Man Of The House

Into New Markets

Of course, Strouds hasn't merely evolved. It has also grown. About two years after the first stores opened, the company embarked on an expansion plan that would take it into the various neighborhoods and suburbs of Southern California, into the San Francisco Bay Area, and finally east to Nevada, Illinois and Minnesota.

Multiple locations have always been Stroud's goal. However, he admits, "Never, in our most aggressive days, did we think we'd have 57 stores." What fostered such growth? The stores' rampant popularity, a relative lack of competition, and the firm's ability to adapt to local demand.

Each new neighborhood Strouds has entered is its own self-contained market. "For example, our Pasadena store tends to be fairly traditional in its tastes, while our Beverly Center store [less than 20 miles away] is more avant-garde," explains Stroud. "We allow our store managers more latitude than other stores typically do. Most stores have a central buyer for all locations. We bring in our store managers three times a year to help us select merchandise. That system helps us understand the need for [variation] from one store to another."

The same system keeps Strouds competitive in unfamiliar markets. "Many Southern California retailers have trouble translating their concepts to the San Francisco market," Stroud says. "We were able to do so successfully," largely because of the firm's deliberate responsiveness.

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This article was originally published in the January 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Man Of The House.

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