Spring 2020
Making it Personal By Joe Tacosik

Retailers offer instant gratification through customization with P. Graham Dunn program

In the day and age of instant gratification, onsite personalization and customization have become essential for specialty gift retailers. From gifts and drinkware to wedding items and mementos, the ability to customize a product has become highly sought after.

Ms. Jackson's Class Pencil Holder from P Graham Dunn
Customization is available with P. Graham Dunn’ program. All photos courtesy of P. Graham Dunn.

In 2008, P. Graham Dunn looked to take what made their factory experience unique and find a way to deliver that to retailers — hoping to create that same instant customization experience for their customers.

“Being a domestic manufacturer, people have always been drawn toward the machinery in the shop, like the paint machine, laser engravers, etc.,” said Brandon Simmons, sales director at P. Graham Dunn. “Customers are always drawn toward things that are moving, and we thought — how do we take this factory experience and bring that into a retail environment?”

P Graham Dunn's Maybe Swearing Will Help Sign

From there, Simmons said, it was about ensuring that the company’s new laser engraving program would not only give retailers a whole new product offering — but that it would make them a destination in their respective communities.

“We all know what it’s like to procrastinate and wait until the last second to pick up a gift,” Simmons added. “This helps stores become a ‘destination location’ by offering on-the-spot personalization — and instant gratification — with a short turnaround.”

Customized Beach Tag Sign from P Graham Dunn

The process for retailers looking to add P. Graham Dunn’s laser engraving to their offerings is thorough but well worth the investment, according to Simmons. He said after an initial round of gathering information on the potential retailer, the company will then provide retailers with a complete breakdown of cost and information, as well as full-scale training on how to use the program in your own store, post-purchase.

Customized engraving from P Graham Dunn

“Overall turnaround is roughly 30 days, start to finish,” Simmons said. “After the application is submitted, we review the application to ensure there’s no conflicts of interest and no red flags financially, and then after the store is approved, walk them through the next steps.”

We Make It Personal

Since 1987, Ron Monokian and his wife have owned and operated a handful of Hallmark stores. In 2010, Monokian said he and his wife made the decision to incorporate P. Graham Dunn’s program into all three of his stores, noting it was a “perfect fit” for his customers.

P Graham Dunn Make Yourself at Home Wooden Sign

“It created a reason for people to come into our Hallmark stores,” Monokian said. “Over the last 10 years, Hallmark has opened up distribution to everyone, so we’re no longer the main channel for Hallmark cards. So (the P. Graham Dunn program) has given people a new product offering … a new reason to come into our stores.”

In 2012, however, Monokian had a new business idea — to take P. Graham Dunn’s laser engraving program and develop an entirely new business around the idea of laser engraving and customization. Thus, We Make It Personal, a customization and engraving shop in Ocean City, New Jersey, was born.

“As far as I know, we’re the only ones who have taken (the program) and made it a store entirely of its own,” Monokian said.

The concept of We Make It Personal was simple: offer customers an opportunity to shop a unique collection of items, all available to be customized and personalized for yourself, or as a gift for a loved one, friend or family member. Monokian said the idea of customization, thanks to the laser engraving program, has presented new ways to interact with his customers — both new and returning.

“It’s an item that you really have to have interaction with your customers,” Monokian said. “You can’t put (the laser engraving machines) in your store and expect it to sell itself. We’ve had it for more than 10 years now and I still have to be on the sales floor, interacting (with customers).”

Expanding Business

Ashley Etzkorn is the owner of Ivy Hutch Flowers in Delphos, Ohio. When she purchased the store in 2013 and relocated to downtown Delphos, that’s when she said she really began to see the business shift from a regular retail shop to more of a specialized gift shop-type customer base. It was then that she decided to look into adding customization options to their retail offerings.

“We were always looking to see what the next piece was going to be for our shop,” Etzkorn said. “That’s when we found P. Graham Dunn, and were able to go from being just flowers, to doing flowers, gifts, engraved items … things like that.”

It was the ability to add customization and engraved gifts that Etzkorn credits for a growth in the business — helping Ivy Hutch separate itself from its competitors.

“We’re the only one in town that engraves anything, other than the jewelry store,” Etzkorn added. “Just being that multilevel flower shop, engraving store, gift store … it helps us be that one-stop shop that some other flower shops can’t provide.”

A Corporate Shift

One area that both Monokian and Etzkorn have seen their respective businesses grow exponentially is in corporate gifts — whether it be for seminars or employee appreciation items.

At Ivy Hutch, Etzkorn said after starting to work on corporate orders in late 2019, they received their biggest order to date — laser engraved cups for a local business in town — as well as customized pocket knives for a local factory as gifts for all of their employees.

“We’re being sought out for (corporate gifts) like Christmas gifts, etc., a lot more regularly,” Etzkorn said. “It has changed our business because it has created more annual business and created more of a word-of-mouth type promotion for our products.”

As for We Make It Personal, Monokian said they have received very similar orders in the corporate space, which has helped them better understand what types of gifts employers may be looking to give their employees.

“A lot of our (corporate orders) go toward Yeti-type cups and tumblers, with employees bringing in coffee, tea, etc., to work — it’s very versatile,” Monokian said. “Stuff like slate coasters, as well, have been a great item for us in corporate — there are a lot of different ways they can go.”

But ultimately, it’s the ability to create items that people will cherish that Etzkorn says has had the biggest impact on their business at Ivy Hutch.

“We call it the ‘moments’ of their lives,” Etzkorn said. “Baby showers, weddings, graduations, Christmas presents — adding customization has provided so many more reasons our customers can come back to us.”

Joe Tacosik

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