SR Panel: Store Growth

Two seasoned companies rethink expansion strategies

In 2004, our hot tub supplier was encouraging us to open a location in a market about 45 minutes from our main store. After a couple of months, we found the perfect building. It had a great showroom, office space, incredible warehouse facilities, and outside space for a pool display. To top it off, it required very little remodeling: Just a new sign and paint.

We negotiated a contract to buy, and opened the store. In hindsight, we found the perfect building but not the best location. It was on the wrong side of town and not very visible. Textron shutting down the floor-planning business in late 2009 forced us to close the location. Doing it over again, I’d put a much bigger emphasis on location and visibility. I’d make do with a less-than-perfect space.

— co-owner
San Juan Pools & Spas, Pekin, Illinois

The Hot Tub Store started in 1973 out of a garage, building redwood hot tubs and installing them in backyards. The business grew enough to need a store, and soon a larger assembly and storage yard. Over the years, The Hot Tub Store expanded to have 10 showrooms in cities across Northern California, representing several of the better spa brands. We have represented Hot Spring Spas for just about all of its 40 years in business, and currently have four premium Hot Spring Spas showrooms and a warehouse clearance store.

Expansion at this point is less about adding stores and more about having our showrooms in the right locations. People travel upwards of an hour to see and touch hot tubs, and still treat hot tub stores like ours as destination shopping experiences. We have not seen it necessary to be on every corner or in every city. This the past year, we moved two of our showrooms to better corner locations with more natural lighting, better visibility and parking.

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These two new locations, along with our other two showrooms, have had simple tenant improvements made to create a rustic-modern showroom experience. We have gone with a neutral, warm-gray wall paint, matte finished concrete floors and beautiful local landscape photography displayed in a gallerylike manner. The idea is to create an inviting atmosphere where the hot tub models shine and become the main focus of attention, rather than sale banners or other signage. This renewal has been important for our business that has been around for such a long time supporting hot tubbers in our communities. Our new look better matches the high-quality Hot Spring products we are representing and displaying.

Another aspect of expansion we have found beneficial is growing our sales staff. By having more salespeople for each showroom, we create more of a team environment. This allows for friendly competition as well as added support when it becomes busy. Now each of our valued sellers can enjoy life outside of work, knowing their customers are taken care on their day off. We aim to have two sellers work each day at each location, which allows them to better reach out to the community they serve and take good care of the shoppers who come into the showroom to buy. Our salespeople are part of our larger team and support each other. This has been an important part of our growth in sales across our large region.

We continue to expand our online presence. Everyone is always on their personal devices, and can search and research products. Our goal is for people to think about adding a hot tub to their daily routine. We invest in a clean, user-friendly website and continue to build our site, hottubstore.com, so it can be a helpful resource for anyone thinking about a hot tub. We want people in our region to find us online, and we want to educate them enough to want to visit one of our showrooms and take the next step.

— President and CEO

The Hot Tub Store, five locations in Northern California