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Retail entrepreneur: David H. Russell.


David H. Russell

DAR Group Investments, Inc.


David H. Russell is all for fun, fun, fun. With him, it's "the Friday night fights and the Saturday matinee, darlin'."

Russell learned the shoe trade in a blue suit, kneeling before customers seated in orderly rows as they tried on different pairs he sedately trotted out from the stockroom. The second he could, Russell got out of staid, stagnant, straight-jacket selling and blew the lid off of tradition. In 1978, he invented his new way of marketing footwear-making shopping entertainment.

Russell's Evansville-based Carnival chain has since grown to 35 stores with more than 2,000 employees in Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Iowa, Tennessee, Michigan and Missouri. And expansion continues to be the name of Carnival's game. Says Russell: We are looking very closely at Ohio and the South, maybe Georgia." His company, DAR Group Investments, inc., intends to expand by eight to I 0 stores a year.

How would you like to go to work where they turn off the jukebox and the boss stands on a stage at a microphone and gives away $10 bills, or where the Indianapolis Colts and the peppy cheerleaders show up for an opening? Russell says the freewheeling, hoopla atmosphere encourages customers to shop long and buy more pairs, plus-it keeps employees on their toes.

Behind the scenes, the hysteria is checked at the door and a seasoned group of serious, experienced experts run the sprawling company. They are alumni of buttoned-down shoe companies such as Brown, Florsheim and Bass. They buy more than 6 million pairs of shoes a year and do more than $1 00 million in sales. i truly believe," Russell confides, 'in the next decade that the Carnival will be without a doubt the largest family shoe retail operation anywhere in the United States of America and I believe we'll be a billion dollar business."

Carnival's Evansville store already is billed as the largest shoe store in the United States. it occupies 17,500 square feet, twice the average size, has an inventory of 115,000 pairs and generates sales of $10 million a year. This is where many of the zany-like-a fox promotions are tested. Others are previewed at sites in Indianapolis and Kentucky.

Russell describes his management style as the "KISSsystem," which stands for Keep it simple, stupid." And, he vows, "If it ever stops being fun, I'll get out of the business." He will never compromise on his promise that Carnival customers can buy "quality, name-brand shoes at the guaranteed lowest prices and be entertained in the process."

Russell's thought on the top entrepreneurial quality is: "You've got to have good people, give them clear-cut direction and let them do their jobs."
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Title Annotation:Indiana's Entrepreneurs of the Year
Author:Johnson, J. Douglas
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 1990
Previous Article:Emerging entrepreneur: Sue and Anthony Moravec.
Next Article:Service entrepreneur: Robert W. Poorman Jr.

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