Courtesy: Big Blue Swim School
Amazon’s tremendous success is often cited as a driving factor in the demise of brick and mortar retail. As store fronts close their doors, prime real estate is becoming readily available, and Big Blue is tapping the market to secure locations across the country.
Real estate has always played an important role in the business plan for Big Blue. At its origin, Big Blue’s leadership team analyzes market research showing most American families have two children approximately 36 months apart, translating this to optimized capacity planning for the franchise partner: pools built within a typical footprint between 8,500 and 12,000 square feet that can meet the demands of multi-children households.
Since its founding in 2009, Big Blue Swim School has delivered more than 1.7 million swim lessons, an offering that can’t be replicated by any online retailer. Through its superior curriculum, proprietary technology and rapidly-growing footprint, Big Blue Swim School has established itself as a winning concept in a fast-growing segment, with 83 units sold in 16 states.
How Big Blue Fills Prime Real Estate Vacated Due to The Amazon Effect
To build pools, Big Blue sources Class A real estate as opposed to the cheaper real estate chosen by some of its competitors. The brand utilizes a data-driven real estate selection process to find sites that fit into a family’s weekly routine, in a parents’ path of least resistance, for overall convenience and to increase brand awareness. As the Amazon Effect has vacated Class A real estate across the country, prospective Big Blue pool owners are positioned for continued success.
“The move to e-commerce, which has accelerated over recent years and is now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has forced several big box retailers into systemwide closures,” said Scott Sanders, CEO of Big Blue. “This has enabled Big Blue to source opportunities for space that did not previously exist and has created the ability to grow the brand more quickly across a wider variety of cities and locations.”
How the Data-Driven Real Estate Strategy Positions Franchise Owners for Success
The investment in Class A real estate better sets franchise partners up for success for many reasons. Big Blue’s data-driven strategy is based on centrally-located pools, over a long-term timeline, outperforming pools that are in less desirable locations.
“Big Blue has an internal real estate team, so I was very attracted to the high-level of service they were delivering to us as franchise owners,” said Erik Skaalerud, a franchise partner in Denver. “The team is extremely knowledgeable in that arena, so they are able to use analytics to drive a national development database.”
Prospective franchise partners are introduced to the brand’s data-driven real estate strategy during the discovery process. “When it comes to real estate, Big Blue really wants to create a white-glove product for franchise owners — they handle all of the site selection, negotiations and leasing, construction and maintenance,” said Skaalerud. “The data-driven approach ensures all costs are covered and the metrics are right. The Big Blue build-out is relatively expensive, so it is key that investors have corporate-backing to ensure they don’t make any mistakes. ”
Why Landlords are Attracted to Big Blue
Big Blue is also desirable to landlords because the brand brings families to their property on a consistent basis. Plus, swim lessons are impervious to the Amazon effect. Parents are always willing to spend money on their children, particularly when it comes to their safety.
“Landlords have learned that tenants selling hard goods or food are higher-risk, and one that could very easily lead to an unexpected vacancy,” said Sanders. “Big Blue, however, is unique from a landlord perspective. First, our business performs in any economic environment — even during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are still engaged with us and eager to get back as soon as possible. Parents can choose to skip a discretionary meal, or postpone buying a new piece of furniture, but are very reluctant to walk away from swim lessons because it teaches a vital life skill. Second, the demographic that one of our schools attracts is a demographic that will likely increase business across the other stores in the center, whether that’s a post-lesson meal, ice cream cone, or grocery trip.”
Swim lessons can only be delivered one way — by getting in the water and practicing. Big Blue is an experiential brand that teaches a vital life skill that can’t be replicated online and is largely recession-resistant. Nothing that arrives at a customer’s front door can effectively substitute for a live swimming lesson.
These factors explain why landlords are more willing to support the buildout of a swimming pool, which creates an easier process for franchise owners. “The demand has evolved over time,” said Sanders. “At the very beginning, some landlords were reluctant about building pools. After all, you are digging significant holes in the ground, and the buildout is relatively expensive. However, as traditional brick-and-mortar retail has been under pressure, the response has changed considerably. The concept of a high-quality, beautiful and clean space where children come to learn to swim has resonated very well with landlords, particularly when they understand the resilience of the business in all economic environments.”
This mutually-beneficial, Amazon-resistant and data-driven real estate strategy explains why Big Blue is well on its way to meeting its goal of growing to 150 units sold by 2021. With such a valuable investment, Big Blue is emerging as a leader in this underserved category.
Multi-unit franchise opportunities are available for qualified candidates looking for their next big opportunity, and veterans can receive a 10 percent discount on the $80,000 franchise fee. The total investment necessary to begin operation of a new Big Blue Swim School is $2,329,223 to $3,636,998 (refer to item 7 in FDD). To learn more or inquire about Big Blue Swim School, visit https://www.bigblueswimschool.com/franchising/.
ABOUT BIG BLUE SWIM SCHOOL
Big Blue Swim School was founded in 2009 by competitive swimmer Chris DeJong. The first location opened in Wilmette, Illinois, followed by four additional Chicagoland schools. In 2017, Level 5 Capital Partners acquired a stake in the brand. Through that investment, Big Blue plans to grow through franchising to 150 pools by 2021. Big Blue Swim School’s real estate expertise, strong brand, proprietary technology, and leadership support, coupled with its best-in-class consumer offerings, position its franchise partners for long-term success. To learn more about franchise opportunities with Big Blue Swim School, visit http://YourBigMomentStartsHere.com.
Big Blue Swim School is a SwimSwam Partner.