Imagine meeting someone for the first time at a party. He or she takes an immediate interest in you, not just asking what you do for a living, but about your family, your fantasies, even your emotional needs. And beyond the typical handshake, this attentive new acquaintance leaves you with keepsakes of your meeting: chocolates, a ride home and a business card.
And not just any chocolate, but gourmet chocolate flown in from France.
And not just a ride, but a stretch limo with the gift of a shiny martini set waiting for you in the backseat.
And not just a business card, but three different numbers giving you 24-hour access to a friendly woman named Amber.
This scenario begins to approach the actual Starpower schmooze, the type of VIP treatment available from this profitable and growing luxury home electronics dealer based in Dallas.
Only in the real-life scenario—an August 31 party celebrating the opening of Starpower’s second store in the affluent neighborhoods of North Dallas—guests were also greeted by a small crowd of glamorous young women and flashing faux photographers all screaming, “Oh my Gooooood! It’s really you! You’re sooooo beautiful!” on either side of a red carpet leading into the store’s front door. Once inside, a Marilyn Monroe look-alike offered guests her hand, Elvis offered a wink, and waiters offered champagne on silver trays that reflected the flashing colors of a 71-inch plasma playing a live feed of the Dallas Cowboys’ preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Amber was there too.
That’s Amber Dinh, a quick-to-smile redhead with a gracious Southern accent who works as Starpower’s “VIP Concierge.”
“I am a little charismatic,” she says. “I like to make jokes. I like to know names, faces and dates. I learn all about our customers. They let me into their lives because I let them into mine, and I can take it to any level they need me to take it to.”
“It’s Amber’s job to somehow wedge herself into somebody’s personal life,” says Daniel Pidgeon, Starpower’s chief financial officer. “She gets into the emotions of the client and allows us to become more than a commodity, but a service satisfying our customer’s emotional needs as well. It’s these intangibles that make us successful.”
Starpower measures its success in terms of its relationships with clients. David Pidgeon, Daniel’s brother and Starpower’s CEO and president, likes to point out that 65 percent of the company’s customers are repeat or referral clients that deal with Starpower because of the “star treatment” they receive.
That heavily-branded “star treatment” is what the Pidgeons call their own unique value-add. Examples: A customer who golfs is likely to receive a gift of Starpower-inscribed golf balls. A customer who loves wine might be sent a fine vintage with “Starpower” etched in the bottle’s glass.
“We want our clients to feel like stars, whether they bought the plasma or the whole-home cinema,” says Daniel Pidgeon. “They are purchasing an experience.”
The VIP experience, as well as the very practical ability to design and deliver high-end home entertainment and automation systems, has attracted actual celebrities to Starpower’s client list, too. NFL broadcaster Pat Summerall, actor Martin Sheen, Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson, Mavs guard Jason Terry, legendary hoopster Nancy Lieberman and, of course, a slew of Cowboys players have employed Starpower in its first decade in the custom business.
As important to the bottom line, however, is the growing list of Dallas businesspeople who are choosing Starpower to outfit both downtown luxury condominiums and even more luxurious suburban homes with electronics systems using products from a wide variety of manufacturers including LG, Pioneer Elite, Crestron, Marantz, OmniMount and many others.
“In Texas, more so than in other regions of the country, people really identify with their homes and they aren’t afraid to invest in them,” says Daniel Pidgeon. “They consider their home as a symbol of who they are, and they’re very proud of it. One customer told me they enjoyed having a Starpower van parked in front of their house. That showed their neighbors they were getting a high-end system they could be proud of. That client even asked if we’d put a stand-up sign in their yard!”
Top This, Competition!
True to the “you’ve got to spend money to make money” model of merchandising, the Pidgeons haven’t been afraid to invest in their own home base—the two (and soon to be three with the approaching addition of a Southlake, Texas, location) stores that showcase a wide variety of home systems and products. They hired architect Phil White, who made a retail name for himself designing stores for The Limited Company (says David Pidgeon, “You know, Victoria’s Secret…”), to design their showrooms. White delivered environments like “Cinema Paradiso,” a trapezoidal theater with vaulted ceilings and leather appointments that looks like it costs every bit of its $300,000 price tag.
“I’m pleased because this room doesn’t look anything like a box,” said White at the store opening gala. “People are becoming far more open-minded about what they want in a home. In fact, I think they’d rather have an entertainment room than a living room! And architects are becoming more open-minded about technology too. We don’t understand the miles of wiring, but we can partner with installers to create wonderful illusions.”
The Pidgeons showed plenty of additional neat tricks at their new store.
They hired artists to create a mural of the 12th hole at the Augusta Golf Club as the set for a display of their selection of outdoor speakers.
They partnered with Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages to design a room called the “Dr. Pepper Zone” at the front of the store, featuring a fully-stocked beverage counter. “It’s a place to kick back,” says David Pidgeon. “I think it takes the edge off!”
They worked with Key Digital Systems to wire the store with HDMI distribution technology, using the vendor’s KD-HDM12x4P distribution amplifier to send 1080p-quality signals to the more than 40 flat panels throughout the sales floor. Key Digital President and Founder Mike Tsinberg, no stranger to bleeding-edge installations, called it “the most technical multiple-HDMI display system in the world.”
Those displays include panels in every size from the likes of Sony, Hannspree and Panasonic. Many were from LG, the manufacturer who was best represented at the opening party. “Starpower understands how to market our brand,” said LG Director of Channel Marketing Tanya Anderson. “The Pidgeons know what ‘specialty’ means. Everything is premium.”
LG was impressed enough that it offered the new store an ultra-premium product—its $70,000, 71-inch MW71PY10 plasma.
Scott McDowell, one of Starpower’s hands-on tech specialists, says the final product—both the store and all of the flashy marketing, partying and VIP services that accompanied its opening—was enough to capture the attention of the company’s competitors.
In fact, he says, “We caught them on our security cameras late at night, peeking in our windows just days before the opening.”
McDowell says the Starpower staff took that surveillance tape and burned a DVD of it. “Yep, we’re using it as a screensaver,” he said. CR