Tepperman's new London store wins regional design construction award
LONDON, Ontario (22 February 2010) - The new Tepperman's Furniture store here one of the first recipients of the Don Smith Commercial Building Awards, a new program recognizing environment sensitivity, design and innovation and the extent to which the new local buildings meet a specific developmental need within the community.
The awards program was established by Regional Commercial Council of the London & St. Thomas Association of Realtors. RCC chairman Mike Jakupi said the awards program was established "to recognize, reward and celebrate excellence an innovation in a commercial building right here at home."
The new Tepperman's store - located at 1150 Wharncliffe Rd. S. - was one of fifteen entrants into the competition and one of five winners.
First opened in October 2008, Tepperman's built the store after growing out old location which the full-line furniture retailer took over in 1997, when they launched their expansion in this university-city in south western Ontario, which is also one of the most affluent in Canada.
Andrew Tepperman, third generation president of the family owned and operated regional chain, said their original London store was leased and with just 60,000 square feet over two floors of selling space and a non-attached warehouse, the facility was no longer meeting their needs.
"About four years ago, we know were outgrowing this facility so we began the long process of finding lands in the right location," he said. The new store sits on about 15 acres.
"There were days that we couldn't accommodate all the traffic in our parking lot," Tepperman said of the old store. "The line-ups would be 50 people deep during promotions. Some customers would get lost on the second floor. Because our DC was not attached to the store, it was inconvenient for our customers to pick-up and inefficient to merchandise the floor. We also knew we needed more racking space. With our Next Day delivery option, product availability is critical."
The new store is a single-level edifice with 85,000 square feet of office and selling space, supported by a 100,000 square foot distribution centre with 42-feet of clearance.
"This means that with the same footprint, we can carry almost twice as many products," Tepperman said, adding total storage volume amounts to approximately four million cubic feet.
London is the largest of Tepperman's four stores. The flagship store in Windsor is 50,000 square feet while those in nearly Chatham and Sarnia are only 35,000 square feet each.
The new store, which employs some 125 staff members in total, also has a few features not necessarily found in the others. First of all, it has about 3,000 square feet of office. "Since we are one of the last retailers to do our own financing, part of the office is dedicated to the lending side of the business," Tepperman said, adding the office counter can serve as many as 14 customers at the same time, which minimizes line-ups.
"Unlike some stores that have a defined pathway for customers to walk in the store, we have a completely open concept that allows us to display more products and enables us to be more creative in our merchandising," he said.
"The one comment we always hear from our customers is the incredible selection we have," Tepperman continued, adding, "It's very difficult for a customer not to be able to find something. Because of the open concept, it's very easy for someone to manoeuvre through the displays.
"We purposely did not erect anything to block our customers' vision," he said. "Wherever you stand in the store, you can see every furniture category, every department and the front cashier counter."
One of the unique features of the store is its electronic advertising kiosk, which Tepperman believes is one of the first to be used by a home furnishings retailer in Canada.
"The kiosk links into our head office where we keep it updated with the current ads," he explains. "A customer only needs to touch the screen to see what's being promoted. We used to have boards with ads pinned up which looked messy after the first day. This sends a message that Tepperman's is cutting edge and that we are different."
In many ways, London is the next generation of Tepperman's. "This store is completely different than our other stores," Andrew Tepperman said. "We've expanded our product selection in every category, added lifestyle posters, improved the lighting, experimented with new floor treatments and have introduced the most hi-tech and professional audio-video and appliance departments in the region."
In fact, customers can actually use the washing machines and dishwashers to get a sense of their noise level and true capacity.
"We've also ramped up our bedding display to where it has now become a destination for any consumer in the market," Tepperman said, adding that in addition to broadening selection in every department, it has also widened its key price points, especially in London.
Tepperman's London also features a 15,000 square foot Bargain Annex - a store within the store. "We treat this as a completely separate company," Tepperman explains. "Different sales people, different uniforms, different credit options and different product selection."
The Bargain Annex has also proved to be a great way to manage ‘scratch and dents' while managing excess inventory and attracting a different demographic. "We also carry suppliers in the Bargain Annex that we do not carry in the Tepperman's stores," Tepperman said.
The company operates two other Bargain Annex locations.
The lynchpin of the London store operation is the new distribution centre. The company hired Bill Lindler, a consultant from USSI Steel in Georgia to oversee its development.
"For many large U.S. retailers, our DC is the norm," Tepperman said. "It consists of a superflat floor which minimizes the vibration and movement of the product when we're picking and putting away. It also reduces the wear and tear to the machines."
The centre also has a 30,000 square foot mezzanine where all of the work not associated with receiving and delivery takes place. This is where the meeting rooms, offices, lunchroom and repair shops are located.
With this now-award winning store running smoothly, Tepperman said the company is now looking for opportunities to grow.
"Over the past 85 years we've expanded considerably but not for sake of driving revenues but when either an opportunity presented itself or when our operational efficiency and people power was firing on all cylinders," Tepperman said.
"We have an incredible young executive, director and management team," he continued. "I'm 39 and as a continuous student of business, I know expanding just for the sake of expansion can sink a company."
Tepperman's will continue its long-held policy of growing its share in those markets where it's firmly establishing. "We know we can do more," its young president says. "We run a very controlled and disciplined business. When the time is right, keep your eyes on Tepperman's."