Plenty of motivations fuel the decision to add new stores. Surprisingly enough, it isn’t always just about profitability. For instance, Norm Coburn’s single-store firm had been winning awards for being the largest volume single store for one of its brands for five years when he decided it was time to branch out.
“It just seemed like one store — kind of been there, done that,” says the owner of New England Spas, headquartered in Natick, Mass. “It was the opportunity to have greater challenge in the business and personally.”
Coburn started with his Natick store in the mid-1980s, then opened a second location in Norwell and a third in Auburn. A fourth store closed during the recession.
As he soon learned, it’s essential to have staff ready to go from day one. Though the store may be new, personnel can’t seem green.
“You have to hopefully find people that are flexible and want the new challenge,” Coburn says.
For his second store, Coburn recruited Kevin Drogue, a Massachusetts native who’d moved to Southern California and sold hot tubs there. Not only did he have industry experience, but he was familiar with New England Spas, having worked the company’s booth at home shows during the slow season.
For his third store, Coburn relocated one of his Natick employees who wanted to decrease commute time, and he recruited other staff from within the industry.
Coburn also learned the importance of outfitting all stores with identical operational systems — phones, computer network, etc. — to create a “plug-and-play” environment. This helps smooth over unexpected staff absences.
“Anybody could work in any location. It would be pretty seamless,” Coburn says. “You’re going to need to move people where you have holes, and the more functional they are in multiple situations, the more flexible they are, the easier it is for you to run your business.”
Experience showed Coburn that the actual costs of adding a location rarely remain within budget. Building permits and signage can impose unforeseen expenses and headaches, because retailers often don’t know what those entail until he or she begins the application process.