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How Batteries Plus Recharged During the Recession

What were the key lessons Batteries Plus got out of the recession?

Reynolds: We urged our franchisees to work on the elements of their business that were in their control.

For example, we encouraged stores to have the right depth and breadth of inventory assortment so they could serve any customer need. Stores expanded hours of operation in order to be open when customers want to shop. Franchisees accelerated commercial or [business to business] sales activity in their markets as area businesses looked for ways to save money and be more efficient. It was also important to have the right staffing in the store at the right time of the day to be able to engage the customer and not just ring transactions.

We also invested in our business in a number of ways to support owners and fuel growth. For example, we tripled our field support team, which helps franchisees with best practices, inventory management, back office support, marketing and merchandising. We expanded our training staff and our training facility and increased the training opportunities and touch points in the field. We introduced new product lines -- in this case, light bulbs, in part, because we knew about the incandescent light bulb phase out laws initiated in 2007 which would make lighting a more complex, assisted-sale category.

What do you mean by 'controllable outcomes'?

Reynolds: We looked at the strengths of our business. Thirty-five percent of what we sell is actually to small business and during the recession the ability to make small local deliveries quickly meant you didn't have to [keep] additional batteries in the warehouse.

We're being very intentional about where we put our efforts and have our franchisees focus time and energy. There are a lot of businesses that were [suffering], but probably could have been better had they not just gotten paralyzed and instead focused on what they could control.

Another part of that is we want to grow with our franchisees. Now is a great time to expand because of available real estate and good talent. We came up with incentives to have them open additional stores.

What about the difficulty in getting capital?

Reynolds: When we saw the economic storm clouds developing and the banking crisis hit, we anticipated that obtaining financing would become more difficult for new franchisees. We created incentives and support to help our existing owners expand. Real estate costs were low, labor was plentiful and business was good, and for many of our franchisees it was the ideal time to grow.
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