The growing market for personal communication devices is having a positive impact on Batteries Plus.
“We live in a portable society,” explained Russ Reynolds, CEO, Batteries Plus, Hartland, Wis. “The average American household has at least 32 battery-operated devices. Between cell phones and MP3 players to laptops and cars, Americans are on the move and want to be entertained and well-connected at all times.”
Batteries Plus attracts both consumers and commercial customers. The retailer offers a comprehensive selection of batteries, battery-related accessories and technical support in 347 locations in 42 states and Puerto Rico (including 21 corporate-run stores and 326 franchisee-operated locations.) And more stores are on the horizon, with the help of its parent company, Roark Capital Group.
Roark Capital Group, an Atlanta-based private-equity firm that owns 13 franchise brands that collectively generates $2.9 billion in revenues in 50 U.S. states and 33 countries, acquired Batteries Plus in late 2007. Since then, the retailer found the spark it needed to pursue new initiatives and add 35 to 40 new corporate and franchise-run locations each year.
Chain Store Age senior editor Deena M. Amato-McCoy spoke with Reynolds about how new client programs and sustainability initiatives are keeping Batteries Plus on top of its game.
How is the current economic climate impacting business?
Since we are considered an aftermarket player, or an equipment reseller, our business model is fairly recession-resistant. We serve more than 1.5 million customers nationwide annually, and sell more than 1 million batteries per week.
Still, while shoppers won’t give up their gadgets, they are tightening their belts when spending on necessities like batteries. These shoppers are also interested in new categories, including rechargeable batteries. This allows them to save money as well as support a “green” lifestyle.
How are you recharging Batteries Plus’ business model?
While we just celebrated our 20th anniversary last year, we are still a young company. And like any developing company, we are a work in progress.
We are dedicated to expanding our business, but we need to keep our customers top of mind. Batteries Plus features more than 15,000 distinct batteries, but our stores have a small footprint of 1,500 to 2,000 sq. ft. Clearly, we cannot feature every type of battery in all stores, but we want to help our shoppers find the right battery that fits their needs.
How are you doing this?
Our first initiative was to give our shoppers enough information to make educated purchase decisions. This included upgrading our online research tools.
After researching and choosing a product, we want shoppers to receive their merchandise as quickly as possible, especially if it has to be ordered. By integrating internal and store-level systems, including supply chain and inventory-management solutions, through our point-of-sale system, we can pinpoint where a specific SKU resides in our enterprise. This integration also helps us pick and ship the battery to a specific location and make it available to the shopper by the next day.
We also added in-store Tech Centers. By making technicians available to rebuild, recharge and recycle all types of batteries, we have created a way to extend our customer relationships after the store-level purchase is complete.
How is sustainability playing a role in Batteries Plus’ new business model?
Like many retailers, we work directly with our suppliers from a design and merchandising standpoint to cut down on the amount of materials used for packaging.
Many of our stores are located in strip malls, so with limited selling space, we don’t want displays that take up too much floor space. We also opt for supplier packaging that we can use post-consumed, as marketing materials or in-store aids, for example.
However, our biggest sustainability push is to educate consumers about battery safety, including their disposal.
One of the greatest contributors to landfills are old alkaline batteries. We have created a program in hopes of avoiding this. Since recycling is top-of-mind among consumers in some of the communities where we operate, our program encourages all community members—whether they are customers or not—to bring their used batteries into our stores, and we will safely dispose of them.
What are your green plans going forward?
Over the next 10 years, we will keep aligning our brand with environmental initiatives, however we are not currently at the point where our customers shop with us based on our green initiatives. They shop with us because they need batteries. This program lets us give something back to the community and build stronger customer relationships.
Speaking of building customer relationships, can you talk about your commercial customers?
Sure. We do business with tens of thousands of accounts, ranging from municipalities, schools and charities to manufacturing and distribution companies. In fact, 40% of our revenue stems from business-to-business sales. And each client uses batteries for a wide range of industrial applications—handheld scanners, for example.
Have you integrated your green efforts into your B2B relationships?
Absolutely. Similar to the services we offer our consumers, we are successfully helping our commercial clients with their battery recycling needs through our Batteries Plus Recycling Program.
When companies enter into a relationship with Batteries Plus, one benefit is that we will pick up their old batteries for free. And this can be old alkaline, lead acid, nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride or lithium ion batteries.
Through our partnership with the international recycling program The Big Green Box, we safely recycle these units so that the lead and other components in the batteries can be melted down and reused.
This perk not only saves our customer time, resources and money by not handling the recycling themselves, but we are also supporting their commitment to sustainability and going green.
Last year alone, Batteries Plus recycled more than 191 tons of batteries through the program.