Remember when Walkmans, pagers and Game Boys were the hot new technology? Think about how camcorders, answering machines and cordless phones transformed office workplaces and homes across the country – amazing, right?
That was the state of the world in 1988 when Batteries Plus opened its first store behind a car dealership in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
“It was like a warehouse,” is how Jon Sica, Chief Business Officer of Batteries Plus, describes the first Batteries Plus store started by Wisconsin entrepreneur Ron Rezetko. But the simple idea – the future would run on batteries – would eventually produce one of the most successful and long-lasting franchises in the United States.
Batteries Plus has been named one of the Best Franchises to Buy in America by Forbes, has been routinely included in Entrepreneur’s Top 500 Franchise List, and receives consistently high customer satisfaction scores per Medallia.
Today, Batteries Plus is growing at breakneck speed and continues to expand its reach across the country, opening up new franchises faster than any other time in its history. The current number of Batteries Plus stores is 705 – and counting.
“We’re opening about a store a week,” says Sica about retail operations that are debuting in small towns and large metropolitan cities. That’s more than double the new stores for a “normal” year during pre-pandemic times.
But this growth is a culmination of many factors. Sure, there’s higher demand for these products in the $110 billion worldwide battery industry but there’s been a renewed emphasis on franchise development at Batteries Plus, Sica says.
When he joined the company three years ago with CEO Scott Williams, there was a new determination to transform the brand as a franchise. So many people, he says, want to live the American Dream of owning their own business.
“We want to create opportunity for people who have proven they can serve their communities well,” he told California Business Journal.
New business owners can stake out a direction on their own, but the failure rate for new independent small businesses is high. Taking on a franchise, Sica says, reduces that risk and stress.
Like many franchising models, Batteries Plus supports store owners every step of the way. “New franchise owners come away from their first official training knowing not just how to interact with customers and the products, but what it takes to be a good business person,” Sica says. “We give them all the tools they need to succeed.”
While 30-percent of Batteries Plus’ overall sales are business-to-business — hospitals, schools, municipalities, manufacturing facilities, car dealerships, colleges, churches and restaurants — the larger sales come from customers on a mission.
“Customers typically come into our stores for two reasons. They have a problem and they don’t know how to fix it,” Sica says. “Solving problems is what we have specialized in for our entire history.”
Given how important phones and cars are these days, many customers are frantic and usually need an immediate fix. For these folks, Sica quips, “Amazon isn’t fast enough.”
Still, it’s not just batteries that stores offer, it’s associates who can analyze and actually fix what’s broken or doesn’t work anymore. After completing extensive training, Batteries Plus store associates can repair smartphones, key fobs and tablets (the top requests these days) and also can change a car battery on-site at their stores.
This service is part of the package; it’s the ‘secret sauce’ of the brand, Sica says. Customers can easily pick up a pack of batteries at the drug store, or head over to an auto parts shop for a car battery. “But we are going to solve a problem for them. We are going to make their day,” he says.
When the fix is done, what about those old batteries?
Through its recycling program that partners local facilities with franchise locations, Batteries Plus stores annually recycle almost 50 million pounds of lead acid batteries and more than 1.68 million pounds of other chemistries like alkaline, lithium, ion, NiCad, electronic devices and more. Additionally, customers can drop off their old batteries, light bulbs and electronics on-site for proper disposal.
Just like their founder looked toward the future, Sica and his team are keenly aware of how new technology is quickly changing the landscape of modern transportation, work, home and recreation – and how batteries will be a part of that equation.
Sica looks to the disasters of Texas (weak power grids), California (wildfire threats) and Puerto Rico (hurricanes) that all tell him that generators, back-up supply storage, solar and renewables are the wave of the future. This is the foundation for the partnership between Batteries Plus and Goal Zero, where a rechargeable home battery backup option will be available at Batteries Plus locations.
He recalls how other popular franchises from the 1980s weren’t forward-thinking – which ultimately led to their demise. “Look at Blockbuster. They always assumed their way of doing business would be the same forever,” he concludes. “Batteries Plus never takes the present for granted. We know there is always going to be change out there. And we have to be ready when it happens.”
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