During a time when many retail brands are going out of business due to the effect that Amazon and other online-only businesses have on brick and mortar retailers, one brand is fighting its way to the top and showing no signs of slowing its growth. Batteries Plus Bulbs, a 725+-unit specialty battery, light bulb and phone repair franchise, has evolved its core business offering since its inception in 1988 to great success, and recently announced plans to grow through strategic alignment with new franchise partners in Southern California and the Northeast.
“Our brand has largely been unaffected by the ‘Amazon Effect’ because a high percentage of our sales come from items that can’t be shipped,” said Russ Reynolds, CEO of Batteries Plus Bulbs. “We focus on the customers that come into our stores with a device that doesn’t work. By the time they leave, their device is back up and running. We consider our team members and franchise owners to be problem solvers. You just don’t get that level of expertise or immediacy with online-only retailers, and that’s what has fueled our growth over the past 30 years.”
Also fueling the brand’s growth is its ability to be nimble in a changing retail climate. In 2010, after recognizing a need for hands-on service for specialty light bulbs, the brand expanded its product offerings. Then, as mobile phones and tablets became more popular, Batteries Plus Bulbs made another strategic decision -- to launch the We Fix It® Repair Center, the brand’s repair service that provides customers with in-store maintenance for phones, tablets and other devices.
“Before mobile phones and tablets became popular, our top sellers were batteries for cameras, camcorders, cordless phones and other products that have been made relatively obsolete by the smartphone,” said Reynolds. “To meet changing consumer demands, we began repairing cracked screens and, over time, extended our problem-solving expertise into fixing those devices to help our customers and create a new revenue stream for our franchisees.”
This shift has enabled Batteries Plus Bulbs to quickly become the top phone repair franchise in terms of number of retail locations nationwide, serving the $3.9 billion repair industry. Batteries Plus Bulbs will continue to expand its service offerings, with plans to roll out key cutting and key fob services in most stores by the end of 2018.
“With more than 253 million vehicles in the United States as of 2017, and one in ten people needing a new key fob each year, keys and key fobs are a natural next step in the growth of our services,” said Reynolds. “According to a Google survey, 63 percent of consumers have locked themselves out of their car, with one in four not owning a spare key. This service is an opportunity to continue to evolve our brand to meet changing consumer behavior and provides our customers with another solution to a common problem, and our franchisees with another revenue stream to continue to grow unit-level economics.”
The strategic evolution of the brand led to a successful 2017 that saw 24 new franchisees, 26 new store openings and six existing franchisees signing on for another location, a same-store sales increase of 3.7 percent and a system-wide sales increase of 5.3 percent. Batteries Plus Bulbs plans to build on that momentum and is primed for continued growth in 2018 and beyond.
To meet its goal of 40 new franchise agreements through deals with existing and new franchisees, the brand is seeking new franchise partners with territory available in desirable markets in Southern California and the Northeast, including Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, District of Columbia and Rhode Island.