Recently, I wrapped a car with a Charles River Apparel corporate logo and set forth to visit our customers along the East Coast. We held “pop-up events,” in towns and cities from Massachusetts to Kentucky. The goal was to spend quality time with our customers, learn more about their needs, and bring our brand directly to people who wear Charles River Apparel products every day. After all, customers are at the center of everything we do — so spending time with them is of the utmost importance
The first stop wasn’t far from home, just 45 miles away in Worcester, Massachusetts. There, we invited local customers to a free cup of coffee and conversation at a local coffee shop. I was surprised and delighted when Mike Petrocelli and his team stopped by to say hi. Not only is he a long time customer of ours, but his dad is Rico Petrocelli, former shortstop and third baseman for the Boston Red Sox. It was so nice to reconnect and share stories. I remember being 8 years old, watching and idealizing his dad in the World Series. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off my journey.
This first part of my trip took me to three trade shows, presentations with customers, a visit with six sales representatives, one college roommate, and one wrong turn. But, it was all worth it to learn more about our customers’ needs and enjoy quality face-to-face time with them. As President of Charles River Apparel, it can be easy for me to stay focused on the work in our headquarters. But, it’s critical to schedule time to hear customer feedback from people across the country. This is the best way for me to lead our team and continue to shape the business.
A few stops down the coast, in Atlanta, Georgia, a car pulled up next to us and honked. It was a loyal customer who recognized our sales representative, Sherry, and wanted to say hello! Isn’t it wonderful when customers feel so comfortable with you that they recognize you from the road and want to say hi?
Near the end of my trip, I met Byron and Natalie, a married couple who have been long-time customers. What I didn’t remember was how long we had done business together. Byron said he remembered seeing me at the “Super Show” in Atlanta in 1991. Next time, there won’t be so much time between visits. I am encouraging Byron and Natalie to visit us soon in Boston. I truly appreciate these loyal customers, as they know us best. I look forward to hearing more from Byron and Natalie, and even incorporating some of their ideas and feedback into our work.
Putting the product into action
This trip, we found new and creative ways to partner with our customers. Out of our little mini-cooper, came a large “pop-up” tent, banners, display rack, table, samples and catalogs. One of our goals, in addition to meeting customers, was to create a mini, transportable Charles River Apparel store. Along the way, we saw the product work in different weather patterns. Some of our events took place just as cold rains arrived — so the demand for our New Englander raincoats was high.
The road trip also gave me the opportunity to meet with our distributors. After all, they are a key part of how we connect with customers — and often, they’re family businesses too! At one location, I met a mother-son team, and spoke with their company’s program manager and general counsel. It was well worth the visit.
Nothing beats face-to-face time
Driving down the East Coast was a new and creative way to partner with our customers and meet distributors. It was the first time we held such an event — but it won’t be the last.
It’s so important for our team to stay customer-focused first. Overall, we do a great job of this, but on the trip, I was once again reminded to keep our customers at the center of everything we do — from product design, to marketing and sales, to customer service and more. That’s the only way we can deliver a great product and continue to succeed in the market.
I can promise you, the next trip won’t be long from now. West Coast, anyone?
Here are some more pictures from Barry's trip!