In this year of uncertainty, we seem to be gravitating toward the familiar, and what’s more familiar than your hometown Western store?
Editor's Note: As statewide rules and regulations continue to change, please contact retailers for their latest store hours and delivery capabilities.
We talked with Sarah Montgomery, owner of Missouri-based Kleinschmidt’s Western Store about how their business is still focused on making people feel right at home in 2020.
What does your current business environment look like? Is it different than normal for you?
We are in a county that, at this time, isn’t requiring masks. So if you come shop at Kleinschmidt’s it looks like it always has. We’ve been here for 50 years so we try to make the environment as normal as possible. If you were walking in today, it’s as if you were this time last year. Everything is routine, the only thing that’s different is we’re sanitizing our hands constantly, and we make sure we disinfect the register, but we try not to make a big production out of it. We just want people to feel like they are still able to come in and just be normal.
What has been the biggest challenge in adapting to this “new normal” the retail world has taken on?
I think, currently, our biggest challenge is the unknown future. Otherwise, it would be inventory; the ability to procure inventory, being able to know what you’re going to be able to do if things seem to do well through the holiday. Are you going to be able to sell items?
This time of year is when we do holiday builds and such, and there’s a lot of replenish-able items that we always carry that are out of stock currently. Things we got done ahead of where we are now, are good. There are other things we do every year that we missed out on, but it’s just impossible to know- same as our vendors. How were they supposed to know back in March when they slowed everything down that things would be picking back up?
If somebody wants to order something online, we can bring it to their car. We ship it to them for free, but for the most part it seems like our customers just enjoy coming into the store, enjoy shopping like normal.
How has your business adapted to producing digital content and sales?
Our website is only about a year old, whereas our brick and mortar business about 50 years old. So our online business is pretty fresh. During the shutdown era our brick and mortar store was able to stay open, because we provide safety work equipment like steel-toed boots, fire resistant clothing. At that time, we were offering 20 percent off of our website as an incentive to get people to stay home, because we had a lot of employees that chose to stay home, so we weren’t really able to have a bunch of people come in and us be able to take care of them the same way.
If somebody wants to order something online, we can bring it to their car. We ship it to them for free, but for the most part it seems like our customers just enjoy coming into the store, enjoy shopping like normal. So that’s the type of environment.
What has been your focus while speaking to your customers online?
We haven’t changed anything as far as online goes. We have been really trying to better our website. We have anywhere between 90-100,000 items in our store. Our website doesn’t have near that on there, so we’ve been working to get more items on our website in case people choose to stay home, like maybe when this weather starts to change, if something happens. So we’ve been working very diligently to try to get more items on our website, but we still like to push people to our store.
Has any content stood out as particularly successful in terms of resonating with your audience? Why has that content done so well, in your opinion?
The better things that we see tangible results from are Facebook ads, and we have several different demographics and groups we target every month with Facebook ads of certain items. That’s probably the thing we see the most tangible results from as far as just social media. We’ve done contests in the past that do generate a lot of email addresses so we can direct market to our customers.
All of that stuff is just about a year old for our store so anytime we can have a contest where people register using their email that’s a great way for us to be able to send them a weekly email showing items. I would say social media, specifically the ads, indirectly the content we’re getting through the contests help us to direct market through email. We see more tangible returns on email than we probably do just on random social media posts.
Which products are you excited to have coming in this season?
This is when we’re unpacking fall, so we have a lot of really cool outerwear this year. It seems like our vendors lately have really been designing some great designs. Outerwear is huge for us, basic soft-shell vests always do well, but we’re seeing a lot more punchy outerwear. We’re seeing a lot of the Aztec design. There have been some really cool retro sweater prints this season. In addition to that we do like to accessorize, so we like to carry hat options, jewelry options.
Wild rags for men are very popular in our store. We try to make fun things. People come in here to buy work boots. We know that they need them, and we like to provide that service for them, but we also like to kind of jazz things up a little bit and make the store look fun and appealing for people, whether they’re coming to buy work boots or ranch wear, stuff for weddings or going out.
What are shoppers looking for right now from Western businesses? Have you noticed any buying trends?
I honestly think one of the reasons we are as busy as we have been is just because we’re a normal family-owned-operated business. We’re not afraid of our customers. We’re not afraid to shake their hands. We’re not afraid to help them, have a conversation with them. I think people are coming in maybe for more the experience right now than a specific item.
I honestly think one of the reasons we are as busy as we have been is just because we’re a normal family-owned-operated business.
Do you have any tips for other Western businesses looking to take their business online right now?
I think just try things. Just because other people are doing it, like maybe every other store in the country is posting stuff on Instagram daily, if it’s not giving you returns, try something different. We see way more of a response, tangibly dollars, though text message marketing of our specials, email marketing of specials and new products than we see if we post something on Facebook or Instagram. I think people just need to focus on tangible results, people coming into their store, foot traffic-wise, dollar amounts that are being spent either on their website or in their store versus the immediate satisfaction of a “like.”
Sarah Montgomery was awarded the WESA Top Hand Award for 2021. You can visit her and Kleinschmidt’s in person in Higginsville, Missouri or online at kleinboot.com.
Do you plan on attending in-person markets or trade shows in the next six months?
We for sure are going to Dallas in January. We usually go to Dallas Market and Denver Market in January, and then I also usually go to Dallas in August. The other times it’s just really hard for us to take off and go to Market when we have so much other stuff going on as far as fall coming in, weather changing, people coming in and shopping, things like that.
Photography: Lindsey Megan Photography
This interview is part of an ongoing series that W&E is conducting with retailers. Click here to peruse more stories and interviews from the retail industry.