July 29, 2018

Gliebers Dresses: The Oral History of the Nashua Pop Up Store

If this stuff isn't your cup of tea, go ahead and read about the e-commerce and retail marketplace for mattresses (click here).

The "oral history" reflects actual comments and quotes from Gliebers Dresses Management as they discuss a recent "Pop Up" store endeavor in Nashua, NH.

Pepper Morgan Pressley (Chief Marketing Officer):  You'd think the CMO would be aware of any marketing tactics being employed at Gliebers Dresses. You'd think, right?

Lois Gladstone (Chief Financial Officer):  Roger Morgan has a big budget. A really big budget. Enough money to buy all the Woodside Research reports he want, or heck, he could start his own company if he wanted to. In fact, I can recall two or three times when he's done just that.

Roger Morgan (Chief Operations Officer):  This was back in May. I just finished reading a satisfying $1,495 research report from Woodside Research, titled "Eight Reasons Why Pop-Up Stores Are A Key Trend For 2018". The report inspired me to do something. I mean, wasn't that a theme from a recent conference ... "Do Something"?

Meredith Thompson (Chief Merchandising Officer):  Roger's team touches every product we sell. If he doesn't ship it, the customer doesn't get it. And Roger's team implemented our new inventory system in 2016. He knows what sells and what doesn't sell. In retrospect, it shouldn't have been a surprise that he'd eventually come up with some crazy scheme to do something with my merchandise.

Roger Morgan: So I did something. I was buying one of those "chair-and-a-halves" from Bernie & Phyl's furniture in Nashua, and the store manager was explaining to me how the leather section of the store just didn't have any traffic. Then she asked me why I was carrying a thick document in my left hand, so I showed her the report about pop-up stores from Woodside Research. That's the origin story for our pop-up store.

Meredith Thompson:  June is such a tough month. We're selling everything at 40% off, trying to improve our "open to buy" position. We've got a ton of winners, really good-selling stuff, but we bought too much of it. I hate having to give it away at 40% off.

Roger Morgan: So the store manager and I agree that for two weeks at the end of June I can run a pop-up store over by the over-sized leather couches and love seats. I got on my phone and opened the Gliebers Dresses Inventory App that my team programmed but Meredith never uses. We call it GDIA. And GDIA tells me that there are twenty styles that we're in a terrible inventory position in but the style are top sellers. My team set aside a thousand units and we were off to the races.

Meredith Thompson:  A week later I'm looking at our inventory reporting and I noticed that our positions in several winners seemed to improve a lot. I'm thinking, "that's good, but something doesn't smell right here." I was missing something like $30,000 of merchandise. So I started digging through our catalog reporting, trying to get to the bottom of the issue.

Pepper Morgan Pressley:  Meredith starts asking me all sorts of questions about the June Sale catalog. Like I have time to figure out why the June Sale catalog is trending above plan when website customers are performing below average in early June.

Lois Gladstone:  Meredith asked me what our forecast for June looked like? I could answer that in a nano-second ... too few sales and too much merchandise in the warehouse.

Roger Morgan: Once I had the merchandise it was just a matter of getting the stuff down to Nashua. And I needed signage. And a marketing plan. And employees. And a Point of Sale System.

Lois Gladstone:  The thing that confused me was when our Distribution Center Manager said that she was going to spend a few weeks in Nashua. I said "Who in New England vacations in Nashua in June" and she just looked at me like I swallowed a live kitten.

Pepper Morgan Pressley:  I got a call from the ad rep at Oldies Radio WGHM. He offered us a 30% discount if we ran at least $10,000 of ads from June 15 to June 30. Wut? I told him we had no interest in running ads in the second half of June. The phone went dead, almost like he thought I swallowed a live kitten or something.

Roger Morgan: I've got enough budget to pay for $10,000 of ads without anybody knowing anything. So I hired Mandy Moore of "This Is Us" fame to be our Influencer. She read the scripts for the radio ads, which began airing on June 15. Ms. Moore was born in New Hampshire, and was more than happy to read six lines of text I wrote for her for $35,000 in compensation and some free merch that she featured on Instagram.

Lois Gladstone:  We had no idea Mandy Moore was doing radio ads.

Meredith Thompson:  Nobody listens to radio anymore, so we had no idea that Mandy Moore was doing radio ads.

Pepper Morgan Pressley:  My Mom was listening to WGHM and she recorded a clip on her cassette tape boom box of the ad that aired on June 15. Sure enough, right after Bobby Darin's "Beyond The Sea" there was Mandy Moore telling all of Nashua to visit the Gliebers Dresses pop up store inside Bernie & Phyl's furniture store, June 15 - 30 only.

Lois Gladstone: When Pepper shared the audio clip with me, I thought to myself, "Who still owns a cassette boom box?"

Pepper Morgan Pressley:  Mandy Moore was telling the residents of Nashua to visit a Gliebers Dresses pop up store inside the Bernie & Phyl's furniture store. How do you wrap your brain around that?

Meredith Thompson:  The first thing I thought when Pepper played the tape at an Executive Meeting was "Why doesn't Pepper ever have any crazy ideas like this?" The second thing I thought was "I'm gonna punch Roger Morgan in the brain for stealing my merchandise."

Lois Gladstone:  That's when the customers started coming ... in droves.

Meredith Thompson:  Here's an interesting fact. Did you know that there isn't a dressing room at Bernie & Phyl's?

Lois Gladstone:  Roger is working the cash register and Dana from the warehouse is the customer service rep. And Dana's freaking out because people want to try stuff on and there's no dressing room. 

Meredith Thompson:  Roger didn't seem to care. He just kept telling Dana to collect email addresses or phone numbers as customers took the merchandise out to their cars to try it on, mumbling something about "omnichannel customer management".

Lois Gladstone:  I consider it a blessing that only 1 in 4 items were stolen.

Pepper Morgan Pressley:  To this day, I still have no idea where Roger obtained all those mannequins. And I have no idea how he was able to get the mannequins to sit on those leather love seats that nobody wanted to buy.

Lois Gladstone:  Apparently Roger signed a fifteen day lease, and paid $10,000 out of his own budget.  Which reminds me, I'm responsible for signing off on his budget each year. We're gonna have a talk about what he has in store for 2019.

Meredith Thompson:  So Roger sells out of everything within two days. Everything that wasn't stolen, of course. He calls me from Nashua and wants a couple hundred thousand dollars of merch shipped to him. He's tired of hearing about how customers wanted to meet Mandy Moore so they could ask her why she married Jack's BFF Miguel on "This Is Us", and just wants to put dresses in their hands to shut them up. I didn't give him a unit. Not one. Idiot.

Pepper Morgan Pressley:  Roger calls and asks me to capitalize on the Mandy Moore thing online, he's thinking that we need content on the website and in email and on Instagram about how Mandy Moore loves Gliebers Dresses. And I said no. Nothing. He doesn't get any help from me. Not when you act like a cowboy.

Lois Gladstone:  Roger calls me and asks for twenty thousand dollars so that he can do some TV ads in Boston to promote the website. He thinks that Mandy Moore should integrate "This Is Us" and Gliebers Dresses and that we could partner to come up with a storyline that links into Season 3. He thinks the whole thing will act a lot like free marketing.

Glenn Glieber (Owner, CEO, Gliebers Dresses):  I love free marketing!

Lois Gladstone:  I told him "No". No more. He always talks about how we need to be an omnichannel brand. But he doesn't want to collaborate with us in an omnichannel manner.

Meredith Thompson:  I had to ask our IT Director, who reports to Roger no less, to shut down that stupid inventory app that nobody uses so that Roger couldn't get access to any more of my merchandise.

Lois Gladstone:  As a team, we shut down Cowboy Roger and Diablo Dana.

Glenn Glieber:  Even after you account for the fact that 25% of the merchandise was stolen, Roger sold $26,000 of merchandise in two days. If he was running his own store he'd have sold $4.7 million on an annual basis. What does a typical 6,000 square foot retail store do these days, a million? Think about what Roger accomplished.

Lois Gladstone:  Roger's gimmick cost us $50,000 of profit. Fifty-thousand dollars. And how does he respond? He says he won't buy any content from Woodside Research for two months. He's kept his word so far, and if he keeps his word, we'll break-even on the whole debacle.

Pepper Morgan Pressley: What's interesting, of course, is that for the final two weeks of June our website ran 40% over plan. All those radio ads and Instagram posts seemed to help.

Meredith Thompson:  How in the name of all that is good did Roger Morgan get Mandy Moore to do work for Gliebers Dresses? I keep coming back to that. How did he do that? And why in the heck doesn't Pepper come up with ideas like that?

Pepper Morgan Pressley:  If I told the Executive Team in May that I was going to hire Mandy Moore as an Influencer for a pop-up store I was going to run inside of a furniture store in Nashua, the room would have crucified me, then mocked me, then fired me.

Roger Morgan:  The last thing you do in business is ask for permission. Everybody knows that.

Lois Gladstone:  June turned out to be one of the best months we've had in a long time.

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