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Décorworx Aims To Help Independents Differentiate

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Last updated on June 13th, 2024 at 11:51 am

by Terrie Ellerbee/editor–Midwest and Southwest

 

Utah-based Décorworx creates beautiful shopping environments, and it has done so for humongous grocery and mass merchandise stores. But the whole dynamic of the company changed when a conscious decision was made to turn its focus to independent grocers, Jeff Dansie, president and owner, tells The Shelby Report.

“We sat down and found a way to work with every small independent across the country,” he said. “It’s so much more personal and intimate. We’ll help the 10,000-s.f. store in Bozeman, Montana (pop. 43,000), or a store in Chester, Montana (pop. about 1,000). We’ll figure out a way to work with them. Our business is set up to help that independent grocer be successful, and that’s really the way we think about it.”

Jeff Dansie

Tiffiney Christiansen, director of business development, expanded on what it means to serve the independent.

“I believe that by helping these independent, smaller companies that we’re really helping the American economy,” she said. “Big conglomerates, they just take over everything. If we can help the little guy, it feels good. It feels right. They allow us a lot of creativity, and they’re just darned cool people.”

Dansie said oftentimes the independent grocer works so hard to provide for its local community that it can lose its own identity. Décorworx does the job of reminding them who they are, because their identity is their point of differentiation.

“We go in and we talk to them about what’s their story? What’s their brand? Who are they? Where are they now and where do they want to go?” Dansie said. “Rather than just putting décor up on the walls and some letters and paint, we actually sit down and find out what their story is, what makes them unique. What binds them to the community and the community to them? Then they understand who they are, and they get excited about who they are. And ultimately that leads to an increase in sales.”

Tiffiney Christiansen

To get there, Christiansen said the company works to get to the heart of the independent’s unique story; for example, how many generations there have been or whether they’re just starting out. Décorworx uses the independent’s strength—local ties—to help it stay in business by acknowledging the established customer base and drawing in new customers.

“So, for example, say we are going into Bozeman or Chester. We travel to the store. We meet with the owners. We drive around the area. We talk to their customers. It’s a very personal touch, and we create this relationship with them so that when we come back, we’ve got photos, we’ve got quotes…and suddenly this store has an image,” she said. “It has a feeling so that when their customers walk in, they just don’t want to leave. That’s the idea.”

The skill set required to get all the way through to a completed job sometimes can stretch to family or marriage counseling. Décorworx employees have been at the table between a husband and wife with different ideas.

“You have no idea,” Christiansen said, laughing. “We’ve seen tears. We want to send them fruit baskets the last week of their remodel, because it is hard.”

 

See images from the stores mentioned in this story and more in our media gallery. Hover over an image with your cursor to see the store’s name and location.

 

Budgeting and big bumps

One of the challenges Décorworx has to overcome when serving the independent grocer is budgeting. Over time, the firm has developed a system featuring five levels. Christiansen said the company can do something as simple as aisle markers. That would be a level one program. A full-blown, custom décor package would rank as a five. Harmons in downtown Salt Lake was a level-five job. She said Décorworx custom-designed nearly every single piece in that store.

“It helps the customer really kind of wrap their mind around the fact that they can upgrade their store,” Christiansen said. “They can see what they can afford, and then it helps us to be able to design and fit it to their budget.”

Some have even thought that if they made their store look too nice their customers would be scared away. Christiansen said it is possible to get it wrong, to be “too over the top.”

“That’s why we go into the location, we look at it, and maybe it’s just something really clean and simple,” she said.

It can be a subtle change, and maybe shoppers aren’t exactly sure why being in a store makes them feel good, she said. Ultimately, the goal is to provide a place for them to enjoy what most consider a chore.

“That can make all the difference,” Dansie said. “We strive really hard to make that connection because people can go online and buy groceries now. And the big difference, for us, is to be able to help these independents compete with those outside forces by creating a welcoming, inviting environment. To make that location as inviting as possible is really what we set out to do.”

Chris Clark

Some grocers admit to being frightened by the investment. Chris Clark, regional accounts manager, said many “maybe don’t realize the investment they put in the store, especially in the décor—and that’s the area we have researched—we’ve had across-the-board returns on investment that far surpassed any other modifications that we’re aware of, so this is a process that actually pays the owner back.”

The company tracks how stores do sales-wise for more than a year after completing a project. The difference Décorworx can make has been proved by sales bumps ranging from 13 to 30 percent. The work Décorworx did on corporate-owned Maceys locations in Utah for Salt Lake City-based Associated Food Stores returned about an 18 percent increase in sales across the board. Associated Food Stores put all of its corporate-owned stores on a schedule to be remodeled.

Sometime the increase runs higher. Lowe’s Signature Market in Alamogordo, New Mexico, saw its sales increase 40 percent vs. before the remodel.

“That’s pretty huge in the grocery world,” Dansie said. “We really work with that store owner to make sure that they get that return on investment that they need and that the store does well.”

Clark’s Market, an independent in Colorado that operates seven upscale locations, some in resort towns like Aspen, Snowmass and Telluride, also has its stores on a remodel rotation with Décorworx because of the impressive returns.

“That’s usually the indicator,” Christiansen said. “They see their sales jump. The employees feel really good about where they’re working. The morale picks up. They’re gaining new customers.”

When the Décorworx team gets the décor package just right, it is a thrill to watch the parking lot fill up and to know how excited their clients and the store’s shoppers are, she said.

“You know, that never gets old,” Christiansen said. “They’re so excited—and then we’re best friends for life. We make friends, and it turns into family.”

Clark summed it up this way: “We’re a relationship company first and a décor company second.”

See images from the stores mentioned in this story and more in our media gallery. Hover over an image with your cursor to see the store’s name and location.

About the author

Shelby Team

The Shelby Report delivers complete grocery news and supermarket insights nationwide through the distribution of five monthly regional print and digital editions. Serving the retail food trade since 1967, The Shelby Report is “Region Wise. Nationwide.”

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