Judy Carlin learned one particularly valuable piece of information from her first business-ownership experience, running a Hallmark store in Green Bay in the 1980s.”I’m operating a business, not a museum,” said the owner of The Gift Shoppe in Brookfield. “Customers don’t want to see merchandise in the same place every time they come into your establishment. They like products that move and a store that stays fresh. Finding out what sells and what doesn’t has been the key to our success.”To achieve that success at her recently opened store in the 2800 block of North Brookfield Road, Carlin plans to follow the same formula that she created several years ago at her first The Gift Shoppe location in Cudahy.”I tell my sales reps that I won’t carry items that are already being sold at other stores in the area,” said Carlin, who went into business for herself in 2010, shortly after retiring from a career in financial development with the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee. “We pick things that are not sold elsewhere, so that customers will associate them with only our
store.”The Gift Shoppe’s inventory features candles, greeting cards (handpicked by Carlin), jewelry, bags, scarves and garden décor — including hundreds of wind garden spinners, priced from $13 to $100.”There’s a big Door County attitude and feel about our business,” she said. “It’s a peaceful, clean environment, geared to the homeowner, who is looking for nice, outdoor living-space items. Customers receive complete, personalized service, from helping them pick out specials gifts, to free gift-wrapping and spinner repairs.”As she does at her Cudahy store, Carlin also will feature seasonal gifts in Brookfield, with an emphasis on stock that pertains to fall and winter and their respective holidays.
Carlin’s daughter, Mackenzie, manages the new business. Previously a buyer for the sister store, the next-generation Carlin will help build The Gift Shoppe’s client base.
“Currently, there are 3,200 people in our Cudahy customer rewards program,” said Carlin. “After six purchases, they receive 10-percent back in gift certificates and are invited to our store’s after-hours parties. When these same customers circle around our rewards program three times, they become ‘bag ladies,’ entitling them to 30-percent off their entire purchase on every fifth Tuesday.
“We’ve initiated the same program in Brookfield. Even though, the demographics are a bit different here, no matter where you operate your business, people respond to quality items that don’t break the bank. In time, we hope to have the same customer loyalty in Brookfield that we enjoy in Cudahy.”
JUST THE FACTS
BUSINESS NAME: The Gift Shoppe
ADDRESS: 2835 N. Brookfield Road, Brookfield, WI 53045
PHONE: (262) 505-5629
TYPE OF BUSINESS: Retail
PEARLS OF WISDOM:Where Door County meets Lake Geneva