Transforming the former office space into a modern-looking power equipment dealership was going to take some work. "This store is Brett's baby," Brian tells. "She had a clear vision for what she wanted this store to look like and worked tirelessly to make it happen."
According to Brett, her husband, every employee (especially Troy C. and Ramiro T. from the Milpitas store), local contractors Concrete Ideas and Valenti Construction, and all of the dealership's long-time distributors did an amazing job, as well. "Everyone was brave enough to say, 'Hey, why don't you try this?' They all had a lot of valuable input and guided us through the entire process."
Brett first conceptualized her dream store on a trip to Italy. "The stores there had this small-town, welcoming feel," she says. "And the people were so nice. They made you feel comfortable and glad to be there. Everything was laid out in a way that drew you in. That's the atmosphere I wanted our Sunnyvale store to have."
So the Santos
borrowed some money, purchased the building and started remodeling. Some highlights of the
• Showroom is sectioned into three areas separated by archways
• A glass storefront and abundant windows in the first section of the showroom allow natural light to create a sense of warmth as customers first enter the store
• Product is merchandised by brand, which appeals to the dealership's often brand loyal customers
• Decorative concrete and stone-patterned floors add to the upscale feel already created by the sleek walls, classy lighting and unique displays
• Men's and women's restrooms, conveniently off to the side of the showroom, rival any swank boutique in terms of cleanliness
• Fastest-moving parts are showcased on a wall display as customers enter the second tier of the showroom
JUST LIKE 'BRAND' NEW
Along with the welcoming, small-town feel she experienced in Italy, Brett wanted the Sunnyvale store to convey one other thing. Customers had long known the business as Milpitas Mowers and Garden Equipment Clinic, which created some confusion. Brett wanted to create a single name that strengthened the dealership's brand and could be marketed more effectively. She and Brian settled on MMI Power Equipment.
They hired a professional to create a new logo, which is incorporated on business cards and other stationary, on the floor and walls of the store, and, of course, signage. Also, while vendor-supplied posters and wall displays are part of the overall merchandising scheme, others with the name MMI Power Equipment are also utilized.
"Suppliers like to give you advice on what works when it comes to merchandising," Brett says. "Sometimes, it's really what will work best for them to help their product sell. We need something that will work for us, though. That's what we think this store creates. Fortunately, our suppliers have been very supportive; the long-lasting relationships made us feel very secure to move on."
SYSTEMS FOR BETTER SERVICE
Marketing and merchandising are only half of the re-branding effort Brett and Brian Santo have undertaken. They're also trying to reaffirm their commitment to service, making some personnel changes and implementing procedural systems in the process.
As a result of the buyout of their former partner, the Santos needed to bring someone on who could run the Sunnyvale store the way it needed to be run. Enter Jeremy Cook, a long-standing employee who recently returned to the dealership after trying his hand at real estate.
The Santos also enlisted the help of consultant Bob Clements to, among other things, put an employee handbook together with individual compensation plans for each employee. Every employee needs to understand that, for the Sunnyvale store to succeed, superior customer service must be at the heart of everything.
"Brian is very meticulous and regimented," Brett says. "Since he's such a self-starter, he kind of expects others to do the same. But that's not always the case. Sometimes you have to address issues before they get out of hand. The employee handbook will help a lot because it's all there in writing; this is your job description, this is acceptable behavior and this isn't, and so on."