Our Spotlight Interview is with Bill Poynot, owner of Perret’s, New Orleans, LA.

How did Perret’s begin?

Perret’s was founded by Joseph Perret in 1926 as a men’s ready to wear clothier on Rampart Street in New Orleans.  Joseph’s sons, Leon and Robert, joined the business, which was very successful for many years.  In 1964 Perret’s was destroyed in a fire, but reopened at 125 Royal Street and continued there as a men’s fashion retailer until 1988.  Leon became the sole owner of Perret’s in 1976 following the untimely death of his brother.

In 1981 Leon, now the sole owner of Perret’s, opened the first Perret’s Army Surplus Store at 5618 Jefferson Hwy.  His son-in-law, Bill Poynot, joined the company and became the manager of this new store.  Success quickly followed and the company decided to expand in 1985, adding a second store at 3814 Williams Blvd.

The new Williams Blvd. store proved a tough location for retail, so in 1988, at the end of its three year lease, it moved to 2532 Williams Blvd.  Initially, this store filled 2500 square feet but was enlarged to 4100 square feet around 1993.

Bill Poynot

Over the years Bill Poynot and his wife Lauren purchased shares of the business from Mr. Perret (Lauren’s Dad) and eventually became the sole owners of the company upon Mr. Perret’s retirement in 1998.

Perret’s developed a regular clientele over the years and expanded its offering to include uniforms for local schools, business organizations, and various state and local law enforcement agencies. Ancillary to this, the store purchased equipment and expanded into custom embroidery and later custom screen-printing services.

The original army surplus store at 5618 Jefferson Hwy was closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and all of Perret’s operations were then centered at Williams Blvd.

In the spring of 2011, an opportunity presented itself and Perret’s inked a ten year lease on a brand new 7000+ square foot facility at 2514 Williams Blvd, located in the same Westland Shopping center. Designed and constructed from the ground up, it allowed Perret’s to lay out the new store to its exact needs.  Construction began in the summer of 2011 and the store was moved in early November.

This new store is much larger than the old store and allows Perret’s more flexibility to display and merchandise its wide range of products.  It also allows the screen print department, the embroidery department, and all of its offices to be located under one roof.  Perret’s looks forward to many years of continued success in Kenner, Louisiana.

What impact did Hurricane Katrina have on you personally and on your business? 

“I would say it was bittersweet. Our home took on quite a bit of water and we were plagued by incompetent contractors. Thus, it took us a long time to repair it and still felt in the end that it was like having ‘damaged goods.’  A couple of years later after all of our kids left home, we decided to sell the house and move out to the country. We really enjoy our new place.” 

Tell us about your business. 

“Prior to Hurricane Katrina we had two stores, but in the aftermath one store was badly looted and  destroyed. The undamaged store was making a good share of the profits, so we made the tough decision to not reopen the damaged store.  We have operated just the one store since then and find that we had been splitting up our trade.  Now the one store has a greater gross sales figure that the two ever did combined.

In 2011 a raw empty space presented itself and we began planning to create a brand new (inside) store that would almost perfectly suit our needs. Having been in the business and knowing what would work better, we planned the layouts, made it attractive, shoppable and customer friendly. The square footage was increased from 4,000 square feet to 7,000 square feet. We have noticed that our sales have increased because customers now buy more things. Also, our embroidery  and screen-printing area is behind glass doors so when customers come in, they see it and want to find out what that is all about.  As a result of these changes and additions, 2011 has turned out to be our best year in sales ever.”

What makes your company unique? 

Wow, I have never been asked that question before!” [Editor’s note: How would you, as business owners, answer that question?] “I would say that instead of unique we do many things well: we have a good product mix and our embroidery and screen printing department strives to do outstanding work.  We have been successful in developing a reputation of great products and service   among our business and institutional customers.”

“Perret’s does about 40% of our business with outside customers such as police departments,  security companies, schools, local and state agencies (like the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries) and others”

Bill said he has continuously revamped their strategies to keep up with trends and continues to grow and prosper.He reflects this philosophy with his enthusiastic statement: “We are very excited about our business and opening our new store.”

What is your advice to new entrepreneurs? 

Bill’s advice to new entrepreneurs in the army navy and related industries is: 

“Hey, does anyone want to buy MY business?”(Jokingly! Bill has a great sense of humor.)

Seriously speaking, he said that he values having good advisers, whether they are professionals such as attorneys, CPA’s, business consultants or trusted and savvy friends and family.  

What do you like about the Expo? 

“I like the feeling of intimacy it creates. The really large shows I have attended did not provide this, nor did they really care whether I was happy or not. The Army Navy Military Expo excels in this.” Bill continued that he has no intention of going to one of the large shows. He likes the friendly atmosphere of vendors and buyers and the ability to experience the camaraderie of people with similar interests and common goals.

I thoroughly enjoyed my interview with Bill. Thanks so much!

For more information you can visit Perret’s website at: www.perrets.com or you can email him at: bill@perrets.com.