Tailoring Directly to Their Customers: A Chat With Sue & Robert Prenner
BP: There’s been things we’ve tried that haven’t made money, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them mistakes. We’ve learned from them and turned them into positives. They tend to be more in the bricks and mortar side of things. Years ago opening up a store in D.C. that didn’t work out made us learn that we being control freaks and so hands-on that we couldn’t really manage from a distance, unless we had a whole network of people and we couldn’t afford to do that. Again, a couple of outlet stores in small towns in malls didn’t work out.
SP: Concepts were right but the execution was wrong and it was very costly mistakes. On a catalog basis, in 2003 and 2004 we did a women’s and children’s catalog which was a spin-off of the regular catalog. It was really beautiful and seemed a natural extension of where we were, because we were increasing the women’s product, but it really wasn’t the right way for us to go. We haven’t eliminated women’s, it just that we’ve kept in within the catalog. We also have a separate women’s store across the street from our men’s store rather than having them under the same roof. It wasn’t the right direction for us to go in at that time, maybe in the future it will be, but right now I still feel that we learned from that and we made our decision not to proceed in that direction.
BP: Obviously there have been a lot of mistakes, any business makes a lot mistakes I think. Lots of them turned out to be the typical mistakes — hiring the wrong person, not getting rid of someone when you should have, etc.
SP: Both of us can make mistakes in terms of management style, because we’re so hands-on in a way, makes us less able to deal with some of the management of people issues that arise. We could be very busy doing resourcing and so we don’t have time to really watch somebody develop or not develop until that person hasn’t developed fast enough and it’s time to let them go.