How to Open and Manage Multiple Stores

photo of Tara Onthank
The author, Tara Onthank.

“What should I consider when adding another location for my pool business?”

This is a question the Rising Sun Pools & Spas team and I have faced before, having opened two stores aside from our showroom headquarters. On top of that, we're planning on opening another new location in the next few years. 

The best way to set up and maintain more than one location varies greatly due to many complicating factors that can be frustrating and daunting to endure. But don’t be afraid to expand your operations just because it can be difficult. The rewards are great if handled properly, and it may be essential for the long-term prosperity of your business to add at least one more location.  

Here are what challenges you should be prepared to encounter from starting a new location to running it, along with recommendations of how to handle them effectively.

Let Customer Demand Guide You

Consumer demand should be the main issue that determines whether you need another location. If you have many steady, loyal customers based several miles from you, it makes sense to review the financial feasibility of adding a location closer to them. 

Also, if you are losing customers to your competitors in one area, it may be worth establishing operations there in order to regain market share. No matter how great your products and services are, some people will weigh convenience as the top element in choosing which pool store to patronize. You need to respond appropriately in such situations if you want to target them.  

The Old Maxim: Location, Location, Location

Real estate agents have touted the mantra for decades: it's all about location. And for retailers, location is especially critical when considering where to put your second (or third, or more) store. 

This is especially true in thinking where to put your second (or more) store. First, it needs to have easy access for deliveries and enough square footage to hold your inventory. A large parking lot also helps, as does a close proximity to other retail establishments to attract interest from other shoppers. 

Avoid signing a long-term lease that will lock you into staying in a spot not as conducive to customers. At the same time, resist moving to a different site after less than three years, as this can produce confusion and be costly as you relocate products and office equipment frequently. 

It typically takes six to eight months to secure a lease and open a store, but there is more to contemplate. How much will it cost to renovate an older building? Can it be open in time for the busy spring and summer seasons? These questions need to be researched and addressed so that you make a prudent final decision on location.

Get The Staffing In Order

When we opened our express stores, we moved trained employees from within our main store to operate them. This is much less time consuming than having to train newcomers unfamiliar with water chemistry and other questions they would face on the job. Additionally, each store manager has at least one backup from our main office to help whenever that person is sick or on vacation.

Having people who know how you already operate on staff prevents a lot of miscommunication and confusion from occurring at the new location. This is a huge plus.

Make A Big Deal About The Openings

The official opening of your new location should be big. Encourage people to come out with mascots, activities for children and other extras to bring attention that you have another location coming together.  

The caveat here is to do the grand opening a few weeks after being in business. With a soft opening, you can work out the kinks and set up your inventory properly. A smooth grand opening will make it easier to generate good word of mouth for you thereafter. 

Do Not Duplicate Everything

Once open, your satellite stores should not have the same offerings available immediately at all times. Our locations are express facilities, ones that have a lean staff of no more than three employees as compared to 45 at our home base. Likewise, we offer fewer products and services at the express stores — in fact, we have no hot tubs for sale on these sites.

Inventory management is a big challenge. Limit yourself to the essentials and leave larger items, like pool installations, to the main office. Review your stock periodically and see what people are saying is missing, and also note what is not going off the shelves. By not overextending yourself, you will have good insight about what products and services you need to add and drop.

Communication Is Key

Overseeing locations when you are not physically there means you must be in constant contact. I talk with our store operators three to four times daily to ensure purchase orders are correct and smooth over issues as they arise. It really is the next best thing to being there.  

Expect To Keep Learning 

Even after taking all of these steps, you’re never going to know it. Managing multiple locations means constantly making adjustments, which is yet another challenge you'll have to face. 

In general, the more excitement you can convey to your customers about your new locations, the more interest they'll have in making a visit. That will lead to more sales activity, a healthier bottom line and maybe even the need to open more stores to keep up with the demand. I’ve seen my business grow from a few thousand customers 15 years ago to more than 17,000 now under this process, and I’d love to see you enjoy the same sort of success by continuing to expand your operations.

Have you opened a second or third location before? What did you learn from the experience? Comment with your thoughts. 

Page 1 of 155
Next Page
Content Library
Dig through our best stories from the magazine, all sorted by category for easy surfing.
Read More
Content Library
Buyer's Guide
Find manufacturers and suppliers in the most extensive searchable database in the industry.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide