Pandemic-proof? Battery World franchisee jump starts business under lockdown

By Sarah Stowe | 04 Jun 2020 View comments

Matt Moore never dreamed he’d be starting a new business right in the middle of a pandemic.

It was back in August 2019 that Matt started looking for a business to complement his popular Hanks Car Wash at Tweed Heads, just on the New South Wales side of the border with Queensland.

He was already an experienced franchisee, with 10 years running a Telstra store behind him.

By the time he found a local Battery World store and was just signing off on the franchise deal, news of the coronavirus spread was hitting the headlines.

“I remember I was doing my training at the Ipswich Battery World store when we heard on the news on the radio and we all thought it was nothing, just a storm in a tea cup, some virus on the other side of the world,” he says. 

 “The contract went unconditional and I found myself taking ownership just as all of retail, café and pubs were closing down: talk about bad timing. It went from no big deal to ‘holy crap’ within a matter of weeks.

“Like everyone in retail, the big concern was how it would impact on our business and would we have to put off staff we had just hired?”

Matt and his wife were mindful right from the start about social distancing in their businesses and immediately began the hand sanitising and cleaning regimes.

“This wasn’t because we were worried about the disease itself, we are young and fairly fit and healthy, but if we or our staff, or a customer contracted it, we would have to shut the store before we even opened.”

Something did go their way though – their choice of business proved to be a pandemic essential.

“If you think about it every police car, ambulance, fire engine and emergency care worker’s car needs batteries, not to mention every hospital bed has a battery so we were providing a service.

“Someone somewhere will need a battery solution at some point.”

In contrast the car wash business has dropped significantly, reveals Matt.

“Whether people are not using their cars as much or because these are lean times: they have reduced hours or have lost their jobs, so understandably a car wash can be a bit of a luxury to pull back on.”

As Matt got to grips with growing the Battery World business he faced other pandemic-specific challenges.

When the Sunshine State shut down its borders there was an added obstacle to keep everything going; the family is based in Queensland and the retail outlet and 24/7 roadside battery assist service operate in New South Wales.

However, the Moores got through the hurdles, and started to see improvements in business, despite the lockdown.

When signing up to the franchise the couple could see there was room to make simple changes to maximise revenue.

“The previous owner had suffered a few health issues, so had not been running the business at optimal performance,” Matt says.

“We were fortunate that by making some needed upgrades and improvements we have seen immediate benefits: already year on year for May we are up 30 per cent and month on month April to May we are up 100 per cent.”

Matt was attracted to the Battery World brand because of its vision, the continuing changes in technology and a business that could be somewhat insulated in troubled times.

The timing was extraordinary – the Moores are really putting the brand to the test.