Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet recently held its 20th annual convention in Kansas City, Mo. This year’s event graphically confirmed the shift this organization has made over the past several years. After attending more industry conventions and meetings over the years than I care to remember, the Big Bob’s conventions remain one of the most unique.
One of the reasons is because much of the convention is interactive with members exchanging ideas on in-store merchandising, various methods of collecting data, maintaining margins and just about every phase of retailing.
To readily give anyone in the room the floor and make it possible for everyone to be heard the setup for the meeting is a huge square. And the room setup is really a microcosm of how the organization operates day-in and day-out, letting ideas bubble up from the membership and fine-tuned by member collaboration. And what this unique model has done has certainly paid off, making Big Bob’s one of the industry’s hottest specialty operators.
We had an opportunity to sit down with Dave Elyachar, Big Bob himself as well as its founder and chairman, and Scott Perron, the president of this cash-and-carry franchise outfit.
The following are some excerpts from that conversation. You can find the conversation in its entirety on the TalkFloor.com website, which is also accessible via Floor Trends’ website, floortrendsmag.com.
TF: Dave, you talked about opportunity at the opening of this convention calling the opportunity that exists today in this economy as the perfect storm. What did you mean by that?
Dave Elyachar: We believe that real estate is cheaper today than it will be for the next 50 years. The Small Business Administration (SBA) and loaning institutions are loaning money at a lower interest rate than we will likely be seeing for the next 50 years.
Manufacturers are giving us terms and incentives to buy more inventory like we have never seen before and may never be seen again and there is personnel out there that used to make a lot of money and have now lost their jobs and are willing to work for a half or a third of what they used to get.
Plus, we think consumers are driven by value and that Big Bob’s is the best national organization offering a value proposition. This is a perfect storm; it couldn’t be better. This is our time to shine, our time to grow and our time to pick up market share. This is a very exciting time for us.
TF: Big Bob’s has been in existence for 20 years. The last several of which have seen the company really come into its own and be recognized around the industry as having extremely strong growth potential as a specialty retail chain. What has been happening on the inside to cause this new eagerness and enthusiasm?
Scott Perron: We have been working feverishly for the past few years perfecting our new model store, which has not only come out of the gate very powerfully, but has exceeded our expectations in just about everyway.
At this point we have nine stores nationally that have shifted to the new model. Currently we are seeing a shift where owners are [changing] their current showrooms over to the new model.
Dave Elyachar: To give you an idea as to how productive this new model has been, adopting it in the same location where an old concept store existed, with the same personnel and the same inventory, sales are increasing by 25%. And that’s because of the change in merchandising.
We just changed the way we look internally and closing ratios are going through the roof. Our average ticket is going up and customers are much happier.
TF: Talk about the Big Bob’s model going forward, it sounds like we’re also talking about a new model where members will have multiple stores.
Dave Elyachar: Our new model now requires members to open a minimum of three stores in seven years. We are looking to be the 800-pound gorilla in every market we enter.
We’re also looking for high quality proprietors who understand and have the infrastructure to expand and take on more market share. Our concept has always been a line extension without contamination. We don’t want to take away from members existing business, we want to add a customer base that members have not been serving up to now.
We believe if you take the top 5% and the bottom 30% of earners out of the equation there is still 65% of Americans left who will be shopping at Big Bob’s because of the value.
TF: What specifically are your growth plans going forward?
Scott Perron: Our goal is to have 125 members with 250 stores nationwide and $500 million in volume. We feel this is very achievable and everything we are doing is working toward that goal.
Editor’s note: There is a great deal more to this interview than space permits. To hear the two-part conversation in its entirety visit TalkFloor.com, click on the TalkFloor TV logo and scroll down to “Bog Bob’s Elyachar & Perron on Plans for Growth.