Stories from the Covid-19 Front Lines: Scott Williams, Batteries Plus CEO
Name: Scott Williams
Brand: Batteries Plus
Locations: 47 U.S. states & Puerto Rico
How many locations has your brand reopened? How many closed permanently?
All of our stores remain open. In fact, none of our stores had to close as Batteries Plus was deemed an essential business almost immediately. To add to all of this, we were on track to sign for 30 new stores during the course of 2020, with the majority of those signings since March.
What are your franchisees telling you about their economic recovery?
After a decline in March and April, business steadily picked up as families needed batteries for their thermometers, batteries and chargers for their laptops, and batteries for their cars, boats, motorcycles, and more. We had record sales months throughout the summer and the trend did not slow down in the fall.
Has your business shifted to delivery/pickup? What effect has this had?
We saw our highest increases in “buy online pickup in store” (BOPIS) in April and May. However, now that customers understand more about Covid and feel comfortable coming into our stores, our increase in BOPIS orders has stabilized at around a 15% increase.
What new programs did you introduce for franchisees during Covid-19?
From a retail/customer-facing perspective, we introduced curbside delivery and battery install appointment setting. We also introduced support to help our owners work through the opportunities they could secure in terms of lease negotiations:
- Wider variety of options. Because of Covid, we are seeing an increase in available spaces that fit our prime target size. This fact has opened a broad array of options to choose from in any given market. Franchisees have been open to exploring these options and working with us to be more proactive in pursuing these locations.
- Better lease terms. The combination of being an essential business that has thrived during the pandemic, and a national brand with a more than 30-year track record of success during all types of economic conditions, puts us and our franchisees in a strong negotiating position. Landlords, brokers, and developers are seeking us out to add to their shopping centers. Our real estate department is fielding inquiries daily in markets across the country. Being a highly desired retailer of choice allows us to secure favorable lease terms.
- Tenant improvement (TI) allowances. We have a simple, straightforward store build-out program that yields great looking stores. Because of our quick turnaround time, long-term brand strength, and strong results, landlords have been open to working with us to provide TI support to help offset some of those build-out costs. Many franchisees like this option because it allows them to preserve more of their capital, which they can then invest in other areas of their business as they are starting up.
How have your franchisees responded to these programs?
Franchisees are positive about our efforts to sustain operations during this crisis with curbside service. With many restaurants and other retailers closed, letting customers know we’re open also is key. Our owners are doing a great job in letting everyone know we're ready to serve.
What are your franchisees doing for their customers?
In addition to offering curbside delivery and appointment setting, they are listening to their customers. They are going above and beyond to get customers what they need, including custom delivery options for hospitals and assisted living communities, going to the customer when they can’t get to us, and keeping key items powered when they need them the most.
How are customers responding to your reopening guidelines?
We see customers being very receptive to our guidelines and more comfortable in a small retail environment over the big box stores. As our stores are nimble, they are able to respond to customers’ requests for curbside delivery. Our reviews reflect the ease and convenience of this option.
How have your suppliers supported you through the past 6 months? Do you expect any permanent changes in how you do business with them?
Our suppliers have stepped up during this crucial time to help Batteries Plus and our franchise stores. The strongest examples include offering extended terms, identifying creative ways to keep the supply chain strong, and investing as a partner in the future of our brand. As a system, we are on the brink of a revamp of our in-store retail experience. This revamp includes remerchandising, new customer-friendly counters, updated signage, and in-store retail TV displays. Many of our vendors recognize the potential impact of this project on how our customers interact with us and the products they are able to identify while in-store. They are helping us by contributing to this project to ensure it’s done in the most cost-effective way in our stores. In terms of permanent changes, we have historically had strong vendor relationships across all categories and anticipate this to continue into the indefinite future. These strong relationships have been what has helped us do very well in the current environment. Continuing to strengthen these relationships is crucial to long-term success.
How do you see the future of your brand, operations, market, etc. post–Covid-19?
Our brand is going to continue to operate. That is something many companies cannot say. Not only operate, but perform well. As an essential business in a needs-based niche industry, we have been in a position where we have shown a stable revenue stream, predictable P&Ls, and the overall strength of our system. We believe we are going to continue to see record numbers of qualified franchise candidates express interest in our brand and are predicting a significant increase in the number of franchises awarded based on those factors in 2021.
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