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'Your Registry' Helps Put Independent
Retailers On The Bridal Map

March 17-30, 2003
By Cynthia Ward Vesey, Associate Editor


SACRAMENTO, CA — Elsa Pinto-Melikian's interest in gift registries began about six years ago, when she herself was getting married.

She and her husband, Armen, wanted to register at stores without in-house registry services, so they decided to create their own registry list and have the maid of honor manage it.

Realizing that they were on to something, the couple founded Your Registry in 1998.

The company is headquartered in Sacramento, CA, and has an area office in Cody, WY.

There are four full-time employees, and about 34 part-time employees. Your Registry provides registry services for retail and service merchants and their clients. Its customers are independent retailers and specialty stores, which number in the low hundreds.

"I saw a need for these services," said Pinto-Melikian, president of Your Registry, who has extensive sales and marketing experience. "I'm partial to shopping at small retailers. They have better products and service."

For many small stores, managing a gift registry isn't cost-effective. "If you look at the landscape of national gift registries, they are really dominated by national chain stores," noted Pinto-Melikian. "Independent retailers can't logistically offer service when you look at the cost of the infrastructure. It's not in their realm."

When Pinto-Melikian discovered flaws in the registry process for independents, she started talking to the retailers. "I spoke to them a lot over the course of a year," she said. "In order to have a national registry, you need Internet-based access across the nation. You need a customer service center independent of the store, and consistent service."

Your Registry has created affordable merchandising services and gift registry services, according to Pinto-Melikian.

Your Registry offers two different programs. The Complete Service Program includes a 24/7 year-round, toll-free Registry Customer Service Center, web access to registry lists, ongoing gift registry, guest and registrant support, management of orders generated from the website and toll-free number, and iPAQ programming and integration to the dealer's computer system. A registry manual, custom registration packets, personalized brochures and registry tip cards are supplied to retailers.

In addition, the company produces custom-made announcement cards for the couples registered at each retailer. The cards list each couple's names and notify guests that they are registered. The website, toll-free number and guest password are also included on the cards.

To make the process easy for retailers, Pinto-Melikian travels to the stores using the full-service program to get them started. She trains the staff, sets up the registry service and helps the retailer plan the advertising, merchandising and marketing. Because retailers who choose this program need to be able to make a time commitment, she has in-depth discussions with them before they sign a contract. This way, she can make sure the program will work for them.

For retailers who don't want all of the services, there's the A La Carte Program. It also provides the year-round Registry Customer Service Center and web access to lists, as well as a CD with custom registration forms. However, all materials, registry services and iPAQ scanning devices are a la carte and at an additional cost.

Your Registry takes a very hands-on approach when dealing with bride's registry lists. Pinto-Melikian said her experience has given her a strong sense of what works well on a registry list, and what doesn't.

If a couple registers for several expensive items, for example, the company will often call to discuss the list with the registrant and suggest changes. For example, if a registrant has a sofa or Weber barbecue on the list, Pinto-Melikian may recommend listing $100 contributions toward such gifts rather than the full price. The goal is "to have the bride receive what she requested, and the store make the sale."

By offering registries, retailers can target new shoppers, according to Pinto-Melikian. She emphasized the importance of showcasing unique products, rather than copying what everyone else is doing. "You need to stand apart," she said. "Look around you and do something different with the product." She added that retailers shouldn't buy merchandise simply to fulfill the bridal market, but should buy what suits the general clientele.

The staff you have working in your store will help determine the success of your registry, said Pinto-Melikian. "You want the most helpful, personable and knowledgeable person talking to the bride," she said. "They need to start and continue the conversation with the bride."

If you have talented, affable people working for you, Pinto-Melikian said, they can help bring in customers and keep them coming back. "One mistake retailers make is only paying people minimum wage and just trying to fill the space," she explained. "If you pay a little more, you can get someone who knows products, likes to cook and is friendly."

Retailers also need to know the demographics of their area, she said. For example, they should find out how many young, unmarried people live in the area, and how many kitchen or tabletop stores are in the area. This information will help a retailer decide what to carry in its store, according to Pinto-Melikian.

"If a store sells discounted products down the street, don't carry those items," she said. "If all the kitchen stores have KitchenAid products, choose Bosch. Play sleuth for a day, and see what the competition is doing."

Mailing list sign-up sheets at the point of sale can help stores target their most loyal customers, Pinto-Melikian said. She recommended creating an exclusive club with events and discounts only for members. Cooking classes, demonstrations, guest speakers talking about relevant topics such as how to set an elegant table, and field trips to restaurants and cooking schools are all ways to attract more customers and get people to register.

One benefit of independent retailers is their ability to give personal attention. Pinto-Melikian said the retailer should have someone accompany the brides or couples as they register — but only if the customer wants them to. "Don't insist on it," she advised. "If you're nice and not pushy, then they'll like having you hang around," said Pinto-Melikian. She stressed the importance of making appointments, so a certain amount of time is focused on the bride.

When talking to the bride, an employee should find out what she is interested in, what foods she likes to cook, if she entertains often, etc. If a customer says she doesn't want a particular item, Pinto-Melikian tells the staff to ask why. In addition to understanding the customer's needs, she said asking questions also gives retailers insight as to what products have a good reputation, and which ones don't.

© 2003 - ICD Publications

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