Congratulations to the 2017 Earnie Award Winners! See the Winners
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Getting to Yes

Make a resolution to reel in shoppers next year with a mix of new media and tried-and-true
personalized service.
Here’s a little-known fact about Earnshaw’s: We share …

Make a resolution to reel in shoppers next year with a mix of new media and tried-and-true
personalized service.

Here’s a little-known fact about Earnshaw’s: We share an address with a rotating cast of tech start-up firms. In what’s become a bit of company lore, Ashton Kutcher even stopped by the building once to check in on one of his investments. (He didn’t swing by our floor, alas.)

It’s probably inevitable that some of that new media mojo would rub off on our staff. We love investigating ways retailers and manufacturers can use sites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to help boost their business. This year we’ve covered everything from the brave new world of iPad point-of-sale systems to how retail behemoths like Nordstrom are incorporating Pinterest into their brick-and-mortar experience. This month, we were fascinated by how Good360, a non-profit aimed at helping retailers donate excess inventory to charities in need, is incorporating Google Maps technology into its website and making it easier than ever for smaller retailers to donate. (To learn more, check out our Q&A on p. 20.) I’m not exaggerating when I say we’re inspired on a near-daily basis by the innovative way children’s charities, retailers, manufacturers and reps are adapting to the daunting new digital landscape.

That being said, if there’s a lesson to be learned from this year’s crop of Earnie winners (p. 34), it’s that the benefits of new media only go so far. There’s no doubt that sites like Facebook and Etsy helped propel brands like Chewbeads and Liv & Lily into the spotlight. But after chatting with the charming, knowledgeable founders of the brands, it quickly becomes clear that a little something extra plays a role in their continuing success. Call me old-fashioned, but I suspect stellar customer service may also be a reason why retailers rewarded this year’s crop of Earnie winners.

In fact, I would even go so far as to say it’s the main reason our honorees garnered thousands of votes from across the children’s industry. Just take a look at five-time winner for Best Infants’ Collection, Kissy Kissy. “We’ve built the company by listening to retailers,” says the brand’s Owner Roxana Castillo. In a world obsessed with updating, liking and sharing, it’s the old-school skill of listening that resonates most with retailers—and dare I say consumers, too?

I keep coming back to a recent study on “showrooming,” the dreaded term that describes customers who purchase products on their smart phones after scoping them out at a brick-and-mortar store. Researchers at Columbia Business School surveyed 3,000 consumers in the U.S., U.K. and Canada and found that mobile phones can actually improve the odds of an in-store purchase. Why? Because more than half of consumers are simply searching for more information. It would stand to reason that having a knowledgeable, friendly sales staff would eliminate the need for that smart phone. Again, attentive customer service carries the day.

This year’s Hall of Fame winners on p. 42 are a perfect example. Honey Smith turned her New York City showroom into a tween dream by picking up brands she believed her retail customers simply wouldn’t be able to resist. Meanwhile, Miki Brugge built her Tennessee boutique, Cotton Tails, into a 26-year success story by continually listening to the needs of her customers, constantly incorporating new merchandise, policies and displays along the way. “I just try so many ways of us not saying no,” Brugge told us, adding, “Everybody loves to hear yes.”
What a fantastic philosophy for business, and in life. So, here’s to saying yes in 2014—and best wishes for a safe, fun and prosperous holiday season.

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