Photos by Summy Lam
An expanded Mobile Team schedule highlights the many ways to get your Club gear this holiday.
Going to the store for your holiday shopping is so 1990. Here in 2021, it’s all about the store coming to you.
That’s how the Club is bringing Christmas shopping to you this holiday season – with three strong options to deliver the awesome Club gifts and apparel in your hands safely and conveniently.
It’s a three-fold strategy: one, greatly expanding the Mobile Team’s schedule to be in your area for safe, outside interaction with Club staff and a great selection and delivery of gifts. Two, of course, is online: Club Members have made the online Club Store a huge part of the Club experience. With multiple delivery options, online shopping is bigger and better than ever. And finally, three: The physical Club Store downtown is still your best bet for touching and feeling the merchandise, and for just stopping by and saying hello.
In these pages, we’ll go behind the scenes to show you how it all happens at the Club’s new retail warehouse and processing center, and we’ll detail just the information you need to make your Club Christmas shopping experience a perfect one.
Club elves (Customer Service Reps Marcus Martin and DeAngelo Thompson) are hard at work and proud to show you how your holiday gifts are customized. Let Club Store Manager Guadalupe Lira begin the tour! (All photos taken at the new Club warehouse and production facility, except as noted.)
‘Right Place, Right Time’
On Nov. 5, Alive! editor John Burnes interviewed Guadalupe Lira, Club Store Manager, as she was preparing the Mobile Team and online operations for a busy holiday shopping season. Later, Club CEO Robert Larios joined the conversation. The interview took place via Zoom from the Club warehouse, the engine of the Club’s retail operations.
Alive!: Good morning, Lupe. How are things looking at the warehouse?
Gaudalupe “Lupe” Lira: Busy! But we’ll be ready by Dec. 1 to take care of Members.
Great to hear. First on top of everyone’s mind is the global supply chain this holiday. Is it affecting Club retail? Will Members be able to get all the gifts the Club is offering?
Lupe: It has affected us primarily with hats, but we’ve been very diligent on staying ahead of the game. We started ordering merchandise for the holidays last July.
Way ahead of that game.
The Three Options
Great. I love how the Club is expanding its retail reach to make sure Club Members can get what they need. Let’s talk about the three main options for Club Members to shop for the holidays. First, let’s talk about online options. Most Club Members are shopping that way now.
Lupe: Right. If Members shop online, they have the option of picking up at the Club Store downtown, or receiving it through the US Postal Service or having it delivered by the Mobile Team at their job site, but for that, we do ask to communicate with us beforehand for scheduling.
Individual delivery to a yard?
Lupe: For department group orders under certain circumstances we can do that, yes. We just have to be able to schedule it.
That’s a really nice service to provide. It’s incredible, actually.
Lupe: We’ve worked hard on that.
So that’s online, the most popular way that Members shop for Club gear. Second is the Mobile Team – the group with the Club tent that brings Club gear, gifts and insurance products to yards and other locations. There’s been a huge growth in the Mobile Team scheduling.
Lupe: Absolutely. We’re really excited about the growth of the Mobile Team.
Tell me about the expanded appearance schedule for the Mobile Team.
Lupe: Sure. We’re doing this interview in early November, and there will be new locations by the time the paper and Website are published.
The Mobile Team has a couple of pieces of news: one, we’ve got a semi-permanent location in the Harbor at least once a month. All of our Harbor-based employees can look for us there early each month.
But the exciting part is that the Mobile Team is now making appearances at Farmer’s Markets and neighborhood festivals. We’re really excited about that.
Lupe: It is. We’ll be at the San Pedro Farmers Market hosted by the Little Italy Association of LA. Outside the San Pedro Municipal Building. The market is every Friday, but for now we’ll be there once a month, including Dec. 17 for holiday shopping.
We’ll be adding a lot more, too. Look for us in Griffith Park. Check the schedule in Alive! and in our social for all the confirmations.
I can imagine the market locations are going to bring a whole new audience to experience Club gear.
Lupe: Yes. But it’s important to remember that our first audience is always Club Members. We want to make sure that wherever we bring the Mobile Team, it will be because it makes access to the Club Store so much easier for our Members. They’re first; our market locations are chosen for the number of City employees concentrated in that area. Then, everyone else. I think it’s going to be really good exposure for Club membership.
Right. And the third option – the Club still has a physical retail store downtown. It’s open Monday through Friday through December.
Lupe: We are, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. It’s a beautiful store. (See above for expanded Club Store hours.) We were closed for nearly two years because of the pandemic. Since we reopened in November, Members are happy to come back and reconnect.
The Club Store is not just coming in and seeing and feeling the merchandise, but you can also get your online purchases delivered there too, right?
Curbside pickup still available?
Lupe: Sure, if Members request it, we can. Yes.
Holiday Gifts 2021
What’s new in Club gear for the Holidays 2021?
Lupe: We have new backpacks and new gator masks. We also have customizable mugs. I think those might be a hit – in the last week, I’ve received requests for dozens of customized mugs already. People can customize a mug with their name or their department name or their positions, titles. Those are really convenient gifts because who doesn’t like coffee or tea?
I think those are going to be a nice gift that our Members are going to enjoy.
How long does it take to get a custom mug done?
Lupe: Within two hours.
Lupe: It depends on the size of the order, but the last order for seven mugs that I had, I think it took me about two and a half hours.
You do that in house.
Lupe: I do.
We’re now joined by Club CEO Robert Larios.
Robert Larios: Good morning!
Any other gifts that you think will be really hot, Lupe?
Lupe: As usual, our sweaters, hats and beanies are always top sellers during the holidays. We started stocking up earlier this year. We’re going to be the right place at the right time for Members looking for gifts.
The gift sets are always popular, too. Good items packaged together.
Lupe: Absolutely. I want to offer something that is perfect for coworkers, that there’s something for everyone. Sometimes workers can have five coworkers or sometimes they can have 15. When we put together the gift set with the ornament keychain and lapel pin, I thought of price. I wanted to make sure it was affordable, yet still something significant with meaning for people. Members will have gift set options that are fairly priced and of value, and then as always, we offer stocking stuffers Last year, the biggest stocking stuffer that people were talking about were the City seal facemasks. They sold like hot cakes.
I remember. You were selling them faster than you could make them. With the gift sets, it’s convenient for people to get some of the more popular gifts put together in one package.
Lupe: Yes. I wanted to make sure that Members could get nice gifts for a good deal.
The See’s Candies certificates and the Honeybaked Hams certificates are always hugely popular.
Lupe: We’re still finalizing those deals. But there’s been a change in See’s Candies – it’s not a gift certificate anymore; it’s a gift card. No more certificates for a pound of See’s – it’s just a straight gift card now. That change came from See’s, not the Club. We’re still evaluating it.
How about movie tickets? Are people feeling a little more comfortable about going to the movies again? What’s your take on that?
Lupe: Yes, ticket sales have been steady, primarily e-tickets because that’s the convenient route. But we have been getting calls for the paper tickets to be mailed out to Members for the traditional feel of the ticket. Some people think it’s a lot nicer when you receive an actual voucher instead of a barcode. They’re also better as stocking stuffers, too. They’re picking up again.
Let’s jump from the affordable to the more deluxe gift – bomber jackets, for example.
Lupe: They are very hot. We’ve added many more patches now. Members from Sanitation and the LADWP are the biggest buyers. They put their department patch on the front or the sleeve and then they’ll add American flags; it’s like a whole thing. Everybody’s trying to be cooler than the next person. We’re happy to help!
And you’re still happy to put together department orders like shirts, etc., for everyone in a department.
Lupe: Yes, absolutely! Scheduling the custom department orders is important.
Adapting Rapidly To Retail
Let’s talk about like a bigger issue how the Club is adapting to the changing ways our Members like to shop at the Club Store. The expanding Mobile Team schedule; the Club warehouse; curbside delivery, and so forth. Over the last few years, the Club is really adapting to serve our Members better.
Lupe: One hundred percent. Our biggest strength right now has been our online store, because Members can order any time from anywhere, and we’ll ship anywhere. That’s a big convenience for members. A lot of Members are concerned with getting the right size and color, for example. We offer the option to return it or to send it back for an exchange. That’s just standard. And with the Mobile Team, we we can set up outdoors, which is one of the biggest things right now with COVID – safety.
Lupe: We don’t have to be in a building. It’s more comfortable, and we can still access the departments and meet the people. I see our Mobile Team going everywhere across the City and reaching out to new Members and new employees and showing what we have.
Right. All of retail has changed and that’s a reflection of the way most people want to shop, and the Club isn’t any different in that. The Club is adapting to meet the Members’ needs.
A Special Calling
Of course working retail during the holidays can be stressful. But it’s probably pretty special, too, right?
Lupe: Absolutely. It can be very stressful, but knowing that we’re the go-to team for our Members, and that they love our merchandise, is so satisfying. It’s like “All right, we have purpose. This is why we do it, because there’s somebody waiting for us.”
You actually do make people’s holidays even more special. That’s got to be a great feeling.
Lupe: It is. It’s what we love to do.
Right. You really have a special sense of family.
Lupe: We’ve endured so many challenges and overcame them during the pandemic that it makes it even more significant to each of us. The hardest part for me during COVID was closing down and not being able to interact with Members socially and in person. City employees who were called in as Emergency Service Works were calling us for shirts and masks. When we finally got the masks, it like blew up, especially with the promos that we did. Staff was just diving in and doing anything that was needed and working together. That was an amazing time, and that’s just a reminder of what we are to the City.
Robert: I wanted to add a couple of points. First I find the customization intriguing. I’ve been using a customized mug for months. They’re great, and the Club Store crew made it: Customized just for me. They can put anything on a mug. Members should ask them about it!
And I love that the Club Store is offering movie tickets – both digital and paper. There’s a group of Members who still like the paper version of the tickets. It’s great that the Employees Club recognizes there are two sort of groups now – one prefers paper tickets, while the other loves the convenience of being able to get their tickets sent within seconds into their email inboxes while they’re on their way to the movie theater or they’re even walking up into the entrance before punching in a purchase. They love to be able to do that.
It’s just in time.
Robert: Right, the just-in-time is incredible.
It’s taking care of Members.
Robert: There’s no restrictions on distance anymore. You could be anywhere and buying a movie ticket through the Club.
Lupe: Right. It happens all the time.
Sign Up for E-Blasts
Robert: Can I ask a question this time?
Robert: Lupe, do you have any tips for Members on how to navigate the holiday season and be able to get their purchases as smoothly as possible? What do they need to do? With all three methods of buying from the Club, what’s the best option?
Lupe: Buying through the Club Store online and over the phone is probably the fastest way to secure their order because once we sell out, we sell out. My biggest suggestion is – don’t wait for the last minute. Order early! If you’re going to order with postal delivery, definitely order ahead of time, If there are any questions or any doubts, just call us. We’re here to help.
Robert: What’s your suggestion for Members when our e-blasts come out?
Lupe: As soon as our email blasts go out, we tend to sell out very quickly. I’ve seen those items sell out within 20 minutes. As soon as you see that email, just log in; don’t think about it. Just buy it. Disney on Ice sells out within minutes. Our ticket deals for Hamilton sold out in two hours.
This has been a great discussion, Lupe and Robert, about meeting the changing needs of Club Members. Thanks for the information, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Robert: Awesome. You too, John.
Lupe: Thanks, you too.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Club Director of Marketing Summy Lam (left) photographs Guadalupe Lira, Club Store Manager, for this month’s cover image.