KITCHENER, Ontario – Tepperman’s, the third generation full-line furniture retailer has opened its fifth store and its first new location in eight years, in this fast-growing, high-tech centred community an hour’s drive west of Toronto.
Andrew Tepperman, president of the Windsor, Ontario-based regional chain, told Home Goods Online opening in Kitchener was the next natural step after opening a new facility in London in 2008 (they entered that market in 1997).
“It’s a growing community with a diverse demographic,” he noted, adding they purposely built their London distribution centre large enough to service an expansion to Kitchener, which he believes has great potential to grow Tepperman’s overall business.
“Waterloo Region is one of the most diverse markets in Ontario – with the technology sector, universities, manufacturing and agriculture, it has a wide range of growing industries,” Tepperman said. “More recently, with the escalating cost of housing in Toronto, people are moving to the Kitchener area to liven and then commuting back to the city. GO Train service is increasing and they’re in the process of building a light rail transit system throughout the region. I recently attended the mayor’s state of the city address and feel very confident about where the city is going.”
The opening of the store – located at 1415 Huron Road – was the culmination of a planning effort that began in 2009 with an exploration of potential new markets. “It’s an incredibly long process to find the right location, then working with city administration, design and construction,” Tepperman said. “We have a history of opening stores in the middle of major recessions. This is first time we’ve opened during a housing boom.”
He also admits he and his brother Noah – who is Tepperman’s secretary-treasurer – thought long and hard about whether to even add another store to the network. “These days, running a successful one store business is every challenging – even when you have a stellar reputation,” Andrew Tepperman said. “Some companies seem to add stores just to grow revenue. We’re slow to grow and we do it strategically, knowing we can afford to do it but also knowing we have to have the right people to manage a store in a new market. Today, we have the right people and the right leadership in place to do this.”
This was also the first time the 91-year old merchant assigned an outside design firm to develop the store’s exterior and interior – in this case, Martin Roberts Design, a leading New York commercial design firm well known for its work creating retail furniture stores in both Canada and the United States. Tepperman says the final product leverages both modern features and the latest technology to elevate the buying experience for their newest customers.
“This store looks nothing like any of our other locations,” he says, noting the 70,000 square foot facility houses a 50,000 square foot Tepperman’s store, a 10,000 square foot Bargain Annex and 10,000 square foot for warehousing. “The warehouse section was designed to be twice the height of the store, allowing us to accommodate more product for the growing world of e-commerce and the ‘buy online and pick-up in store’ model.”
“The first thing a consumer will notice when the open the doors is this store is different,” Tepperman says. “From an open decompression area that allows the customer to become adjusted to the lighting and colours, to the defined tiled pathways, to the central welcome centre, the kids’ area, beverage café and digital interactive kiosks, this store is designed to provide an engaging experience.”
He notes the defined tile pathways allowed Tepperman’s to create more defined displays. “We were also able to create strike points throughout the store,” he remarks. “We added an accessory wall which provides that ‘wow’ experience and enhanced other areas such as our custom order upholstery section, our [email protected] electronics department while bringing in some additional categories like built-in appliances.”
When the London store opened a few years ago, Tepperman’s enhanced the pick-up experience by installing a drive-through winder and a covered canopy to protect customers from the weather. “We used that model in the new store but did something different by creating a connection from the store to the pick-up area so the customer can get the pick-up going before even getting into their car.”
While he’s pleased with the result, it’s a little too soon to decide whether to incorporate any of Kitchener’s new design elements into other Tepperman’s locations – which in addition to London and Windsor include Chatham and Sarnia. “Our plan is to analyse and assess how our staff and customers function and interact in this new design,” Tepperman says. “Part of any successful retailer’s plan is to keep evolving. I spend a lot of time visiting best-in-class retailers, within and outside our industry and today I would put the Kitchener experience up against anything. However, I know what looks great today will become mainstream and less exciting tomorrow so I can’t say exactly what renovations and new stores will look like in the future.”
Andrew Tepperman, who will soon celebrate his tenth anniversary as president of the family-owned company, says Tepperman’s will continue looking for growth opportunities while admitting there are no immediate plans for store number six.
“We do have a ten-vision, a technology roadmap, a capital investment schedule and annual strategic plans,” he says. “Everything we do is linked together. This provides clarity and alignment to our team.”
The company also operates under a simple guiding principle – When we do it right…they will come back! “That really defines what we do every day,” Tepperman says. “It says that we’re not in this just to make a sale today. We’ve been in business for 91 years now and that’s not by luck. Everything we do has an eye on the future.”
That means they are not going to immediately discount an opportunity to grow, whether it’s through acquisition, renovation or expansion. “Everything is on the table,” Tepperman says. “What can I can? Every time we open a new store we raise the bar. With Kitchener, we raised the bar very high for ourselves and perhaps even the industry. There are stores much larger than ours but we’re created something special that provides an amazing experience. I can’t even imagine what the next store will look like.”
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