Audubon Hill: A Relationship Marketing Case Study

Article excerpt

CASE DESCRIPTION

The following case demonstrates how local businesses can flourish even in tough economic times. The case highlights two dominant marketing topics, relationship marketing and customer gratitude, and reveals their favorable effects for a small local business. The case is particularly applicable in an introductory marketing course, although it is also suited for undergraduates enrolled in management, fashion merchandising or retailing courses. It is recommended that students will assess the company's marketing strategy as well as target market, and examine the company's practice of relationship marketing and generation of customer gratitude. Students should expect to spend two hours outside of class reviewing and responding to the case questions in groups. An in class discussion can follow, in which the class hears all of the different group responses.

CASE SYNOPSIS

Audubon Hill Antiques and Gifts is a gift shop located in Saint Francisville, Louisiana. Saint Francisville was founded in 1809 and has traditionally been a popular tourist attraction due to its historic plantations, churches, cemeteries, gardens and renowned golf course. Audubon Hill is located in the downtown market district and the rustic design of the store fits in well with the town's history. The store has been in business for six years and carries a wide assortment of high-end merchandise including gifts, antiques, home decor, jewelry, bath and body products, children and baby items, women's and men's clothing, accessories, seasonal merchandise, souvenirs, and traditional Louisiana specialty foods. Gifts can be found for weddings, baby showers, holidays, and birthdays for all ages. The owner, Kathleen, describes the store as being the place where you can find a gift for anyone and take a little piece of Louisiana home with you. Although Audubon Hill has survived the 2008-2012 global recession thus far, the owner worries about the company's future. Since 2008, tourism in Saint Francisville has been unpredictable and Audubon Hill's current year-to-date sales are down from last year. Kathleen's afraid that Audubon Hill may not experience enough sales to keep the business operating.

AUDUBON HILL OVERVIEW

The downtown market district in Saint Francisville, LA has been steadily experiencing fewer customers than prior years. In the past five years, various local retailers have gone out of business, including clothing and antique shops, video stores, and a neighborhood meat market. The decline in Saint Francisville patronage is likely due to turbulent economic conditions and decreased tourism. According to statistics provided by the director of the West Feliciana Parish Tourism Commission, Katie Smith, Saint Francisville tourism has declined from 2008-2011 (See Table 1) and has not experienced nearly the same tourism levels as New Orleans. In fact, Saint Francisville recently had to increase sales tax, which is another indication of the financial hardship being experienced. After seeing several of the local businesses close as well as experiencing a decline in sales, Kathleen, the owner of Audubon Hill Antiques & Gifts, a shop located in Saint Francisville, is worried about her own business and whether it can stand these market conditions. Kathleen states, "In the past few years, I've witnessed many nearby businesses close, and I don't want to end up like one of them. My sales have been mediocre, and I know I need to change some things around this shop to stay afloat, but I don't know what to change."

Saint Francisville was established in 1809 and rests on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The town and its surrounding parish (i.e. county), West Feliciana, has traditionally generated a large amount of tourism. In fact, the annual financial impact for tourism in the West Feliciana Parish is roughly $18 million. Saint Francisville's plantations such as the Myrtle Plantation, which is proclaimed as one of America's most haunted homes; as well as the picturesque Rosedown, Butler Greenwood, and Greenwood Plantations, are primary tourism venues. …