Tech repair brand on fast track with expanding store footprint
uBreakiFix is on a roll.
Launched as an eBay service offer in 2009, the tech repair brand opened its first storefront, in Orlando, later that same year. It hasn’t looked back since, opening stores every quarter. It currently has 403 locations across the U.S. and Canada, with plans to hit 425 by July.
Specializing in on-site repairs of cell phones, game consoles and other small electronic devices, uBreakiFix was founded by Justin Wetherill (he was 21 at the time) and his friend, David Reiff. Not too long after, another friend, Eddie Trujillo, helped them make the leap to brick-and-mortar. (The company is wholly owned by the three friends.) In 2013, uBreakiFix launched a franchsing model.
The explosive growth of uBreakiFix has been fueled by customer demand, franchising, and, most recently, strategic partnerships. Through a partnership with Samsung, all Galaxy owners can get in warranty and out-of warranty service (with genuine Samsung parts), with most repairs completed in two hours or less, at UbreakiFix locations. The company also has an arrangement with Google as the exclusive walk-in repair option for its Pixel phones.
In May, uBreakiFix teamed up with Nebraska Furniture Mart to open in-store shops at the home furnishings retailer’s locations in Omaha, Dallas-Fort Worth and Kansas City.
Chain Store Age spoke with Wetherill, who serves as the company’s president, about uBreakiFix’s trajectory and its plans for the future.
How did you come up with the idea for uBreakiFix?
When I was 21 years old, I dropped my smartphone, shattering the screen. I was shocked to find that replacing the part would cost more than what I originally paid for the device. I began searching for an alternative repair or replacement solution but found no verifiably trustworthy services online. I decided to take matters into my own hands.
After some trial and a lot of error, I finally repaired the phone. The experience provided an ‘aha’ moment for me: If I had trouble repairing my device as a tech-savvy millennial, countless others were likely facing the same issue. To better understand the market, my friend David and I launched a service offered on eBay to test demand. Orders flooded in, and we continued to juggle full-time jobs while repairing phones at night and on our lunch breaks.
A short time later, our side project went full-time with the opening of the first uBreakiFix brick-and-mortar location at the advice of our friend, Eddie Trujillo. Our first Orlando store quickly outpaced the online market, and within four months, we expanded to four Florida locations.
Why did you expand the business into brick and mortar?
Eddie encouraged us to open a brick-and-mortar location based on the demand we had seen from the eBay service offer.
Is the company growing exclusively through franchising?
To perfect our systems and processes, we opened 47 corporate stores before we started franchising in 2013. We have since sold several of those corporate locations as franchise units and have continued to grow primarily through franchising. However, we have retained a handful  of corporate stores in strategic markets.
How do you maintain quality across locations with different franchisees?
As we started to grow, we realized that our biggest challenge would be ensuring consistency across stores. The business model challenged us to improve and innovate to safeguard the quality and customer experience that defines our brand. We made heavy investments in infrastructure, with special attention to internal systems and processes. We developed a ‘portal system,’ which is home to step-by-step guides and videos on how to repair ‘anything with a power button.’ It also serves as the online community for employees to share best practices and lessons learned. Portal also houses all store performance metrics for reference by owners and corporate.
Is there any type of corporate training program for store employees?
Early on, it became apparent that many prospective franchisees might not be completely comfortable with technology or repair, so we developed a sophisticated training program to equip franchisees with all the right skills. Three weeks of on-site training in Orlando followed by another three weeks of in-store support helps ensure franchisees have the confidence needed to deliver high-quality service and an industry-leading customer experience.
What type of locations work best for uBreakiFix?
We prefer streetfront, and strip plazas in highly trafficked, retail concentrated areas. We also do well in regional power plazas and lifestyle centers.
What is the average store size?
Our sweet spot is 1,000 square feet, although we are generally flexible with stores ranging from 700 to 1,500 square feet. We have a few special projects in which we operate in kiosk-like settings, but a traditional uBreakiFix store is its own brick-and-mortar unit.
You just opened in-store shops at Nebraska Furniture Mart. Is this something you might pursue with other retailers?
Yes, we are really excited about the store-within-a-store retail model and are actively pursuing more of these types of partnerships. We are always looking for new opportunities to deliver quality, convenience and value to our customers, and this model is a great way to serve our customers with timely, on-site repairs completed while they shop.
What is the average transaction at a uBreakiFix store?
Our average transaction is $109.
What’s next for the company?
Throughout the rest of 2018, we plan to increase growth each quarter and announce new strategic partnerships that will allow us to further amplify the support options available to customers.
Nordstrom Rack expanding its California footprint
The off-price division of Nordstrom is adding two new locations in Los Angeles county.
Nordstrom Rack will open a 25,000-sq.-ft. store store at The Vineyards at Porter Ranch, in spring 2019. It will be part of a new mixed-use shopping and entertainment center hat features 335,000-sq.ft. of commercial space.
Nordstrom Rack will also open a 23,640-sq. ft. location at Plaza El Segundo, in El Segundo, in fall 2019. The center is located off the 405 Freeway and adjacent to beach communities including Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach.
In addition to Nordstrom Rack, Nordstrom operates 15 full-line stores in the state.
Six experiential trends reshaping grocery stores, restaurants
Grocery stores and restaurant experiences are rapidly evolving to keep customers coming through the door.
That’s according to real estate and investment management firm JLL, which noted that Americans’ relationship with food has completely changed, thanks to the rise of grocery delivery, pre-packaged meals, electronic ordering and more. And grocery stores and restaurants need to keep up with the changes.
“For a long time, the food and beverage industry focused solely on new store growth, leaving existing stores untouched,” said Steve Jones, international director, JLL project and development services. “This paradigm has shifted with a new emphasis on keeping things fresh—both the food itself and the overall experience. The pressure is on for restaurants and grocers to renovate existing locations to keep up with consumers’ heightening expectations for food quality and modern, trendy environments.”
According to Jones, the following six trends are shaping food and restaurant locations in 2018:
1. Restaurateurs and grocers are making food more accessible. Striving to offer a seamless shopping experience, leading grocery stores are offering customers options to shop wherever and whenever they want: in-store, delivery or pick-up. As more consumers choose to fill their fridges and pantries with a few clicks, stores are designating convenient areas for pick-up of online orders.
Technology is also enabling greater accessibility in the dining experience. Many restaurants are determined to solve the logistical challenges associated with partnering with delivery services such as Uber Eats and Grubhub, ensuring food is hot and fresh once it arrives. Fast casual restaurants are starting to experiment with drive-up services and designating fast lanes to pick up online orders, eliminating long lines.
2. Food purveyors are designing more intuitive environments. Busy consumers want to walk inside any retail environment and immediately find what they need, no questions asked. Quick serve restaurants are adding easy-to-use kiosks and mobile apps to make the ordering process more intuitive.
Meanwhile, grocers are placing more grab-and-go meals within easy access of store entry, from simple entrees to meal kits with recipes and pre-measured ingredients. ALDI is another great example of retailers designing for experience, with a new store format that positions freshness and quality at the forefront.
3. Immersive environments capture consumers’ attention… and wallets. Speedy service and convenience only get you so far when consumers are in the mood to linger. Sit down restaurants are delivering experiences that engage all five senses, understanding that every piece of the aesthetic puzzle—from wall décor to food presentation—must be carefully curated to appeal to the Instagram generation. Restaurants are incorporating richer materials in finishes and furnishings, with quick serve locations even using upgraded materials such as stone, wood and marble.
On the grocery side, retailers such as Whole Foods are enhancing the shopping experience with wine bars and high-end coffee, turning the weekly chore of filling the fridge into an enjoyable shopping experience.
Authentic human interactions create connections in a tech-centric world. While WiFi and electric outlets are becoming ubiquitous in fast casual and quick serve restaurants, many consumers visit restaurants for something they can’t find on a screen—human connection. Friendly employees are a must-have to create a feeling of community. And as consumers become more discerning about their food preferences, knowledge is key. At sit down and fast casual restaurants, staff are expected to spout detailed information, from food origins to preparation.
On the grocery side, Trader Joe’s is raising the bar for grocery store employees, with friendly and knowledgeable staff who will go out of their way to be helpful. At checkout, Trader Joe’s cashiers will share thoughts on items that customers are purchasing and make suggestions for future items to try.
5. Consumers seek meaningful connections with food brands. The “eat local” mantra is alive and well. As consumers clamor for greater meaning and purpose in all aspects of their lives, they expect the food industry to keep up with sustainable production and sourcing, such as farm-to-table concepts.
A strong desire to support local businesses are similarly driving dining choices. National quick serve restaurant chains, such as McDonalds, Taco Bell and KFC, are keeping up with locally-focused outposts that offer tailored experiences.
6. Personalized experiences drive loyalty. Technology is making it easier than ever for restaurants to let consumers “have it your way,” with apps that remember customized preferences and orders. And tech-enhanced loyalty programs are letting consumers unlock rewards for their frequent purchases.
“Millennials and Generation Z are challenging us all to rethink the way we sell food and beverages,” said Jones. “Food quality will always be important. But to stay competitive restaurants and grocers also need to deliver a unique experience across all customer touch points.”