I experienced the importance of this a few weeks ago. Dunham’s Department Store in Wellsboro is a family-owned store founded in 1905.
They’re also one of my wife’s clients. She came home from a meeting with owners John and Nancy Dunham after Thanksgiving and over supper talked about the meeting.
“After the meeting, when I was looking around, I saw the most beautiful coat,” she said. I was half listening but remembered something about “soft” and “rust color.”
It was so beautiful, she said, and there was only one in her size. She was sure it would be gone in a few days.
A couple weeks later, I did a book signing at From My Shelf Books, another locally owned, indie business. I walked up to Dunham’s, hoping they might still have the coat and could identify it with my meager two clues.
I ran into John and Nancy in the snack shop, sat down and had a bowl of soup and coffee.
“Linda saw a coat,” I said. I don’t know anything about it except it’s soft and rust colored.”
Nancy thought it over. “Well, I think I saw her looking at a coat in the display window.” She thought some more. “Based on what she’s bought in the past — like that white jacket a couple years ago. . . I think. . . let me go look.”
She returned with a coat. I had no idea if it was it. “I think it is,” Nancy said. John nodded in agreement. “That looks like her.”
For the first time in my life I said, ‘I’ll take it” without even asking the price.
“Do you want it wrapped?” Yes.
I was pretty nervous Christmas morning. If it wasn’t the right one my wife would be very disappointed. If it was the right one, it would make her whole Christmas.
It was the right one.
Imagine this. Go to Bon Ton or Sears, or Macy’s . Can you sit down with the owners and have a coffee? Can you say your wife saw a coat two weeks before, give a couple vague clues and have them bring it out and hand it to you gift wrapped?
Not a chance.
The Dunhams know all their regular clientele so well that on buying trips they pick out clothes based on their customers’ tastes!
Yes, I also like the idea that I’m supporting local business and keeping money circulating in the community, contributing to it health.
But I’m also grateful to John and Nancy for making my wife’s Christmas special. (It’s nearly impossible for a man to buy a woman clothes she actually likes.)
Dunham’s has been around for 112 years, succeeding on the premise that knowing and caring about your customers is the best kind of marketing.