Open for Business: Why Launching a Company Store Can Work for You

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Think about this all-too-common scenario. Your client serves in a leadership role for a fast-casual restaurant group. The company is expanding and opening multiple locations across the country. During opening week, team members who work in the restaurants wear chef coats and hats with the company logo embroidered on the items. You’ve found that their marketing team is routinely placing orders to outfit the hundreds of new employees coming on board—which requires hours spent collecting quotes, placing orders, tracking shipments and distributing the apparel. 

No matter the company size or industry, we know there’s more-often-than-not a need for branded merchandise. From pens for bank branches to branded apparel for company representatives, promotional products are a large part of an organization’s day-to-day operations. They’re no longer a nice to have, but rather, a need to have.  

One of the most popular questions AIA Owners receive from the businesses they work with is how to streamline ordering and fulfillment for these types of specialty items. And, the short answer is to explore launching an online company store, which not only simplifies the process, but typically saves time and resources for all parties involved. 

At AIA, we look forward to these conversations. Our Community of nearly 300 Owners has established hundreds of successful online company stores for a variety of businesses—from SMBs to Fortune 500 corporations. We’ve seen firsthand the utility of company stores and how a minimal investment to get them up and running can result in major gains over time.
 

How businesses are using company stores 

How are businesses using (and optimizing) their company stores? Let’s take a closer look.

1. Award programs

To recognize milestones (employment anniversaries, promotions) and team members who go above and beyond, offer trendy items like name brand fleeces and luxury sunglasses. This is a fun, fresh and simple way to show appreciation and thanks. 

2. Onboarding

As part of the initial orientation period, invite new staff to shop for branded high-end water bottles, coffee mugs or polo shirts. Encouraging them to use and wear these items builds a sense of belonging and loyalty, which contributes directly to the overall company culture.  

3. Gifting

As part of an overall marketing budget, surprise and delight employees throughout the year with thoughtful branded items—during giving days, holidays, annual meetings and team sporting events (summer beach volleyball league, for example). In addition to establishing pride, it’s also an effective form of advertising. 

4. Fundraising 

Particularly appealing to school districts and not-for-profit groups, company stores make it easy to browse and purchase everything from popcorn to advent calendars in support of a cause or group. 
 

Features and benefits of a consolidated-purchasing approach

The main appeal of company stores is efficiency. Rather than having your client assign the task of managing the process to a team member, it becomes automated. An online system for ordering specialty items requires significantly less employee time than manual ordering. Doing basic math, your clients can immediately realize this value: paying less for a program vs. employee time. Among the additional features and benefits of this consolidated-purchasing approach:

  • Customizable interface—From punch out stores to batch ordering, companies can decide the look and feel of the shopping experience on both the front and back ends. Single sign-on is also available to accelerate log in.
     
  • Multiple suppliers with no minimums—Typically, stores can offer a variety of brands, and back end architecture can find ways to work with minimum order requirements.
     
  • Multiple payment options—Choose from a menu that accepts credit cards, payroll deduction, gift cards and even an employee point/credits system. 
     
  • Optional approvals process—Controls can be put in place for certain roles and/or individuals (i.e., managers) to approve orders. 
     

Myth vs. Reality of Company Stores

Understandably, some decision-makers may have concerns about whether an online company store is the right long-term move. Because your customers experience the benefits of this platform on a daily basis, here we address some common misconceptions clients may have to help them make an informed decision about moving forward. 

Myth: Running it is expensive. 

Reality: A well-structured program will outrun the costs to operate it. Typically, there’s an initial fee to build the store and a monthly cost to keep it going—both nominal. In nearly all cases, a company store alleviates additional administrative work and helps your clients shift their focus back to what they do best. 

Myth: Setting it up is too complicated.

Reality: When getting started, make sure to ask the right questions such as “Who will purchase from your store, employees or the public?” or “Will the store be live full time or will it only be active during certain times of the year?” Next, gather the right information, such as if there will be inventory or determine who will be paying (corporate/individual). Knowing all of these details will set a company up for success. In our experience, set up should be quick as long as the organization is clear about its requirements for the company store. 
 

Let’s continue the conversation.

Tell us about your experience with an online company store. How did it improve morale? How did it improve your client’s overall experience? At AIA, we live and breathe promotional products and are constantly finding new and innovative ways to make it easier for customers to get the branded promotional products they need. Contact us at LearnMore@aiacorporation.com