Warren Barnes History
Warren Barnes was born and raised in Wisconsin. He served in the military during both World War II and the Korean War, and later went into business for himself in a modest book store on the North shore of Lake Wisconsin. This was not a big seller’s shop – it had books, stationary, magazines, and odds and ends – but it was one of the few such locations that still had a traditional Main Street feel to them. That is one of the essences of good retailing: giving customers a great place to shop while feeling like a community place. Click here for more info.
It was during the mid 1960s that Barnes decided to go out and start his own retail outlet. He called it the bookstore which was located at the corner of North Avenue in Milwaukee. He named it The Warren Barnes Bookstore and it was a huge success, setting the stage for the retail design careers of today. From that beginning, many other retailers, like Discount Department Store and Family Dollar, emerged. These companies changed the face of retail forever. The competition made it possible for retail to reach new heights.
As the retail landscape changed, so did the competition. Stores started offering a variety of options to shoppers in an effort to remain competitive. In response to this, the industry standardized design and inventory on items that would be found in one store. Stores began to use more colorful signage, to attract attention – and thereby increase sales – to draw customers in. Uniformity also increased customer satisfaction.
But even with all the changes in retail design, something was still missing. Customers wanted to be able to identify one product from another, or to know which brands they should trust. The advent of the discount store prompted Barnes to develop another aspect of his business which he felt was important to the customer. The idea was to create a more personal relationship with products and create more customer loyalty. So instead of selling his customers one product at a time, Warren began to offer them his own “unique” take on each individual product.
His approach to retail design would prove to be invaluable. Retail stores often complained about looking like a “one-stop-shop”, with too many items displayed in the same area. Warren’s stores would have a more personal feel, with only one or two products displayed in a prominent location. These stores often sold fashion and home items, while independent shops and boutiques catered to a more eclectic consumer base.
Some of the most popular items displayed at these stores would include books, music videos, CD’s and videos, jewelry and watches. They also offered unique line of the “American Made” products, such as umbrellas and flashlights, tools and more. This last aspect was extremely important to consumers, who were becoming increasingly cautious about purchasing “fake” or reproductions. Many of these “counterfeits”, if not copied, bore the company’s logo.
Warren also took great care in the development of their stores. Each location was designed to promote a specific product line. They also carried high quality merchandise, which was usually available for a lower cost at one of their establishments. Many of their product lines were very different from one another. Their focus was on offering an eclectic mix of both casual and formal merchandise, to keep their customers satisfied.
Most people were drawn to Warren Barnes stores for the atmosphere. The layouts were colorful, cheerful and relaxed. Customers found themselves immediately drawn into the stores. These qualities made Warren Barnes stores the most popular in any region, including nationwide. The focus on quality merchandise and customer service made them stand out among their competitors. Even now, after decades of operation, the Barnes still possess the same spirit of giving their customers great service and a good experience.