Absolutely Fabulous Walks a Marathon for Its Customers' Shopping Experience

Retired doctor and CFO of small retailer walks 24 miles at the recent Atlanta Trade show to get ready for the upcoming shopping year. Las Vegas is next.

Las Vegas Market, 2022

Ron Silverstein, CFO of Absolutely Fabulous Unique Gifts & Decor, was never trained in marathons. However, at the ripe young age of 74, he is still walking one every time he goes to a gift show with his wife and owner of "Ab Fab," Diane Silverstein.

While letting one's fingers do the walking (online shopping) is a very popular method of shopping, many small businesses survive by doing leg work instead: searching through miles of booths and conducting face-to-face meetings with product creators before items make their way into a physical shop or online.

Why do small retailers still do all of this exercise, rather than simply doing their shopping online? 

Over 85% of all retail sales still happen inside a brick-and-mortar shop, so this "old-school" method of filtering products through the lens of a buyer who has a pulse on the community is still very important. When asked how she filters so many options, Diane responds that she hears "... the family stories from my customers: their ups-and-down, their needs & their wants." This type of human knowledge is not something that is included in shopping algorithms, so having a human use it to make shopping decisions leads to some surprise recommendations when customers come in the shop - stuff they would have never chosen by themselves - rather than the typical "people who look at this widget also look at this [slightly different] widget" type of recommendations shoppers see online.

Online drop-ship businesses are getting very good at tricking these recommendation algorithms with pricing reductions and fake reviews. These are not entirely illogical tricks, though, because pricing is still the primary driver of whether a shopper prefers an algorithm or a person. It is, therefore, very important for a brick-and-mortar retailer to price compare before making their own purchases. 

Ron & Diane are currently resting their muscles from Atlanta and preparing for yet another marathon around the Las Vegas Gift Show at the end of January. This is a very important show for Ab Fab because it is where they will buy all of their toys for the upcoming year. Before even stepping foot on the convention center floor, Ab Fab scours through around 1,000 pages of STEM toy offerings, creates an initial list, cross-checks those with educator & parent recommendation lists (no promoted reviews), cuts the list down, and finally cross-checks this with the local school's education schedule. Only once all of these steps are completed, are Ron and Diane ready for the next steps - "... many, many steps," Ron laughs. "It's worth it, though."

Source: Absolutely Fabulous Unique Gifts & Decor