JP Pritchard

Change: The ‘Magic’ Spell for Small Business

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DSC01040With two or three of your best buds and just an ounce of courage, you could lay down an epic track in the stylings of Lionel Richie or Whitney Houston at Media Magic once upon a time. But when the age of the cassette tape began to give way to the compact disc, owners Albert and Linda Fagerquist saw a need to evolve.

Under this banner, the little Mom and Pop store continues to thrive against its big name major competitors 26 years later at Deerbook Mall, located in the north Houston, Texas suburb of Humble.

The former mall-based recording studio was opened in 1986 after the Fagerquists retired from their jobs at Exxon, but today boasts an exciting retail atmosphere including backpacks, beanies, novelty baby shirts, keychains, posters and jewelry.

The transition, however, started with small successes.

“They started seeing a need to sell t-shirts, so they started selling a few bands first, including New Kids on the Block” co-owner Karen Fagerquist says. “That really changed the store around and they then started bringing in other merchandise.”

Now with her husband Allan Fagerquist, a new generation is embracing new frontiers which have kept them competitive with the likes of Spencer’s Gifts and Hot Topic. Together, they are providing small business owners with a few rules anyone can use to slay the competition in their market and boost sales.

Rule No. 1: Don’t Get Stuck in Yesterday

While Allan’s parents saw great success early in Media Magic’s life with the recording studio, the development of new technologies shifted interest, Karen said. Rather than freeze with trepidation as sales slumped, the elder generation of Fagerquists took action and added a myriad of new merchandise to their shop. Decline was avoided, and they made positive gains in the process.

What worked yesterday won’t always work tomorrow. Don’t get so stuck on past success that you cannot adapt to the changes in your market.

Rule No. 2: Look to Fill Niche Needs, No Matter the Size

The ability to diversify the business is a talent which Albert and son Allan shared, especially after he began working at Media Magic upon graduating from Texas Tech, says Karen. When the store moved to new retail space on the mall’s second floor in 2001, Allan implemented some new merchandise, including two whole racks devoted to then little known Orange County Choppers and West Coast Choppers.

But, it was the body jewelry where Allan took an early lead among his competition and helped further re-invent their business.

“Somebody asked him about a tongue ring, and he said he hadn’t heard of that. ‘That’s just weird,’ he said,” Karen recalls. “About the third time he heard someone mention it, he investigated and we introduced these products at a time when it was really edgy.”

Today, jewelry is among the company’s biggest selling products, as the store boasts an impressive assortment of accessories for the piercing crowd.

Rule No. 3: Rapidly Change Ahead of Trends

Anticipating what is next in business is key, and has meant for Allan and Karen keeping a close eye on other competitors and those outside of their own business. Where Media Magic once sold everything a skateboard enthusiast would need, Karen says, the closing of an area skateboard shop signaled a need to act.

“He said we really needed to move on,” Karen said of Allan. They stopped restocking the merchandise, and sold the last of their skate gear.

Rule No. 4: Engage Your Customer

What Karen couldn’t tell me about their success over 26 years in business was evident to me the moment I walked into the store: providing excellent customer service is very important. In the age of the Internet shopper, that personal touch can make or break a business and is one component many small businesses can forget in all the demands of their job.

Viviana greeted me with a smile upon entering, and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. That’s good. But, with a small crowd within the store, she also roamed periodically to re-engage a customer, helping to retrieve merchandise in hard to reach fixtures and placing the product in their hands. That’s how sales are made.

Give them a reason to remember who you are, even if they are “only looking,” and they are very likely to return. Anyone can sell a t-shirt, but it takes effort to make an experience.

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