Abt expands single store empire

Mar 26, 2015
George Anderson

When merchants think of building retail empires they typically envision opening location after location across wide geographic areas. Abt Electronics and Appliances has taken a different approach. It simply continues to expand its already significant presence (37 acres) on the same campus in Glenview, Il.

Abt, which was founded in 1936 when David Abt took the $800 he was given by his wife, Jewel, to start the business, has grown to become the largest single-store appliance and electronics retailer in the country, employing roughly 1,100 people. Yesterday the company announced it had added an additional 93,000 square feet to its 200,000 square foot warehouse. Abt’s showroom is 100,000 square feet.

"In simple terms, we needed more space," said co-president Mike Abt in a statement. "With this warehouse expansion, our main goal is to service our customers in the best manner possible and allow us to be more efficient in all ways that we operate by providing expanded inventory, inventory space, resourceful delivery systems and more."

[Image: Abt Electronics & Appliances]

The new warehouse space with its 50-foot ceilings will have very narrow aisles to give staff the ability to store four-times the amount of product in the same space as before. Workers will be cruising the narrow aisles with new Crown TSP 7000 Turret Trucks that can reach 675 inches and are faster and more energy efficient that the vehicles used in the past. The facility will have 23 more outbound and five more incoming loading docks to speed up deliveries.

Abt is consistently among the highest ranked retailers for customer satisfaction. In November, Consumer Reports gave Abt top marks for customer service, checkout ease, product selection and quality. It was also rated above average for price and buying ease.

In a 2011 interview with Forbes, Abt’s other co-president, Jon Abt, said that the company experienced a drop in sales for the first time in its history during 2008 and 2009. "We turned it around by continuing to do what we do. There’s no magic formulate for reinventing ourselves; we’ve been doing this since 1936."

How has Abt managed to succeed when so many other independent retailers have not? Would operating from a single large location be a competitive advantage or disadvantage for most click & brick retailers today?

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4 Comments on "Abt expands single store empire"

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Steve Montgomery
5 years 1 month ago
Abt’s success can be attributed to three words—selection, price and service. We are fortunate that their store is just 15 miles or so away from our home and have purchased items there ranging from GPS devices to kitchen and other appliances. The selection ranges from what most people might buy to the very high-end items. Interestingly I have had their sales staff indicate that I should spend less on items because the lower-priced one was a better TV, appliance, etc. Occasionally I have challenged their prices because I have seen the product for less and I find them very willing to price match. I admit this is a rare occurrence as they always have competitive prices. Their service has always been excellent. They deliver free within a 75 mile radius of their store. They will also install any of the items they sell for a reasonable fee. Should the device need service they tell you upfront what the cost is likely to be and give you the price of replacement so you can decide if… Read more »
James Tenser
5 years 1 month ago

Abt looks like a place I’d like to visit. A unique, inviting, upscale shopper experience beats a generic chain format every time. Folding in online sales and a call center are natural ways for a strong mom & pop retailer to widen its reach and reputation without the major capex of added real estate.

The upgrades to its adjacent distribution facility reflect a commitment to pace, which to me means Abt has internalized a discipline around merchandise turns and cash flow. No wonder it’s thriving.

RIchard Hernandez
5 years 1 month ago

I think Abt is one place that everyone should visit at least once in their retail career. Their service and assortment is exceptional and the shopping experience is phenomenal—plus I like the smell of the hot chocolate chip cookies. Who doesn’t like that?

Dan Frechtling
5 years 1 month ago

Literally, Abt is a mom-and-pop retailer. Experientially, it’s much more.

It’s a mall. It has Tumi, Bang & Olufsen, and Apple stores operating within its walls. It attracts higher income shoppers buying higher price point white goods, electronics, and other items for the home. Shoppers arrive with a purpose, then buy more than they planned.

It’s got heritage. Abt has built its brand over 80 years. While it has expanded categories, it still stands for items for the home. It’s private, so it doesn’t have to chase quarterly targets.

It’s in a favorable location. Chicagoland has 10M people. It’s the third largest US metro area. Abt relocated from Chicago to Glenview, IL, and is right next to the 294 freeway, making it very accessible for Chicago suburbanites.

It’s an anomaly, but I like Abt’s chances.


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