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Market Watch: Registry
Online option gives boost to registries


January, 2004
By Joanne Friedrick


With the potential to boost sales and build customer loyalty, gift and wedding registries have moved from the sole domain of department stores and have found a home with specialty retailers of all sizes and formats. Elsa Pinto-Melikian’s Your Registry service is aimed at independent retailers.

Many more retailers are understanding the benefits a registry service can bring, and computerization and wider access to the Internet have made offering such a service more feasible and beneficial.

Although difficult to put a price tag on its impact, registries are definitely bottom-line boosters. “A well-serviced and well-promoted registry can boost a store’s wedding business by at least 33 percent,” commented Tony DeMasi of DeMasi Marketing, Deptford, N.J., who is working with the International Housewares Association on “Uptown, Tabletop. Styled...From China Town to Wedding Way.” The daylong program March 19 in Chicago before this year’s International Home & Housewares Show covers all aspects of the wedding business, including registry. (See related story)

DeMasi is among those who believe the Internet has helped registry to grow significantly. “The Internet has made all stores with online registries become international businesses,” he said, “enabling anyone, anywhere, to buy from that registry.”

Although stores still offer in-store only registry programs, DeMasi and others said those programs won’t have nearly the success of online offerings. “Without Internet services you’ve limited the amount of people who can shop through this method and somewhat hampered the means the couple (has to) keep track of what was purchased,” DeMasi noted.

Ron Eisenberg, owner of Great News! Discount Cookware & Cooking School in San Diego, was among those who had tried a registry under conventional methods in the past, but gave it up until he could do it online.

“We stopped doing it about six years ago,” he explained, “when computers became more and more prevalent.”

Without an online offering, he said, “we weren’t very effective. We did maybe six a year.”

Recently, Eisenberg teamed with Your Registry, which offers an on-line registry program for participating retailers.

Eisenberg said his initial plan was to do an online registry on his own, but because his point-of-sale retail system wasn’t able to integrate with a registry, Your Registry’s program was a viable alternative.

Registry is important, he said, not only for the boost it gives business - Eisenberg hopes to see his registry program increase sales by at least 15 percent - but also because it gives independent retailers another selling tool. “It’s another thing that makes us, an independent retailer, more potent in the marketplace,” he said. “We have to compete and be as good as, if not better than, the competition.”

Eisenberg said retailers such as Williams-Sonoma, Macy’s, Crate & Barrel and Sur La Table all have gift registry services.

Your Registry Inc., which Eisenberg is using, was started six years ago by President Elsa Pinto-Melikian. She said the service developed in response to independent retailers who wanted a national gift registry presence.

In doing her year-long research, Pinto-Melikian said she found retailers wanted to be online, but “it was too expensive to set up their own infrastructure.” Nor, she said, were they able to provide 24/7 support. And in many cases, she said, they didn’t even have a Web site.

“The majority (of smaller retailers) struggle with having sufficient services to compete with the big box retailers,” she said. “They wanted it (registry) to be hands-free; to have someone to manage the data, the assurance to do better at it and have the technology tools to manage it all.”

Even though Internet usage for actual purchasing is still relatively small, Pinto-Melikian said “perception is reality” and if a store doesn’t have an online registry, couples will go elsewhere for the service.

For a monthly fee, retailers receive an online registry program along with 24/7 customer service.

Additionally, Pinto-Melikian said, they can opt to receive in-store support such as presentation materials, scanners for customers to use to select registry items and consultative services. Your Registry services more than 100 retailers, including the Viking Culinary Centers and several Ace Hardware dealers.

If retailers participate fully, she said, meaning they allocate sufficient time, resources and staff, they will experience increased sales of 15 percent to 20 percent. But, Pinto-Melikian said, most retailers “underutilized the service” and thus have seen sales increases more in the 2 percent to 5 percent level.

Pinto-Melikian said successful programs have someone in the store, preferably not the owner, “who is where the buck stops - is the registry expert.”

DeMasi agreed registry works best “if it is taken seriously and done professionally.” Rather than a single registry person, DeMasi advocates “at least two people should be completely knowledgeable of all the registry’s services.”

After all, he said, “retailers must realize that a registry is not a ‘nice little service.’ It’s a business center unto itself and requires the proper time and talent to make it happen.”

Eisenberg said he designated his retail manager as the registry point person, along with some sales associates who are trained to work with customers on registry. He has also availed himself of Pinto-Melikian’s training and uses Your Registry-supplied signage and buttons to promote the program in-house.

In addition, he has put his own twist on registry, offering registrants a couple of free cooking classes if they use his service. He also launched a gift registry for recent victims of the San Diego-area wildfires, offering a 15 percent discount so friends and family in the area and around the country can help the victims re-stock their homes.

“It’s working, and it’s appreciated,” Eisenberg said of the promotion.

©2004 United Publications, Inc.

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