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The Gifted Retailer: CasaBella Interiors

Tanya Merritte, GDA Staff -- Gifts & Dec, January 23, 2013

Alisa Berry, co-owner of CasaBella Interiors in Brandon, MS, with her husband Ronnie, stays true to her store's identity.
CasaBella InteriorsAlisa and Ronnie Berry
She believes that retailers should never follow the success of another business because theirs will ultimately fail.

Gifts and Decorative Accessories: What do you like best about being a retailer?
Alisa Berry: People are the reason that my husband Ronnie and I enjoy being retailers. We truly enjoy interacting with new people, cultivating interaction and trust with each of them as we build interest in the products and services that we offer. Whenever we leave each day and know that we have made someone smile, solved a problem for a customer or completed a job with a satisfied customer there truly is no better reward for the work we do. I guess we are blessed to be successful in doing something that each of us was born to do and it shows each day.

GDA: What was the most valuable piece of business advice that you ever received?
CasaBella InteriorsAB: "Be yourself no matter what." So many times a new retailer will choose to follow the success of another business and it will work for a time but ultimately it will leave them with only being second best. We are who we are and that authenticity comes through in our marketing, product offerings and service to our customers. The product lines we carry, we believe in what they offer at the price points they are offered, or we do not carry them. Each of our vendors offers beauty, uniqueness, quality and value that fit our target market.

GDA: What is/was your most successful promotion?
AB: Small Business Saturday, which is the small business answer to black Friday. We save that best discount for this one day a year and our customers love it. They line up at the door just like it is a big box store. We have so much fun and turn it into a true event with food, music and giveaways.

GDA: What three products/lines are you best sellers?
AB: CasaBella continues to have strong sales in unique accessories and gifts for the home, upholstered furniture as well as reclaimed case goods. Our customers count on us to help them find the perfect pieces to complete each of their projects. We spend a great deal of time doing this at each market and developing good relationships with our vendor reps. We believe in our business and those relationships are the key to getting the best deals.

GDA: What are you doing to attract new customers?
AB: Referrals from pleased customers are one of our strongest means of attracting new customers. We also rely heavily on social media marketing with a strong Facebook page in addition to a large following on our Pinterest Page. By using these avenues we are able to keep our clients informed, excited and interested without spending a fortune on marketing. We would also never discount the effect that contests through social media have on our customers because everyone loves to win something.

GDA: What was your most effective display?CasaBella Interiors
AB: Our seasonal displays are always large and attractive from the road which invites both new customers as well as established customers to see what is new. Once they enter they love to explore all of the different displays from the ceiling to the floor, that never get old. Our showroom changes constantly, often times weekly which creates a huge buzz and compliments from our customers about how it never looks old and it is always on track with what is going on in our community.

GDA: How do you find your best employees?
AB: Good customers who love your style, offerings and appreciate the service that we offer have turned into our best place to choose our employees from. They are already familiar with everything, love the opportunity to experience the satisfaction of helping someone else experience what we were able to provide for them in the same manner it was provided to them. It also has created loyalty among new customers and in the community by giving those who already do business with you that opportunity.

GDA: What was your biggest retail problem and how did you solve it?
AB: When you consider retail as a constant adventure your perspective about what you most consider to be a problem is different. That does not mean that we do not experience growth challenges, we just choose to view them as just that and not as problems. When you put that spin on something it is much easier to set goals, to achieve and before you know it you are able to overcome the challenge-whatever it may be. Positive perspective is clearly the fastest means to obtaining success that I have ever known.

GDA: How is the current economy affecting your business?
CasaBella InteriorsAB: CasaBella opened in June 2009 during what most consider very difficult economic times. We chose from the beginning to see it as an opportunity to do something different, when others pulled back we added more, when they spoke of how bad things are we talked about how blessed we were to have each sale. It goes back to the power of a positive perspective. When you allow negativity in then you're doomed. Our customers have taught us that they are still willing to buy quality, out of the ordinary items when offered with exceptional service at a smart price point. We also offer product across the board with different price points and we explain to our customers that as long as you know what you are getting for what you spend then it's okay to buy it. In other words if you know that a sofa offered at $599 is good quality and will last you about five years if you care for it properly maybe more than if that fits your budget, then by all means buy it. But if a sofa that costs $1,500 is prettier, has more options, constructed in a manner to last you 10 to 15 years then if your budget will allow it, buy it. It truly is what it is and once a customer understands that concept they are empowered to buy the quality they can afford thereby making what they really want affordable.

GDA: What advice would you give to a struggling retailer?
AB: One way that we would encourage a struggling retailer would be to seek out other businesses that complement yours without too much overlap and share in marketing for one another. Contact vendors and ask them to offer your customers incentives to buy their products. Not every company will say yes but quite a few will, and those who do will help you build your business and likewise you help them. A spirit of giving back in the community, to your vendors and your customers creates opportunities that others will miss out on. We love helping others and they in return love helping us.

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