Philadelphia suburbs operated by Monica SchrammHome décor retailer Monica Schramm joined six like-minded independent storeowners in a co-op advertising campaign to promote their hometown of Media, Pa., a suburb 30 minutes west of Philadelphia.
Schramm owns Local Home + Gifts, a business she bought 15 months ago. Owners of a women's apparel store, a men's clothing shop, an optical boutique, a handmade glass gallery, a spa, a restaurant and Schramm bought three advertisements in Philadelphia magazine to promote services, shopping and dining in Media. The "Style on State" campaign is supported with a website.
In addition to the print ad, Schramm promotes her business with a website and Facebook page. "Facebook has been great for us," she says. She gives fans a first look at new merchandise. A monthly e-mail newsletter typically shows what's new and what's on sale, and offers a discount. Local Home + Gifts participates in the Style on State campaign. Retail store photos
Schramm was a customer of the gift store when the owners decided to move. They didn't want to close the store, so they sought a buyer. Enter Schramm, who bought the store in June 2008. She has a business background, but not in retail. The former owners showed her the ropes, then she was on her own. After a year, she started to make changes as she learned about new vendors, lines and what her customers wanted.
Schramm added baby gifts, including albums, onesies, burp cloths, frames, and socks. This category is in among the top sellers. Local Home + Gifts is a popular destination for shoppers gifts for babies, brides, hostesses or new homeowners. Bath and body items and candles round out the top three categories.
The retailer describes the store's point of view as "unique and contemporary, without being trendy." When she buys, she seeks a variety and she seeks uniqueness. Schramm is well aware of what nearby retailers carry. Schramm wants the one-of-a-kind or unique item. She doesn't buy deep, preferring "four, not 100" of an item. When they sell, that's it and she's on to something new. Of course, she does reorder the standbys, like candles, and bath and body. She found new lines and vendors at the New York International Gift Fair. Lately, she has been looking for lower-priced items that don't compromise her style. She is also experimenting with brand-name gifts. Vera Bradley stationery products have been successful, she said.
The store does stay true to its name by carrying handmade items from local artists and food vendors. A painter, a potter, and a chocolatier sell their wares in Local Home + Gifts. Schramm held an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting one evening. The distributor set up a table in the store and demonstrated the products. Sales were so good that Schramm ended up carrying the line.

Another successful store event was a "handy woman" night, at which women learned such skills as fixing a toilet and hanging wallpaper. The retailer also participates in the Media Arts Council's "late night," a monthly event held on the second Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m.
Schramm feels she is good at customer service. If she doesn't remember a shopper's name, she'll usually remember what she bought on her last visit. (Schramm also likes to play the role of personal shopper.) Either way, it's a good way to start a conversation and engage the shopper.
"Customers consistently comment on the relaxing mood of the store," she said. Scents and music add to the customer experience. "We want the customers to be relaxed and feel at home here - or maybe more like they're at a spa." Schramm and her husband Kevin select appropriate music for the store.

Local Home + Gifts is open Tuesdays to Saturdays (until the holiday shopping season begins). Though Schramm is the sole employee, she can count on her neighbors and fellow Project 3/50 members for moral, marketing and business support.

This article originally appeared on the Gift and Home Channel.

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