STORES - September 2010 - (Page 47)

NUTS AND BOLTS / PEOPLE Rock On House band helps Spencer Gifts stay close to its roots BY ED McKINLEY S ome guys have all the luck. Take the five retailing executives who play in a rock band called The Repeat Offenders, the “house band” at Spencer Gifts’ corporate headquarters in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. and I wanted the band to have kind of a prison theme,” Mahoney says. “We’re not a pretty band. We wanted to go for a tough look and a tough sound.” The name also brings to mind the company’s tendency to stock merchandise that offends the sensibility of some shoppers, Mahoney says. When consumers phone headquarters to complain about some of the product offerings, Mahoney soothes callers by reminding them that what was shocking a generation ago now seems tame. Fulfilling rock and roll fantasies The band recently competed in the 10th Annual Fortune Battle of the Corporate Bands, which raises funds and awareness for educational programs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The band had qualified for regional competition on the strength of a three-song demo CD. “We played great but, unfortunately, weren’t picked to go on” to the finals scheduled for October in Cleveland, Mahoney says. But the band members have had plenty of chances to see and hear their rock idols over the years. Just recently, a business trip took Mahoney to St. Louis, where he carved out enough time to see Chuck Berry give one of his monthly appearances in the Duck Room, a small venue in a club called Blueberry Hill. After the show, the corporate lawyer met the rock legend. Mahoney tells it this way: “I said, ‘Mr. Berry, I want to thank you for inventing rock and roll.’ And he said, ‘You’re welcome, young man.’” “That,” Mahoney says, “was one of the highlights of my life.” StORES Ed McKinley is a Chicago-based writer and editor. STORES / SEPTEMBER 2010 47 The specialty retailer doesn’t just tolerate the band — it offers encouragement, says Kevin Mahoney, who serves as the company‘s general counsel when he’s not busy with lead vocals on the band’s covers of Stones, Doors and Springsteen tunes. Spencer Gifts’ strong support becomes undeniable at twice-yearly company festivals. Spencer president and CEO Steve Silverstein almost invariably joins the band to sing at least one song, often a cover of the Steppenwolf hit “Born to be Wild.” Deep-seated culture A love of rock and roll permeates the culture of Spencer Gifts, which operates more than 1,400 stores under the Spencer’s, Spirit Halloween and ToyZam banners. Founded as a mailorder house in 1948, it has fueled rock fantasies for generations, Mahoney says. “There’s not a kid in this country who has experienced rock and roll without going to Spencer Gifts,” says Mahoney. “Whether it was buying a Jimi Hendrix black-light poster back in 1969 or coming in today and buying a Metallica, Green Day or Lil Wayne shirt.” In 2006, the company held an inhouse battle of the bands and The Repeat Offenders came out on top. The four original members still pounding WWW.STORES.ORG out the tunes include Mahoney; product development manager Carl Franke on bass; financial manager John Hayhurst on rhythm guitar; and senior director of operations Scott Houghton on lead guitar. The original drummer, who man- “There’s not a kid in this country who has experienced rock and roll without going to Spencer Gifts.” – Kevin Mahoney, Spencer Gifts aged the supply chain, left the company and was replaced by Dave Freeman, a manager for Spirit Halloween. “Fortunately, we have so many musicians in the company we were able to slide in a new drummer from here in the home office,” Mahoney says. The band’s name carries at least two meanings. “I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan http://WWW.STORES.ORG

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of STORES - September 2010

STORES - September 2010
Table of Contents
Editor's Page
President's Page
Retail People
Favorite 50
Retail Showcase
Customer Retention
Social Shopping
Gift Cards
Business Intelligence
Networking & Communications
Customer Centricity
Payments & Credit
Return Fraud
Green Issues
ARTS Update
Point of View
NRF News
Retail Industry Calendar
End Cap

STORES - September 2010