Retailer Uses Database to Serve Executive Clientele (711 words)
Think of some of the Fortune 100 companies based in the New York City metropolitan area. Chances are their CEOs and presidents live in a wealthy Fairfield County, CT, suburb. And if so, they may very well do their shopping at Mitchells of Westport. That's where these executives find the Armani suits they like, sold to them the personal and old-fashioned way. And it's all made possible through a comprehensive database of customer information.
Mitchells started out as a small family-owned boutique in Westport, CT, specializing in high-end apparel. It's been around since 1958, when it was founded as Ed Mitchell's by the man of the same name. (The store later changed its name to reflect the addition of more women's clothing; now 42 percent of its shoppers are women.)
One-to-one customer service has always been Mitchells' competitive advantage—"...in the beginning when we were a mom-and-pop and now when we're a large specialty retailer," says CEO Jack Mitchell.
In 1995, Ed Mitchell turned the day-to-day operation of the business over to sons Jack and Bill, who is now president. That was also the year it bought competing retailer Richards in Greenwich, CT, which it operates independently.
BUILDING A DATABASE
From the early days of the business when sales reps kept cards with notes about each customer to today when the retailer has a database that houses profiles on more than 50,000 active customers and more than 10 years of transaction data, Mitchells' goal has been to customize and personalize the shopping experience. Confirms Mitchell, "Our whole architecture has been and still is focused on the customer."
To compete with mass market retailers in the 1970s, Mitchells' worked with IBM to build a database, enabling it to understand its customers and facilitate personalized marketing. By 1989, it was ready to upgrade to an IBM AS/400 system, where it could "tie every sale to every customer," Mitchell says.