Cue the Light Bulb
How one bright idea turned into a successful franchise selling batteries, bulbs and cellphone repair service.
Looking for a battery for your old camcorder? Need to upgrade your home or business with LED or CFL light bulbs? Has your golf cart stopped running and the battery needs to be replaced? All these problems can be solved with a visit to one of a nationwide network of over 625 Batteries Plus Bulbs stores, which has access to more than 45,000 batteries, light bulbs and related products.
Stocking hard-to-find batteries and light bulbs is its specialty. “Our battery products cover every application—from laptops, cellphones and cars, to military equipment, heavy duty construction equipment and other business-to-business applications,” says Russ Reynolds, CEO of Batteries Plus Bulbs. “Our light bulb products include everything from the common, such as those for table lamps and light fixtures, to the unique, such as lamps for cars, healthcare equipment, aquariums, projectors and much more.”
The first glimmer
Reynolds conceived the idea back in 1988, when it was simply called Batteries Plus and the focus was entirely on batteries. After the initial store in Green Bay, WI found success he began franchising and expanded the concept to include light bulbs.
With a keen eye for business trends, Reynolds realized that the new laws requiring light bulb manufacturers to gradually phase out incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient lighting options would lead to a new business opportunity.
“Everything about the classic light bulb, from its shape, size, color, brightness and capabilities, was transformed—signaling a new lighting revolution,” he says. “We began to roll it out in late 2012 and found through research and sales results that the category became big enough merchandise to combine with the batteries.”
Not resting on its laurels, Batteries Plus Bulbs recently added device repair operations that will be up and running in 700 stores nationwide by the end of 2014, allowing it to take advantage of the booming smartphone and device repair industry.
On-site repairs are available for Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads and iPods, most Samsung devices and many others. Among the services offered are cracked-screen repair, charge ports, button and antenna repair, battery replacement, and the installation of screen protectors on smartphones and tablets to help avoid future damage.
“For us, immediacy is a huge value proposition. There are a ton of places that say they can repair a screen and you get inside and you find out that they will mail you the device in 2-3 days. We do it while you wait and our customers can enjoy a cup of coffee and a friendly staff,” Reynolds says. “It’s convenient, and we know people’s time is valuable and we do what we can to help take the stress out of their lives.”
According to Reynolds, batteries are a $30.7 billion industry in the U.S., and light bulbs are nearly $17 billion. That makes owning a Batteries Plus Bulbs franchise a golden business opportunity. Last year average net sales for the top 25 percent of its franchises was $1,357,758 and the company experienced an overall increase of 10.5 percent in all store net sales.
“We look for motivated entrepreneurs for this franchise opportunity with strong communication skills, a business background, recognition of the importance of business-to-business sales and an interest in a technology franchise,” he says. “We are looking for people who have a net worth of $350,000 and $100,000 of liquid capital in their portfolio.”
Once signed on, a franchisee will be given access to an online training site, which is designed to teach them and all sales associates about battery and light bulb terminology, chemistries, applications, features and benefits, and more. Next is an in-person three-week classroom training session, which covers products, store systems, processes, selling skills, human resources, marketing, finance, tech center and more.
“Like any new franchise, our relationship is based on what burns through the register so our success is built on the success of the franchisees,” Reynolds says. “We prepare you to open your store by equipping you with the knowledge needed to provide your customers with solutions. We provide a lot of central support technology and also have three service teams to help them get the stores open and visit them in the field.”
Franchisees can access over 5.5 million records through a comprehensive online, proprietary reference catalog. Stores also get zone exclusivity based on population metrics as it ensures no stores are in markets abused by “friendly fire.”
“We consider ourselves destination oriented and move conservatively as to not ruin economics,” Reynolds says. “We have 625 stores in the U.S. and we could easily double that number, but it’s not a franchise outlet that will have 10,000 outlets, as that wouldn’t serve our franchisees well.”