Integrators and Pirch: Want a Home Automation System with That Fancy Shower Head? – CEPro
Pirch doesn’t sell high-end kitchen and bath appliances. The upscale retailer of plumbing stuffs sells â€œjoy.â€
When Pirch CEO Jeffery Sears explained this philosophy during a presentation last year before members of the Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA) buying and networking group, some may have rolled their eyes. Theyâ€™ve all heard it before from big brands like Nordstrom and Ritz Carlton that sell â€œexperiences,â€ not clothes or hotel rooms.
But Searsâ€™ story resonated with the HTSA integrators in the room because, well, theyâ€™ve been selling joy for decades in the form of home theaters, multiroom music systems, mood lighting and more.
And now theyâ€™re starting to sell these things from within Pirch stores, including the newest location in New York Cityâ€™s SoHo district, where Plainview, N.Y.-based Audio Video Systems maintains the Connected Loft, the first dedicated home-technology showcase parked in a Pirch.
The way they support the client isÂ what I believe in,â€ says AVS COO Franklin Karp. â€œThey have a manifesto. They adhere to that.â€
Before joining AVS a decade ago, Karp ran the iconic Harvey Electronics store as CEO for 15 years.
These guys are actually doing what I dreamed of for Harvey but didnâ€™t have the finance or support,â€ Karp says.
If youâ€™re not familiar with Pirch (now nine stores and growing), rather than cramming a bunch of dishwashers, shower heads, toilets and faucets in a giant warehouse, the company displays and demonstrates the high-end products in multiple vignettes including a commercial-grade kitchen manned by up to five professional chefs per day, according to one of the chefs during a recent CE Pro visit to the Pirch store in San Diego.
The chefs that day were prepping the fresh produce they had just picked up from the local farmersâ€™ market to teach some cooking classes and demonstrate how everything tastes better when prepared in a $4,000 Miele steam oven, for example.
The classes are free, just like the fancy coffee and other beverages they serve as you enter the store.
So what are the ingredients for cooking up a successful relationship between Pirch and the custom integration industry?
How AVS Does Pirch
AVS, No. 9 on the CE Pro 100 list of highest-revenue home-technology integrators, is not taking its Pirch relationship lightly. The audio, video and home automation company hired a full-time employee to man the loft. Other than that, AVS does not pay fees for its space and its visibility in the store. In fact, it pays nothing to the retailer other than spreading a good word about Pirch and providing excellent service befitting the Pirch credo.
â€œQuite honestly, weâ€™re opening up opportunities for their associates,â€ Karp says. â€œWe tell architects, builders and clients all about Pirch. Theyâ€™re a tremendous word-of-mouth organization, so itâ€™s very symbiotic.â€
In preparation for the Pirch SoHo launch, Karp addressed the storeâ€™s 30 sales associates, â€œproviding a brief outline of who AVS is and, more importantly, to share with them that we have the same vision of how we service the client,â€ Karp says. â€œI told them how weâ€™re 24/7 service and weâ€™re there to support their efforts, make sure their clients have a good experience.â€
AVS plans to hold customer meetings at Pirch, booking any of several well-appointed â€œDream Roomsâ€ that are available to Pirch â€œSynergy Partners,â€ as well as builders, architects and other trade partners that need a meeting space and some liquid refreshment from the welcome bar.
â€œIf we want to do a red carpet thing,â€Â Karp says, â€œtheyâ€™ll cook lunch there with one of their chefs.â€
Leading with the Network
Interestingly, while audio, video, home automation and other cool things like SÃ©ura outdoor TVs and Leon Speakersâ€™ Media DÃ©cor TV concealers are on display at Pirch SoHo, Karp prefers to lead with the network.
â€œIâ€™m not going to talk to you about audio and video and how great it is,â€ he tells Pirch associates. Instead, he runs through the routine of how you might have a great network experience during the dayÂ when youâ€™re working and watching YouTube over â€œthis little two-lane highway,â€ but then at night you might add Apple TV and maybe Sonos and the kids and their friends all have their smart devices â€¦ and then the network slows.
â€œOur job is to make sure you have an open highway,â€ Karp says to â€œa lot of heads nodding.â€
He explains that all the devices in the Pirch showroom will one day be connected, â€œbut without a really robust network, you can have a lot of disappointed clients, and weâ€™re not gonna let that happen.â€
It All Started with Barrett’s
AVSâ€™ affiliation with Pirch started brewing last year when Sears spoke at that fateful HTSA conference. The Pirch CEO was there at the behest of Joe Barrett, principal of Barrettâ€™s Technology Solutions in Naperville, Ill. Barrett had befriended Sears when Pirch landed in Chicago, and the duo bonded over a shared business philosophy of extreme customer service and a penchant for tribal marketing â€” in this case embracing (and sharing) influencers in custom home building, architecture, interior design and, of course, home appliances and custom A/V.
Pirch allows â€” rather, encourages â€” allied tribes to make themselves (and their consumer clients) at home in the store.
â€œIn-store, they treat you like itâ€™s your home,â€ Barrett told CE Pro back in 2015 during the HTSA meeting. â€œThe greet counter is also the coffee counter. They give you latte and make you feel safe.â€
Like other Pirch â€œSynergy Partners,â€ Barrettâ€™s is the exclusive partner in its specialty, holding meetings at the store and enjoying sway among Pirch sales associates.
â€œIâ€™ve gotten to know the 17 salespeople at the store,â€ Barrett said last year. â€œI start my day there, I end my day there.â€
He would like Pirch associates to â€œthink of Barrettâ€™s when they get some blueprints,â€ he says. â€œWe want blueprints to be the trigger. We hope they ask just one question: Have you considered yourÂ residential technology needs?â€
Barrettâ€™s returns the favor: â€œI bring my contacts from interior design and custom home building, luxury real estate, architects â€¦ theyâ€™re all shared contacts,â€ Barrett says. â€œEach of our revenue generators works with [Pirchâ€™s] outside sales agents. If we get blueprints, we bring them to Pirch. We tell them: Hereâ€™s the builder, hereâ€™s the owner, hereâ€™s the architect.â€
This new kind of relationship-driven business makes work exciting again for Barrett, who used to run a big retail operation. Now his company has a technology design center, which can be controlledÂ remotely for demo purposes, for example, from a Pirch store.
â€œThatâ€™s where it gets fun,â€ he says.
Teaming (and Teeming) with HTSA
Barrettâ€™s was the first technology firm to team with Pirch. Joe Barrett brought that relationship to HTSA, and now that groupÂ is partnering with Pirch stores throughout the country.
Barrettâ€™s has no dedicated space in the Chicago Pirch. AVS has the smart loft, but it was an afterthought that had to conform to the buildingâ€™s existing design. The next store with Dallas Sight and Sound in Austin, Texas, â€œwill have an even bigger opportunityâ€ to showcase home technology, says AVSâ€™ Karp. Meanwhile, HTSA member Audiovisions is touting technology through Pirch stores in California.
Savant Systems, an HTSA vendor partner, provides the automation systems that run the Pirch showrooms. When guests press buttons on a touchscreen to test the different shower heads, for example, theyâ€™re using a Savant system.
â€œThe folks at Pirch are really starting to understand our importance to the end user,â€ Karp says. â€œI think it will go even further in the next store.â€
Back in Chicago, Barrett and team continue to ask their own clients, â€œHave you considered your home appliances? Why donâ€™t we have our next meeting atÂ Pirch?â€
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