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How Big Blue Swim School Gives Franchise Partners the Opportunity to Tap Into Prime Real Estate Vacated by Brick-and-Mortar Retailers

As more retailers transition away from traditional brick-and-mortar spaces and shift focus to the online marketplace, Big Blue offers a recession-resistant business to fill the gap for commercial landlords.

By Luca Piacentini1851 Franchise Managing Editor
SPONSOREDUpdated 9:09AM 07/26/22

Since its founding in 2009, Big Blue Swim School, one of the nation’s fastest-growing learn-to-swim franchise brands, has made its mission to show kids they can do anything by unlocking their full potential in the water. To achieve this goal, Big Blue prioritizes the needs of parents, leveraging a data-driven real estate strategy that chooses locations that are in high traffic shopping areas already well-traveled by families. Now, as the “Amazon Effect” forces many brick-and-mortar retailers to close their stores, Big Blue Swim School is tapping the market to secure locations across the country, offering a recession-resistant franchise opportunity for entrepreneurs and an attractive option for landlords.

“The move to e-commerce, which has accelerated over recent years, has forced many big box retailers into systemwide closures,” said Scott Sanders, CEO of Big Blue. “This has enabled Big Blue to source opportunities for space that did not previously exist, enabling quicker growth across a wider variety of cities and locations.”

Real estate has always played an important role in the business plan for Big Blue. At its origin, Big Blue’s leadership leveraged market research that showed that most American families have two children approximately 36 months apart, translating this to value-rich capacity planning: a pool within a typical footprint between 8,500 and 12,000 square feet and 13 swimming lanes. With larger pools, Big Blue can service multiple children at the same time, resulting in a more streamlined and comfortable experience for the parents. 

Because of the size requirements for its stores, Big Blue targets larger spaces, generally in the 10,000-square-foot range, such as former big-box retail spaces like Pier 1 or Toys”R”Us. As more retailers move online, Big Blue has continued to provide a solution to help landlords fill these larger vacancies.

“If you’re a landlord with a larger space that’s been vacated, you’re now faced with the likely prospect of dividing and subdividing that space for new tenants,” said Michael Chin, Big Blue’s president of real estate services. “We offer that landlord the ability to lease 10,000- or 15,000-square-foot spaces or larger to a single tenant, which saves them potentially $500,000 to $1 million in costs from cutting up that space for clients with smaller square footage needs.”

Landlords can also be confident Big Blue Swim School will help bring foot traffic to their facilities and shopping centers. Big Blue Swim School utilizes a data-driven real estate selection process to find sites that fit into a family’s weekly routine, in a parents’ path of least resistance, for overall convenience and to increase brand awareness. This not only positions franchise owners for sustainable growth, but also makes the opportunity more attractive for landlords.

“We like to locate our stores around other traffic-generating sites, such as malls or grocery stores,” Chin said. “We want to put ourselves in the place where families are already traveling. This not only helps generate traffic for us, but also for landlords. The demographic that our stores attract is a demographic that will likely increase business across the other stores in the center.”

Additionally, Sanders notes that parents are willing to invest in their child’s safety. “Currently there just isn’t enough water for formal swim lessons. As a result, the learn-to-swim industry is booming,” Sanders said. “Swim lessons fill a vital need for safety and cannot be outsourced or automated. This means that Big Blue’s experiential services can’t be replaced by an online offering, unlike many other franchises.”

Now, with landlords increasingly willing to support the buildout of a swimming pool and retailers leaving sites vacated, prospective Big Blue franchise owners have access to more of these prime locations than ever before. 

With this mutually-beneficial real estate strategy in place, it’s clear why Big Blue has already signed 227 agreements to develop locations across 25 states and is emerging as a leader in this underserved category.

Multi-unit franchise opportunities are available for qualified candidates looking for their next big opportunity, and veterans can receive a 10 percent discount on the $80,000 franchise fee. The total investment necessary to begin operation of a new Big Blue is $2,475,200 to $3,966,700 (refer to item 7 in FDD) To learn more or inquire about Big Blue, visit