Metro You — July 2012
When Barry Murphy opened up Batteries Plus in Birmingham with business partner, Michael McGuirk, ten years ago, the former corporate manager had no idea selling batteries would be so much fun, or the rewards so innumerable.
While the store, located on Woodward, sells over 7000 different types of batteries for nearly anything you can imagine such as camcorders, computers, watches, flashlights, digital cameras, and, no kidding, giant cranes and fire engines – what you also get, says Barry, is service and knowledge that caters to each customer’s individual needs.
“Part of the Plus in Batteries Plus is the extra service the customer gets beyond us just selling them the battery,” says Barry. “We tell customers how to make the battery last longer through proper care and feeding of the battery, how to dispose of it properly, and how to make sure they have just what they want.” If Barry doesn’t have a particular battery in stock, he can get whatever’s required within one or two days, thanks to a massive warehouse in Wisconsin that will ship overnight. “Pretty much anything a customer asks for, we have. In some cases, we rebuild old battery packs for items such as portable power tools, portable vacuum cleaners and outdoor gardening equipment. The rebuilt batteries are better than new in terms of longevity, and we rebuild them right here in our tech center. It’s one of the services unique to Batteries Plus stores.”
Batteries Plus also believes in recycling. Barry encourages customers to bring in their old batteries including those old car batteries stuck in the garage. He says they make sure battery parts are sent to the proper places for recycling and assures the parts truly get re-used.
Batteries Plus sells more than just batteries, though. In addition to 350 different kinds of flashlights and a new line-up of light bulbs, they also sell Hex-Bugs, small electronic battery operated toys that resemble little insects. Barry says the toys appeal to younger children all the way up to bigger kids in their early 20s.
“People buy them to amuse cats and dogs. The smallest is one inch long, the biggest is five inches in diameter. Some are remote controlled, others operate on their own. They crawl like real insects, and have been very popular since we brought them in. The yuckier they are, the more the kids like them.”
Barry tells a story of a 12-year-old boy who glued dark fur to his Hex-Bug and set it loose in his mom’s bedroom. “I think that kid is grounded for 27 years.”
Barry continues: “My own grandchildren have them and are literally occupied for hours. They make up names for them, set schools up for them, decorate them with twigs and twine and yarn. It’s a nice, fun toy because it requires more than just looking at a computer screen.”
BATTERIES PLUS TO THE RESCUE
Barry relishes those moments when they save customers from the inconvenience of a battery suddenly gone dead.
“Many of our customers come in unhappy because they can’t use their device because the battery isn’t working. It never seems to happen at the right time. Our goal is to make sure they leave with a smile on their face because they get what they need at a competitive price, and they can go to that graduation and take pictures, or they can use their cell phone again, or they can start their car and get to work. Because of those kinds of situations, it’s rewarding to work in a store like Batteries Plus. We can get our customers out of trouble so often, and have fun while we’re doing it.”
Barry says once customers see the array of stuff they have, they often recommend the store to friends and family. Word-of-mouth has been crucial in building business.
“We’ve built up a reputation for service. Customers say to us, ‘I love this store. Don’t you just love this store?’ They come back time after time because we’ve built up that trust. The rewarding aspect to working so hard is that we can help so many people.”