Share This

Robertson is All About Scrubs

allaboutscrubs1

By Rick Levine

Ownership Has Its Privileges

Diana Robertson knows her way around numbers. She was the Chief Financial Officer for a $33 million company in the not-for-profit world. The firm had 700 employees, and she recalls the position demanding her 24/7, as the expression goes.

“The job was rewarding, but we found it cutting into our personal life too much once there were grandchildren,” says Robertson.

The solution?

Robertson researched businesses she could purchase and settled on a medical scrubs store in her area of Largo, Florida. The numbers made sense to her. And the retail business offered her the opportunity to be more in control of how she spent her time. She and her husband, Pat Robertson, are now the proud owners of All About Scrubs. Pat is there for moral and technical support, keeping his decades-long career at Eastman Kodak, while Diane manages their new enterprise day to day.

“We bought the inventory and whatever was on the walls,” says Robertson. “The former owners had nothing else. There was no website. No client list.”

Robertson made her move away from what she calls corporate America to the retail scrub world back in July of 2009. There have been many changes since.

 

Location is Key

“As soon as the lease was up in 2010, we moved to a bigger, more visible location,” says Robertson.

The store is now in a conveniently located shopping center. The choice was made based on the proximity of multiple hospitals and medical centers. The operation also jumped from 1,400 square feet at the old site to a new spacious 2,600-square-foot space.

allaboutscrubs5Largo is the third largest city in Pinellas County, Fla., and is part of the Tampa Bay Area. Centrally located, the town is considered the crossroads of the county, with a population of about 77,000. There is good walk-in traffic for All About Scrubs, and customers make the store a destination from all over the Tampa area.

“We get word of mouth from big locations such as hospitals,” says Robertson. “There are also a lot of mid- to small-sized offices in this part of Florida. We are stereotypical of older population, which means more medical facilities and visits.”

 




New Call-to-action




Front, Center and Back

“Our vibe is conservative,” says Robertson. “We have been looking at other scrub retailers though and gathering ideas on how to keep improving our showroom.”

The store features neutral colors on the walls and a gently patterned carpet. The scrubs and manufacturer banners displayed above sections add the color variety and appeal that make this retail space eye catching.

Almost all of the space is devoted to the showroom, with 150 square feet carved out as the back room area. There is some extra storage space for fixtures and hangers not in current use, but every part of the main space is filled with racks and wall fixtures neatly organized with merchandise.

allaboutscrubs3The entire length of the store is about 75 feet. The front third of the store features the nicer, higher-end styles.

At the center of the rectangular space are four good-size dressing rooms with fabric curtain doorways. Also centrally located is the cash register, right across from the dressing rooms. Between the point-of-sale counter and the changing rooms is where shoppers will find the newest products. This layout works well to highlight the freshest styles.

The back section is where the sale section is located. There is a growing men’s section as well. The store features some footwear, but only some black and white basics. Accessories and stethoscopes are available behind the register.

“We definitely see a trend for solid colors,” says Robertson. “Greens, blues, white and black sell best in this area. Prints are decreasing in demand. Home health care providers, as an example, are more often going with solid color polo shirts.”

The store also offers a small section for chef coats, aprons and chef pants.

“We have two in-house embroidery machines in the back. We deliver embroidery on average in three weeks. We have definitely won business for this, because others were taking two months. First orders take longer of course. With just two machines, it takes some time, but we do not send anything out.”

 

Sales and Marketing

“Our goal is to get more office groups. We would like to receive more bulk orders,” says Robertson.

All About Scrubs offers to make in-person office visits and bring items directly to a group’s workplace. The company goes to the end-users with styles they may have in mind and offers to size everyone.

“Then we decorate the items with embroidery, bag the apparel by employee and deliver it. It is a nice service,” she says.

These types of group accounts will order every year, and All About Scrubs is looking for more of those guaranteed sales. They talk up the service with shoppers at the store, looking to get individual buyers to develop into office accounts. There are groups that seek them out as well, and the store gets referrals. Robertson is a strong advocate for the importance of networking.

“We have found that many people do not want to give out their email address, so we promote our Facebook page. We tell people to like us on Facebook. That is one way we promote sales and new products. I think people are on Facebook now more than they are reading emails.”

The store is involved in the local chamber of commerce. Newspaper advertising was less successful, so Robertson has come to rely more on networking to grow the business.

allaboutscrubs4The firm is also targeting hospitals in the area, hoping to garner employee payroll deduction programs. The company looks forward to breaking further into that niche market.

Robertson is supported by four part-time employees. The team is being trained in more areas of store operations so activity does not stop when Robertson is not there.

All About Scrubs has continued to grow every year since Robertson bought the business. What does she attribute this to?

“Awesome customer service,” says Robertson. “Giving good attention to customers, the opposite of what big department stores typically offer. We also carry a variety of styles so that even if a color is required, there are different style choices for the shopper within that color.”

Robertson’s background is in finance and did not involve any inventory management. That aspect of the retail business has been a learning process. Early on in her ownership of All About Scrubs, she says, “I wanted to buy everything. It took me a while to become more aware of what I was buying and not to blow my budget out of the water.”

There is no way to track precisely when the slow and busy days will be for All About Scrubs. The store does report a typical slow-down in the fourth quarter with the holidays. Robertson shares that the firm has more inventory stored in the back than they used to, and so they are trying to reduce that.

“We sell online, but not much to individuals. We use the Preferred Customer module from UniformMarket to manage our groups online. And we want to expand that. We can help groups that operate at multiple locations and counties much easier that way. We also like having the website there for product searches,” says Robertson.




New Call-to-action




All About Scrubs also offers promotional products as another source of revenue. Because that branch of retail sales doesn’t require holding much inventory, she says, the promo business is easy to manage. Since the company also already has embroidery machines on premises, it makes decorating promotional apparel more profitable for them. The networking groups that Robertson participates in locally utilize these services from All About Scrubs.

“We’ll even do two shirts! Why not? We can order two shirts, and as long as they pay to get the logo set up digitally, then we fill that order.”

 

allaboutscrubs2Industry Recommendations

Robertson is quick to point out that it was a complete leap of faith to become an entrepreneur. She says her sister helped in making the decision by asking what was the worst thing that could happen.

“I said, ‘I fail,’” replied Robertson. “My sister said, ‘Exactly, and then you go get another job.’ I figured it was clothing and I could learn quickly. I’m a fast learner.”

Robertson considers herself unique in the medical scrubs retail game because she was never a nurse and had never worked in retail. Those types of life experiences would be a more traditional and recommended path for those considering getting into the medical uniform industry, she says. Another challenging element of owning her own business has been hitting the streets and finding out what marketing will work in the area, as well as going online and learning the world of social media.

“Some sales work and some don’t. It keeps us on our toes. But I know the long hours I work now are for me and not someone else,” says Robertson. “I am also the only one to blame when something does not work out.”

Robertson does not at all regret taking the leap to own her own medical scrub shop. Her salary might not be what it was when she was CFO for a major company, but she greatly values her new ability to better mix work and personal time.

 

All About Scrubs
885 West Bay Dr.
Largo, FL 33770
(727) 517-1439
www.aascrubs.com