Story by Susan Dickenson — Kids Today, 9/1/2009
Philip Gangi, shown here with his wife Debbie, purchased Jackson, Miss.-based Cullen’s Play Pen from Bob Cullen in 1995 and soon after added an online shopping site,Babysupermarket.com. The brick-and-mortar store has been operating as a family-owned business since 1954.
Philip Gangi listens to his business, which consists of Cullen’s Play Pen, a 54-year-old family-owned and operated store in Jackson, Miss., and a 14-year-old online shopping site called The Baby Supermarket (babysupermarket.com). “We are a full-line baby store,” Gangi said of the operation, which sells just about everything for babies except clothing and diapers.
“Listening” appears to be working well for Gangi, as sales are up over last year. “We listen to the business and respond accordingly,” he said. “We work every day with our customers and employees to respond quickly to their requests and try to stock everything the customer needs.”
The product selection includes toys — infant, educational, riding, outdoor, plush; dolls — collectible, fashion and play; dollhouses and doll furniture; car seats, strollers, carriers, backpacks, playards, swings, nursery furniture, bedding, nursery decor, baby care, bath, feeding, books, videos and gifts. Best selling categories are furniture, gear (car seats, strollers, carriers, swings, entertainers, walkers) and textiles.
The vast array of products and price ranges is one of the things Gangi said makes his store unique. “We have lots of inventory. We do a lot of promoting and offer customers great values with a knowledgeable sales staff.”
Eight-thousand square feet of selling space are divided among two floors, with furniture shown in galleries and a toy department located on the ground floor. The sales floor and the store’s warehouse total 8,000 square feet each, and a 35,000-sq.-ft. building warehouses the Web site’s inventory.
The Play Pen has been operating as a family-owned and operated store since 1954, when it was founded by the Mizel family. Bob Cullen purchased the store in 1989. In 1995, Gangi bought the store from Cullen, whom he calls a true merchant. “Bob Cullen’s teachings, leadership, foresight and friendship are the foundation for our success,” Gangi said. “All retailers should follow his example.”
Shortly after purchasing the store, Gangi launched e-commerce site babysupermarket.com, an extensive offering of products that can be purchased directly from the site with selected inventory available onAmazon.com.
The Internet store generates more sales volume, but Gangi gets to meet and greet his customers in person at the bricks-and-mortar location. “This is such a happy t
ime in the customer’s life and it’s a great feeling to be a part of it in person,” he said. He budgets about 5% to advertising, mostly television. “We constantly advertise great values for our customers.”
Employee turnover is “very low” but Gangi said he’s always keeping an eye out for “good personnel that can improve business.”
Gangi, a past president of the NINFRA, said his employees are very knowledgeable and are trained to be helpful and respond quickly to customer requests.
New employees are trained on the job working side-by-side with a seasoned employee, but training is ongoing. “We all learn every day,” he added.
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