Decadent Dogs is a popular retail fixture in picturesque South Haven, Michigan. The charming Lake Michigan beach town is known for its walkable environment and pet-friendly atmosphere. Decadent Dogs stays busy year round by offering a variety of toys, collars, human gifts, dog food and treats to seasonal as well as local residents.
Owner Roxanne Leder purchased the store in 2011 from the original owner and kept its original name. “I certainly recognize that dogs are highly valued members of the family and enjoy meeting families with dogs and assisting them in their lives together,” she said. The boutique offers humans an amazing assortment of merchandise, not just for canines.
“We know what humans like, too, and provide a full line of dog themed clothing, flags, gifts and décor for the home or office,” she shared. “We specialize in quality products in a price range that makes it possible for everyone to pamper their pets.” Leder even noted that her favorite product is apparel that celebrates dogs.
Leder and her six employees are dedicated to customer service. “Each customer is greeted, welcomed and helped — making a visit to our store an experience to enjoy and remember,” she said. “We carry some unique offerings; everything that the dog and its owner could need or want, delightfully displayed and in a friendly and welcoming place.” Leder explained this is what helps differentiate its boutique from the big-box retail environments.
She markets her store via its website and social media accounts. Decadent Dogs generates sales through its website using Big Commerce and social media platforms via SnapRetail. This methodology has proven quite successful for the business.
Like many retailers, Leder’s biggest operational challenge is managing staff and staff retention, but she has found great resources to help her run the business. She has utilized the services of a Whiz Bang Training Mentor and the resources at the Small Business Development Center. “Their office is located at Western Michigan University, 40 miles away, and they also make visits to the store upon request. This is a free service provided by the federal government, I call it ‘my tax dollars hard at work.’ Their advice is valuable,” emphasized Leder.
When the pandemic closed many retailers, Decadent dogs remained open, with limited hours. During some of that time it offered only curbside pickup and home delivery to its customers. “During March, April and May we just sold food, which we only have a 30% markup on and sold not much of it … and we did not have enough sales to make expenses. Since Memorial Day sales have almost returned to normal, as our tourist town has reopened under social distancing rules,” she said.
When asked if the pandemic has affected how the store conducts business, Leder shared: “Yes, the six-foot distancing is the hardest part as our store’s success is built on greeting, interacting and our friendliness. Talking through a mask and staying six feet away makes it harder to establish that friendly connection.”
COVID-19 also impacted the store’s merchandising techniques. Before the pandemic, Leder used windows to highlight specific products and entice customers into the store. Now window displays are helping customers shop, visually.
“During the full lockdown I started putting obvious prices on items in the windows. Posting prices helped people make decisions while viewing and we encouraged them to call or order online — even knock on the door and ask to see and touch. I also posted lists of available items. For example, we specialize in breed items, so I’d put a pair of PJ pants in the window featuring a Boston Terrier and post the list of other breeds available next to it,” she explained.
Leder, like other retailers, wants to ensure her customers have what they need and turns to other resources in order to improve her business. When asked if she had any advice for others in the industry she simply said: “Never complain to anyone except someone that can help to solve your issue.”
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