How The Main Dish Succeeds in the Challenged Tableware Market

The tableware industry is facing many challenges that have overcome, or threaten to do so, many industry players.  As a mature industry, it faces:

  • Slow organic growth,
  • Disruptive retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, offering a seemingly endless supply of perfectly acceptable dinnerware options for less, and
  • Brides forgoing tabletop on their registries in favor of almost anything else.

For retailers launching a destination store devoted to tabletop, dinnerware, decorative accessories and giftware, there are troubles aplenty.  And those troubles are compounded when considering the hit to the American consumers’ pocketbook the Great Recession and its aftermath have brought.

But Scottsdale, Arizona’s The Main Dish refused to be deterred and today has a thriving business thanks in no small part to understanding the needs and desires of its customers and delivering both product and shopping experiences that keep them coming back for more.  Jennifer Davis, manager of The Main Dish, explains its evolution from founder Matthew Boland’s interior design business, MMB Studio, into a shops that POPs!

“Matthew saw a desperate need for tabletop in the area, so he decided to create a one-stop location for the South West.  He envisioned The Main Dish as a destination shop which opened in March 2013.  Since them our sales have been up and we’ve had clients contact us from all over the country.  We not only cater to the design world but we also have clients who happen to be walking on the street and they pop in and become lifetime clients,” Jennifer says.

While The Main Dish originally catered to an affluent luxury customer, its growth is in no small part thanks to offering a wide range of decorative and gift items aimed for anyone with an eye for design, from  ‘design-on-a-dime’ customers to those who spare no expense when decorating their home.

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Success for The Main Dish is less about WHAT they sell and more about HOW they sell it

While customers are drawn to The Main Dish for the product experiences it offers, the success of the business is far more a result of the shopping experiences found there.

Let’s deconstruct The Main Dish’s magic to show how it expresses the 7 key elements that transform a nice store into a shop that POPs!

  • Encourages high levels of customer involvement and interaction. Shops that POP! deliver a shopping environment that fully involves the shopper and engages them interactively in the shopping experience. Jennifer and The Main Dish staff consistently work to make the shopping experience personal and engaging for its customers.  “I try not to sell the same things to people, but switch it out.  For example, we don’t do 5-piece place settings from one company. We really try to personalize it…We try to make it their own and make it a personal experience,” Jennifer says.
  • Evokes shopper curiosity.  Shops that POP! excite consumer curiosity to explore and experience the store fully.  It starts at the door and continues The Main Dish Summer 2016 Windowthroughout the store.  This summer The Main Dish’s front windows were filled with a collection of blue swimming pool floaties, products they don’t sell, but speak to the lifestyle of its Arizona clients.  Passersby’ curiosity is engaged to come in and find out what floaties have to do with a tabletop and gift store.  Jennifer explains, “I try to attract customers in off the street.  I want to entice them, do something to catch their eye, even if it is just intrigue them about pool floaties, something that gets them in and then I am going to make a friend out of them.”
  • Spark a contagious, electric quality. Shops that POP! exude energy and excitement that is contagious.  It is this quality that makes a shop a dynamic place, exciting to visit, and a thrill to be in.  That electricity starts with the staff and spread to the customers; it can’t be dialed in.  “I really want to make it an experience where shoppers feel comfortable.  Smiling is number one!  I try to make everybody that comes into the store a friend,” Jennifer explains.Jennifer Davis, manager The Main Dish
  • Creates convergence among atmosphere, store design, and merchandise, Shops that POP! present a cohesive vision that combines all the tangible and intangible elements of the store into a unified whole.  It presents a distinctive point of view that holistically ties together all the disparate elements of The Main Dish into one authentic experience.Being a part of an interior design firm, the MMB interior designers lend a hand.  Jennifer says, “It is a labor of love. Matthew is here and he has amazing taste and an eye for all of it.  And we have a fabulous team of designers here who also come in and help.”
  • Expresses an authentic concept. Shops that POP! are more than stores selling stuff — they are conceptually driven and reflect a visionary’s values. The shop transcends being just a store into a place for a new experience. The Main Dish is the ‘real deal’ and consistently carries it throughout the shop, on the website and its Facebook and Instagram pages.  While The Main Dish is powered by a quality design aesthetic, it keeps the shopping experience fun.  The staff make displays instore and online all about appealing to a design-focused customer.
  • Priced for value. Shops that POP! have a carefully constructed pricing strategy based upon offering fair value for a reasonable price. Pricing is not about how low can you go, but how much value can you offer. Pricing, therefore, hinges upon the value for the shopper, not the price tag.  “If someone is going to spend $285 for a dish, you want to make sure that it is meets their needs and that it is really what they want,” Jennifer says.
  • Be accessible, non-exclusive, and free from pretensions. Shops that POP! have all the six preceding qualities, plus another essential feature — they are immediately accessible to everyone, free from pretensions or snobbishness.  As part of the Scottsdale Art District, it caters to tourists as well as local art connoisseurs.   “We have price points from $25 beautiful Trapp candles, so we have something for everybody.  Then we have things that are $5,000…We don’t want to make anybody feel excluded,” Jennifer explains.

The key for tabletop and gift retailers to make their shops POP! is to think beyond the traditional 4Ps of marketing – Product, Price, Place, & Promotion – and embrace the new 4Es model of marketing, where the customer and the customer experience takes center stage.  Evolving from the 4Ps to the 4Es means Product becomes Experience; Price turns into Exchange; Place becomes Everyplace; and Promotion turns into Evangelism.

Get on the road to extraordinary retail success

Small is the next BIG story at retail – small as in local independent retailers, like The Main Dish.  Learn how to tap this emerging retailing trend, fueled by the desire of the highest-potential and highest-spending customers’ passion for a new shopping experience that they can’t find at the mall, in the national chains or in big box stores.  This trend will reshape the retail landscape over the next decade.  Discover 7 simple steps to transform your store from ordinary to extraordinary and learn from 17 of the nation’s best specialty retailers about what makes their shops POP!

Shops that POP!  7 Steps to Extraordinary Retail Success, will show you how to craft a retail shopping experience that’s irresistible to the most profitable shoppers looking for something special.  Order your copy today.

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