For Karl’s Appliance CEO Dan Schwartz, one word best describes the company: experience. “Our motto is ‘experience the difference, experience is the difference,’” he says. “We are successful because of the experience our customers have with us, as well as the experience our employees have at work and the way we treat our suppliers. We treat everyone fairly, keep our word, pay our bills and make sure we deliver our products on time.”
The retailer, founded in 1941, operates stores in Fairfield, Paramus, Orange, Madison and Sparta, N.J., serving New Jersey as well as Pennsylvania and the New York City metro area. The company just opened its newest location in East Brunswick, N.J. Each store has 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of display area for appliances including major brands such as SubZero, Viking, Miele, Bosch, General Electric, Maytag and KitchenAid.
“We offer the complete gamut of appliances,” the company says. “From the most basic washer, dryer or dishwasher to complete customized professional kitchens, you will find it all at Karl’s.”
Every Karl’s Appliance showroom features brand-centered vignettes with products in high-quality cabinets with granite countertops and tile backguards. “Half of our store space is our core product, lined up as you might see in other retailers, but the other half are brand vignettes such as Sub-Zero/Wolf living kitchens and ‘Viking Villages,’ where Viking-brand products are on display,” Schwartz says. “Our stores also offer comfortable spaces for our clients and sales reps to sit down and discuss what our customers’ needs are, so we can help them find products that suit that need.”
In addition to its stores, Karl's Appliance also offers products online, but believes in using the web as a promotional tool to ultimately get people into stores. “All shopping methods are good, but the in-store experience, with the product right in front of customers and professional staff assisting them, is always the best,” the company says.
All stores offer delivery and installation services, as well as extended warranties on appliances. Karl's Appliance operates two warehouses to ensure the fastest delivery, with most products available for next-day delivery.
Warehousing also gives the company the ability to purchase appliances by the truckload, which in turn allows Karl's Appliance to offer its customers the lowest prices possible through significant economies of scale. Additionally, Karl’s Appliance is a Brand Builder member of Nationwide Marketing Group, a national buying co-op, according to the company.
Many of the store's salespeople have more than 10 years of experience with the company and are regularly trained on the many products offered at Karl's, giving them the ability to best assist customers. Sales training programs include off-site vendor sessions, Schwartz notes.
Salespeople are also equipped with iPads and other tablet devices they use to complete transactions as well as offer price comparisons. “We treat our employees very well; they enjoy coming to work and feel they're being appreciated, which is attested to by the number of people we have with 10 to 25 years with Karl’s,” he adds.
A positive internal atmosphere and product knowledge are central to the company's mission to “provide customers with unmatched expertise, selection, price and attention to detail no matter what the size of the purchase," the company says.
Karl's Appliance also enjoys longstanding relationships with vendors and suppliers. “We believe in working on an honorable basis with suppliers – when people have supported us for a long period of time we believe in supporting them in turn,” Schwartz says. “When it comes to vendors, we're not looking to jump on a deal for the best price in the short term; we're looking for long-term relationships.”
The company's belief in building long-term relationships gives it an advantage in a crowded market and slow economy. “Our success can be boiled down to our reputation both among our customers as well as people in the trades such as remodeling companies and kitchen designers, who often send consumers to our locations because of our experience and ability to do on-time deliveries,” he adds. “The most important thing to me is having a strong customer base that continues to come back to our stores, and providing a product and service that is different or better than our competition.”