Getting out of Chapter 11 is as multifaceted as getting into it. Just ask Namco, LLC.
Founded in 1962, the Manchester, Conn.-based pool retailer operated 37 stores throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions at the time of the Chapter 11 filing.
Bankruptcy protection gave Namco the opportunity to close its Branch Brook stores located across Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Today, the chain plans to maximize its loyal customer base in the New England area and convert its retail operation to distribution in the other areas.
What hurt Namco’s business was the $35 million acquisition in 2005 of Branch Brook Co., explained Mark Scott, Namco’s CEO. “The occupancy costs were much, much higher in the south,” he said, adding that because each Mid-Atlantic store had retail as well as distribution on site, the facilities were larger than those in New England, which use a central distribution center for all the retail stores.
Now, Namco will partner with a distributor to sell its Blue Shield chemicals to retailers in the Mid-Atlantic area. “They can still buy our brand, and we can wholesale it and not have the expenses we did,” Scott said.
Most of the stores now are closed for the winter, but will reopen in February after some small renovations and staff training.
An emphasis on customer service is at the forefront of Scott’s mind and will be a key part of employee training before the stores reopen. Namco hired an outside consultant not only to train the staff on the sales side, but also to raise the level of customer service.
One concrete change will be in the way installations are handled, Scott said. Namco contracts with outside companies to install features such as aboveground pools for customers. Before the installer leaves, the homeowners now will call a customer service representative to report their satisfaction with the install, Scott said. If they’re not happy with the service, the installer will stay until they are. “That’s a dramatic difference,” he noted.
In addition, no customer will wait for a representative on the phone for more than 30 seconds, and they’ll have a greater ability to follow up with complaints online, Scott said.
“We’re making sure [customers] understand not only are we going to be around, we’re going to be around better than ever,” he said. “We have a reinvigorated effort in our stores … to take that connection with our customers and make it stronger.”