Battery and lightbulb retailer Batteries Plus has its sights set on East Coast markets.
By Kayla Allen
Batteries Plus, a battery and light bulb retailer, founded in Green Bay, Wisconsin, has reached 525 stores in 46 states with steady plans for continued new developments.
Ron Rezetco founded Batteries Plus, the first batteries-only retailer, in 1988 with capital from friend and business partner Norman Arthur Epstein, founder of Packerland Automotive Group, an auto parts warehouse distribution center. In the early days, the store focused on automotive batteries. Today, the inventory includes batteries for laptops, camcorders, cell phones, digital cameras, cordless tools and car, truck and motorcycle batteries. The inventory also includes an extensive selection of light bulbs. Stores host a tech center, where batteries can be analyzed and rebuilt to bring back to life broken electric razors, tools, vacuums, toys and appliances. They also recycle batteries and bulbs.
In 1992, Batteries Plus started franchising. Now there are 492 franchises throughout the states and 33 corporate-owned stores. "We've been expanding at a pace of about 55 to 60 stores a year and that is a pace we intend to sustain," says John Twist, vice president of franchise and business development. "We have opened about one store per week on average over the past 4 years."
The company currently has plans to open new stores in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey.
When deciding on new markets, Twist says the company looks for dense population, specifically business density due to their business-to-business program featured in every store.
"We'll engage in commercial sales," Twist says, "We'll go out in the area and market and provide businesses with the types of batteries they use."
Scouting a location for Batteries Plus is extremely important due to its specific retail offerings, which, essentially, consist of two items. However, there are more than 30,000 different types of batteries and 10,000 types of light bulbs to choose from.
"The only time people come to our store is when they need something," Twist says. Since few customers come to browse new inventory, location is important. "We love to be around the big box guys, and typically we will make sure our stores are [near them]."
The average store is between 1,800 to 2,200 square feet with crisp, clean interiors and numerous shelves of batteries and light bulbs. The ideal location, Twist says, would be a shopping center people visit frequently, usually an end-cap position on a street with high traffic count, good visibility and nose-in parking for its customers. A congested intersection is golden, according to Twist.
The company looks for markets with high percentages of homeownership versus rental apartment complexes because single-family homes tend to own more battery-powered devices. Disposable household income is also a factor in deciding the ideal locale for the newest store.
"The biggest differentiation about us is that we are a needs-based business," Twist says.
Batteries Plus is geared to expand in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states.
The company began in Wisconsin and has tended to develop more toward the South, leaving out a majority of the dense East Coast market.
"I would never use the word 'recession-proof,' but we've definitely been resilient and have grown during a pretty difficult economic period," Twist says.
Batteries Plus carries virtually all light bulbs or batteries a consumer or business would need. The retailer offers light bulbs for recessed lighting, track lighting, incandescent and CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) use to more specialized bulbs for cars, health care equipment, aquariums, projectors and more. The company also sells a various high-end energy saving LED light bulbs with lifespans of more than 20 years.
"In times of economic difficulty, where disposable incomes are small, people will hang onto their devices longer and replace the batteries in them," he says. Additionally, Twist says this goes both ways as when the economy is robust and disposable income is greater, people tend to buy new battery powered devices. But they don't dispose of the older ones — they give them to someone else, creating an even greater market for battery retailers.
"It's really been a terrific business. We're not sexy, we're not trendy, we're not subject to ever-shifting consumer behavior," Twist says. "We're just a needs-based business."
— Kayla Allen