Entering a new business segment can be a challenge, which Patio Pools knows. When the company began in 1969, it focused on building. The Tucson, Ariz.-based contractor didn’t have retail locations. “You build a pool, and then your relationship [with the customer] is kind of over,” says Nicole Ragel, administration manager for the company.

To change that, the company began opening retail locations. As the city expanded, Patio Pools opened stores in new areas to be more accessible to customers. By the end of the 1970s, the family-owned business included five storefronts.

Along the way, Patio management gained information and best practices with every opening. While branding and operational consistency is crucial to an expansion, the company learned over time that each location also required some level of customization.

“I definitely think you have to look at the area,” Ragel says.

Three of Patio’s locations have design centers and sell aboveground pools and hot tubs. The other two are neighborhood stores, focusing on chemicals and water tests. At a location near the University of Arizona, swimsuits and cover-ups are geared toward the tastes of young adults. Stores catering to planned communities carry stock tailored to that demographic.

“Our software allows us to track people’s shopping habits to see what’s moving,” Ragel says.
While Patio Pools has a “plug and play” environment, management prefers to keep employees at the same location, to meet customer expectations. Most of the staff has been with Patio Pools for more than 10 years, and have particular customers who ask specifically for them.

“A customer will drive an extra 10 minutes to see a specific person,” Ragel says.