Not all businesses can point to the last six months as a source of increased sales.
Power-washing company Renew Crew of Springfield is one of them. With annual sales through July up 30%, franchisee Jerry Lesh says the local operation is on track for its best year yet.
“A lot of folks are working from home now and taking less vacations, so they’re using their outdoor spaces more. When they want them to look nice and clean, that’s where we come in,” says Lesh, who purchased the franchise rights in 2014.
As a result, Lesh says Renew Crew of Springfield is on pace to increase annual revenue this year to $600,000. The Renew Crew franchise specializes in pressure washing and sealing the exterior of residential and commercial properties, including decks, stairs, siding and walls.
Roughly 60% of sales are projects to clean and protect decks, while Lesh says the remaining sales are typically fence work. Most of the local jobs are residential, with 10% of business on commercial properties. A typical job averages $1,300.
Renew Crew got its start in Springfield in 1993, though it operated by another name. It was founded by Stan Krempges as a wood cleaning and sealing business called Wood Brite Inc., later renamed to Wood Re New. In 2002, Krempges started franchising the business, which grew to 21 locations in 11 states, according to the Renew Crew website. Krempges sold the company to Outdoor Living Brands in 2012, which renamed it Renew Crew, according to Springfield Business Journal archives. A new franchisor is on board this year, as Virginia-based Premium Service Brands – which owns six home service brands – purchased the company and now has 26 Renew Crew locations in 13 states, from California to North Carolina, according to its website.
Lesh says because people have been at home over the last few months, he’s needed to meet customers where they are. That means investing in more online-based marketing strategies.
“The best way to reach people at home is through the internet, Facebook and different online mediums,” he says. “Our focus has been pay-per-click marketing, Facebook ads and retargeting folks that have been visiting our website.”
According to a study conducted by Stanford University, 42% of the U.S. labor force was working from home full time in June and 26% was working at a physical location. By comparison locally, nearly 36% of respondents to SBJ Publishing Inc.’s second round of its 2020 Economic Growth Survey in April say they plan to work remote more frequently once the pandemic subsides.
Since March, when the local stay-at-home order was enacted, Lesh has increased his marketing budget by 30%.
Paul Flick, CEO of Premium Service Brands, says the parent company has made marketing a priority for its six brands, which include Maid Right cleaning service and Handyman Pro home improvement service. PSB was up 26% in sales for the year by press time.
“We’re continuing to put a lot of capital behind our marketing and educating the consumer that it’s safe to have people in your home, if they take the right precautions, and to have people outside our house,” says Flick, adding the company has spent at least six figures on marketing so far this year.
Renew Crew has additional franchisees in the north Kansas City and St. Joseph areas, as well as northwest Arkansas and Little Rock, Arkansas, according to the corporate website.
Lesh says creating a network of repeat customers is one way the local franchise has built business. Renew Crew of Springfield serves customers in Springfield, Branson, Nixa, Republic, Ozark, Bolivar and other surrounding areas. The franchise rights footprint covers 50 area ZIP codes, according to the website.
He says a goal for the upcoming year is to expand Renew Crew of Springfield’s service area to additional communities, though he declined to identify targets.
“We’ve been in this market for 27 years, so we have a significant amount of recognition,” he says. “There’s always other markets to enter.”
Nationwide, the home services industry recorded a 30% drop in revenue by the end of March, when COVID-19 shutdowns began, according to small-business trends analysts at Jobber Academy. However, industry revenues have begun to rebound since May, according to the Jobber data.
Local Renew Crew competitor Exterior Pro Wash LLC has recorded sales increases over the last few months, but owner Audra Miller says she’s worried about the trend continuing.
“I have some reservations in predicting what winter or fall will be like, because that’s when we service the majority of our commercial accounts, and restaurants and retailers have suffered an incredible financial loss,” she says. “And with everyone staying home, I don’t know what the commercial business will look like this fall.”
Still, PSB’s Flick says the industry has provided hope in a tough time.
“Home services have just exploded,” he says, noting revenues were up 47% across all PSB brands in July, compared with the same month last year.
The company charges Renew Crew franchisees 6% royalties on revenues. Lesh anticipates local sales growth continuing into next year at a pace of 20% higher in 2021.
“People are at home and that’s where they’re spending their time. They’re looking at things they wanted to get done 18, 20 months ago,” Flick adds. “The home services industry has been a little bit of a silver lining during the tragedy.”
A former employee in the food service industry transitioned into a first-time business owner; grocery chain Aldi made its Branson debut; and Ozark-based nonprofit Garde’n Gate Provisions opened a thrift store and donation center.
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