STORE SPACES

Tech repair brand on fast track with expanding store footprint

BY Marianne Wilson

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 [28] 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.

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