Andrew Tepperman says he thinks many retailers over-invest in their online business and under-invest in their physical retail space.
“We’re doing the opposite,” said the president of Tepperman’s Furniture, a family-owned company that is preparing to relocate to a new and larger store at The London Road Shopping Centre.
A new, 39,450-square-foot Tepperman’s will be about 20% larger than the store at Lambton Mall that Tepperman’s has occupied since 2001.
Customers at the mall location cannot access the furniture store from inside the mall and parking near the store is congested, said Tepperman.
That, coupled with a need for additional retail space, convinced the company to look elsewhere in Sarnia for new store space.
Developer Rob Dawson of Sarnia-based Lucror Property is building the new Tepperman’s and said the investment is in excess of $5 million. Tepperman’s has signed a 20-year lease, Dawson said.
Lucror is into year two of a five-year plan to redevelop the former Zeller’s plaza property at 1249 London Rd.
Dawson has moved ahead quickly with a new Giant Tiger, Twisted Arm restaurant, Coffee Lodge and now Tepperman’s.
When the new furniture store opens this April or May, it will offer “an improved shopping experience,” according to Tepperman, including a drive-thru pickup window for new purchases. It will also have amenities like a kids’ zone so parents can shop while their children watch TV or colour, a coffee bar, credit kiosks, an electric car charge station and a Bargain Annex.
Inside the front door will be what Tepperman calls “a decompression zone,” which he describes as an open area so customers aren’t bombarded with product as soon as they walk in.
Tepperman’s – which was founded 93 years ago in Windsor – hired a New York retail designer to create a relaxed shopping experience, said the company president who is a third generation owner.
The Sarnia store will strongly resemble Tepperman’s Kitchener location that opened last year and is getting great customer feedback, he said.
“We’ve been very happy with the Kitchener store and find that customers spend 40% to 100% longer knowing their kids are occupied.”
The plan is to incorporate similar design features at all five Tepperman stores in Windsor, London, Chatham, Sarnia and Kitchener.
While the company is busy investing in its physical retail space, there’s been some attention to e-commerce as well, although Tepperman admitted “coming late to that world.”
“We studied it for years,” he said. “You could see online what we offered, but you couldn’t buy it online until (this past) October.”
Online sales over the holidays were strong and Tepperman said he was surprised at the amount of business on Christmas Day when the actual stores were closed.
But 95% of sales are still in-store, he added.
The new Sarnia store is nearly complete and Dawson will turn the keys over in February. But it will take a couple more months for the company to finish the interior and move.
Meanwhile, four or five new employees will be added to the existing Sarnia staff of 27.
The new building was constructed by Van Del Contracting of Kitchener. However, both Dawson and Tepperman stressed that Van Del used as many local trades people as possible.
“We know that’s a hot topic and we’re well aware of the importance of hiring local,” said Dawson.
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