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Benefits of becoming a USA Solar Store
What general characteristics are desirable in typical owners of Solar Stores?
Successful Solar Stores are owned and operated by people from all walks of life. Characteristics of successful store owners include:
How is store location determined and how are territories defined?
The USA Solar Store presently consists of 24 stores in 11 states; with 5 more under development. There is a suggested minimum drive time of 40 minutes between stores. However, the stores themselves review the policy, which is subject to change. For example, in low population density areas, stores may prefer to have longer distances between them. Other criteria include expendable financial resources, high-density populations, and lots of opportunity for expansion.
What is the average size of a store?
Stores are generally around 1,000 square feet, which allows room for the product lines, an area for consultations, and some storage. Most stores have demonstration models as floor displays to reduce the amount of inventory kept in stock. Additional space for demonstrations, workshops or seminars is ideal, but not necessary.
Are partnerships encouraged?
Although we have found that the most popular startups are sole ownership, joint venture, or investment through financial angels, the most successful model has been an alliance-based strategy, which would include a plumber, an electrician, and a retail sales person. Partnerships need to be fully detailed, in document form.
What type of training is provided?
There is a two-week basic training program to coincide with your plans to open a store. This intensive training includes office and ordering procedures, customer service and sales skills, marketing, and product lines. In addition, conferences are held throughout the year. This type of specialized training is ongoing, with many workshop opportunities being provided by our manufacturers and sales reps.
Are store owners responsible for installations?
Installation services are usually contracted out to local companies, although some stores develop their own “in-house” installation teams. The USA Solar Store has forged a relationship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) giving our stores access to trained electricians across the country.
Do you provide ongoing support?
Definitely. In addition to the Hub, which helps with first year “intensive support,” the collaborative network is very supportive, sharing product knowledge and expertise with all members of our store community via an e-mail listserv and web based forum. Also, many of our key vendors are happy to hold monthly presentations which are available to those who choose to attend or by webinar.
Do I have to contribute to any other costs, such as advertising and promotional expenditures that the Hub incurs?
We are always working to cut advertising costs by group discounts and are planning national and regional strategies. Stores are also encouraged to develop their own regional cooperative marketing program. A basic marketing package is provided to new stores upon opening. As a rule it is up to the store to cover additional advertising costs.
What kind of return on my investment can I expect in 1 year? 2 years? 3? How profitable have other stores been?
If you choose to continue exploration of the model, you will be provided with some examples of start-up expenses and revenues of existing stores. The best way to learn the elements of success is to talk with other store owners about what has made them successful. If you have not yet received a store contact list from the Hub please ask us for one.
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