At first blush, Bob Goodall’s decision to open a new retail store may seem a bit ill-conceived. After all, this is the age of Wal-Mart, Amazon and drone delivery. Brick-and-mortar stores are closing down, not opening up.
But with his new showroom in the Harrisburg, Pa., metro area, Goodall is betting he can beat the Internet and big boxes with something that everyone in the industry has in spades — expertise.
“The typical pool owner needs and wants a knowledgeable retailer he can trust,” said Goodall, president of Goodall Pools & Spas. “That’s what beats the Amazons, the Internet and the Costcos.”
Of course, Goodall’s bet comes with an ace in the hole: A new program from BioGuard that he not only pioneered, but also helped develop.
It all started two years ago when Goodall, a BioGuard dealer since 1997, went to BioLab and posed a tough question: “What are you going to do for your business and my business to stay relevant?” he asked.
The answer is the BioGuard Store Design Program, a templated collection of design, technology and vendor services to help retailers develop stores that can compete in today’s marketplace.
And because BioGuard can pull from the expertise of its parent company, KIK Custom Products, the program offers retailers resources they wouldn’t otherwise have, said Scott Newton, BioLab’s director of business development.
“Our dealers are great craftsmen, but they really don’t have the time to design a store,” said Newton, who worked with Goodall to develop the new program. “So that’s a worry we take off of them.”
That scenario is already playing out with the new prototype store Goodall launched in May using the program.
“The support’s been tremendous,” he said. That support started with BioLab’s global information systems technology. GIS uses geographical data, including pool ownership concentrations and locations of big-box stores, to help determine the optimal location for a new store, what Goodall calls an “underserved market.”
From there, Goodall tapped BioLab’s design and branding experts to come up with a holistic store design aimed at selling his services through a targeted customer experience.
Goodall said that experience starts even before customers enter the 4,000-square-foot store with a wide entrance that blows air conditioning at passersby to entice them in.
Once inside, they’re welcomed with a relaxing spa showroom and seating area. The open layout, coupled with strategically placed and crafted signage, creates a flow to the store that’s inviting as well as deliberate. The store is clean, well-lit and professional.
“Stuff used to just fly off the shelves and drop money in the cash register,” Goodall said. “That doesn’t happen anymore. The days of scotch tape and paper signs are gone.”
Goodall is tightlipped about the cost of opening the store, but he said the program allowed him to reduce expenses significantly. “The support from BioLab made it very easy financially,” he said. “And the co-op programs that helped the store launch were really big.”
Now Goodall plans to take some of the elements from the new store — the branding and logos — and incorporate them into his other stores. He encourages other retailers to take advantage of the program.
But whether they do or not, Goodall said all retailers need to get back to the basics of what makes pool and spa retailers beat Internet price cutters and big boxes every time.
“It’s not rocket science,” Goodall said. “But you have to do it differently than you did before. It’s not about price. Focus on knowledge, technology and customer needs, and you will succeed.”