No Pain, Big Gain

Talk Of The Town

Since the success of a back store depends on the level of its commitment to customer satisfaction, most customers learn of a store's presence through word-of-mouth. Referrals from doctors and chiropractors still make up a good portion of new customers, but the narrow niche that back stores occupy, as well as their relative newness to the marketplace, make effective advertising tactics a must. Relax The Back's Johnson says that while his store's catalog generates a fair amount of business, the store's Web site (which lists store locations and product information) is beginning to generate more business. "It has not been a big force, and this is probably true of a lot of businesses on the Internet, but over time I can see it becoming more of a factor," says Johnson.

The good news is, back stores are, in Johnson's words, "destination locations," meaning that most customers don't enter the stores on impulse, as they do with many retail stores. In other words, because customers are looking for you, back stores can often flourish in relatively out-of-the-way locations, which generally have lower rent than prime spots. Start-up costs for back-products stores typically range from $150,000 to $250,000.

Owning a back store isn't just about selling back-support products, says Mazlish. "It is a customer service business," he says. "When you're helping people improve their comfort level, you're only as good as the amount of relief you can give them. If what we sell them doesn't work, we haven't done a darn thing."

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This article was originally published in the September 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: No Pain, Big Gain.

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