I didn’t know a lot about Buck or Two Plus! when I came across their ad, but as far as I knew, they had a great brand name and reputation. I knew from shopping at their location in north London, especially with a young family, they had a really good understanding of product offerings for their customers. I think branding is very important, so if people can associate having a good experience at another Buck or Two Plus! location, there’s a good chance they’ll come and check out your location. I talked to previous and current franchisees to find out what was going well in their stores and what they liked about the company. Those conversations helped me become ready to take the next steps toward becoming a franchisee.
I opened my store toward the end of the summer of 2013. This was an ideal time to open because October through December is our busiest season. The location we were going into had already been a dollar store, so all of the fixtures were ready for us, but we had to reorganize the store, give it a good cleaning and update its overall appearance. We maximized the use of our front windows to maintain a clean and open feeling for customers.
I was worried walking into an empty 5,000-square-foot store. I was used to much smaller retail locations with Carlton Cards and Papyrus. This store seemed way too big. As I started my research, I learned this was actually an ideal size for this type of store. I wasn’t worried about selling product or the day-to-day operations, I knew I could handle that, but filling a store that size was daunting for me.
With my limited product knowledge I had to trust the franchisor a lot while getting started. Buck or Two Plus! knew the dollar store business and helped in teaching me what vendors to use. This was an invaluable partnership. I’ve had a lot of long conversations with Michelle Bertolin, who is in charge of the Buck or Two Plus! merchandising department. She has helped me learn what to stock and learn what to stock for my customer demographic.
As I said, Cherryhill Village Mall is a great community mall. It has a good mixture of customers and a lot of repeat business. The mall has a passport office in it, which draws in a lot of foot traffic that might not otherwise be coming to this location.
This shopping centre has always had a dollar store in it, which helped us when we were getting started. Our customers already knew they could come here for this type of business, only now it would be under new owners.
The neighbourhood around us is older. I would say about 70 per cent of our customers are seniors, 20 per cent are students and 10 per cent are young families. We offer the products they need in a location that is convenient and close to where they live. A couple of my employees have worked in this mall for 20 years, so knowing our customers by name isn’t uncommon.
Beyond Cherryhill, we work hard at being part of London’s community fabric. One of the best things about owning a Buck or Two Plus! store is that it has allowed me to help community organizations with donations and reduced rates on bulk product orders. If I were in a corporate-run store, I don’t know if I would have the freedom I do now. People come to me looking for items for school fundraisers or other causes and I’m able to help them find a good deal. One of our customers puts together baskets for veterans and we help her source the products for these gifts each year.
We also work with organizations that help match job candidates who are having trouble finding work with potential employers. I’m happy to step in to be a part of these individuals’ careers. I’m glad to provide training to help them while they are in my store and give references for when they move on.
When I was opening my store, I asked the manager and assistant manager of the Carlton Cards store I had helped open in the Cherryhill Village Mall to come work for me. They both agreed, which is a huge asset, as I now had previously established trust with some of the key members of my team. Trust is a huge element as a franchisee, because it’s your business and your livelihood on the line.
We have 12 people on staff. It’s a good mix of individuals; in my experience, you don’t want 12 employees who are exactly the same. We have university students, high school students, full-time and part-time workers.
All of my employees have different areas they excel in. Some are better at operations (putting product on the shelves and receiving deliveries), some are better at handling the front cash and others focus on balloons, bouquets and party supplies. Everyone has a role and is hired for the skill set they bring to the table.