Little Things Make a Big Difference

By Catherine LeBlanc, Contributing Editor 
Located in the historic downtown district of Galveston Island, Texas, Gracie’s celebrates their 20th year in business.  Although a veteran to the area, nothing could prepare them for the destruction that was Hurricane Ike back in 2008.  Owners Keith and Genette Bassett worked hard to recover and took a total of 7 months to resurrect their business again. Now stronger than ever, Gracie’s future looks bright with endless possibilities in sight.
Gracie’s location is a prime one. They are just a few blocks away from the ocean port where cruise ships come in about four times a week.  And although they are shopped by many of the vacationers and visitors from these cruise ships, their main source of re-peat business is always their strong customer base.  With a large and unique selection of children’s products along with jewelry, home décor, accessories and bath products, customers can find just about anything at Gracie’s.
According to Genette, Gracie’s has had one amazing 2011 year in business.  “This has been a great year and 2012 is off to a wonderful start.  We know that there will always be birthdays, anniversaries and holidays that people need to buy gifts for.”  Traffic flow continues to be steady for Gracie’s with Houston, Texas not far from Galveston Island.  Genette works hard at capitalizing her local business along with targeting the tourists and local homeowners that call this area their second home.
Customer service is always at the heart of Genette’s business.  “People can always shop online and, therefore, it’s critical that our customer service is spectular.  We always go that extra mile for our customers and offer them that special attention they deserve.”  For the staff at Gracie’s, each customer is approached and they really try to make them feel welcomed as they enter the store.
Customers have made Gracie’s a true destination shop in the Galveston area.  “We hear all the time that vacationing customers make it a point to stop at our shop when they are here” says Genette.  Gracie’s is all about offering unique, refreshing and fun mix of products while staying on trend and selling products that people really want.  “We are always changing up our merchandise layout and assortment to stay fresh and new looking with our customers.  When customers mention a product or line that we don’t carry, I listen to that feedback and try hard to bring it in.  If I keep hearing about a product or line over and over again, then I know it’s something people want and need to get it in my store.”
Mother’s Day is a big holiday for Gracie’s.  “Around this time of year is the Vera Bradley new product launch and we work to try and focus our promotions around this launch” says Genette.  The weekends are always a high traffic time for Gracie’s and Genette will offer an incentive or promotion around Mother’s Day.  “I don’t offer anything too gimicy.  I want to offer something that I believe my customers will truly love and appreciate.”
Displays and visual merchandising play important roles in the success of Gracie’s.  “Moving merchandise around every two weeks helps to really keep our store looking fresh and new even to our repeat customers. Displays are everything to our business.”  For Genette, knowing that displays are so important to her business made her focus on finding the right person for the job.  “Our Manager is very creative and she is in charge of this part of our business.”  In addition to maintaining and changing her displays, Genette and her staff are very big on cleaning and straightening Gracie’s.  “I never want to see a dirty store and so we are consistently cleaning the store.  To me, it’s the little things that make a big difference when it comes to setting our shop apart from the other stores.”
When Genette is away from her shop, she will find inspiration all around her.  Even when visiting other stores or when attending the markets during her buying trips, Genette will take notes and pictures of display ideas or selling tips to bring back to her store.  “While I attend the markets, we always love hearing from our reps on what’s the next big thing or what’s really selling well.  We have built really good relationships with our reps and trust their feedback.”  This information is important to Gracie’s as it allows them to grow and evolve as a store.
Gracie’s loves to host events.  “We really like to coordinate with our reps in showcasing their lines.  We even do trunks show at different times of the year to really help in building up the brand awareness” says Genette. In addition to hosting many events throughout the year, Gracie’s also takes advantage of unique opportunities when they become available.  “Occasionally cruise ships will dock for a few hours due to fog.  Plus, if an event is happening in the downtown area and people are still lingering around, Gracie’s stays open to accommodate those customers.” They work around the needs of their customers and the traffic flow instead of what the sign on the door says about their hours of operation.  “If people are still there and coming in, Gracie’s will stay open for them” says Genette.
Marketing for Gracie’s focuses on many aspects which include maintaining their Facebook, looking to create their own Website, being members of their local Chamber of Commerce and advertising in their local newspaper.  Furthermore, Genette sends out a monthly email to her customer base updating them on their current promotions, new product introductions and upcoming events.  Then for their street traffic, Genette has a large chalkboard easel that is placed outside in front of their store which lists their events or products within Gracie’s.
For Genette, it’s all about the little things that she and her staff do that make Gracie’s so successful.  “Little things mean so much to our customers.  We offer them a drink when they enter our store and gift wrapping with purchase.  They are our guests and we are the hostess.” Gracie’s strives to make each customer’s shopping experience a unique and an inviting one.  “We work hard to keep our store well stocked all the time and we believe strongly in the merchandise we offer our customers. These days we can’t always listen to the media and all the bad news happening in the market.  We have to push onward and adjust with the changing times.”