Shop Talk: Ultimate Party Super Store
Retail, rentals and products galore
“While I need to be aware of what the competition is doing,” Fuqua said, “I have to stay focused on our store and what will make it successful.”
When Fuqua and his wife opened the doors in 2008, Ultimate Party Super Store was successful selling party supplies and quickly expanded into the rental business a year later. They now offer everything from party and wedding supplies to invitations, bounce houses and Halloween costumes and accessories.
Despite the large number of items offered, Fuqua prides himself on their customer service. As soon as customers walk in they’re greeted and helped with finding what they need.
“We take the time to explain rentals in full, help coordinate balloon arrangements and much more,” Fuqua said. “Our associates are trained to carry the balloons out to the car for our customers. We carry Qualatex latex balloons and use HI-FLOAT and have customers come in all the time to tell us how long their latex balloons stayed up.
“We have a huge selection of colors and designs and make it easy to find balloons for any occasion, not just latex but the foils as well, and can do all kinds of different balloon arrangements and centerpieces,” he continued. “If we don’t have in stock a particular item customers are looking for, we try our hardest to order and get it in before their event.”
The store itself is 3,800 square feet of party retail on the top floor year round, with an additional 3,800 square feet on the bottom floor used for rental storage and retail space, mostly for Halloween.
“Halloween is very big for us and come July, we change the bottom floor to all retail space for Halloween, which we call the ‘Halloween Cave’ since it’s in the basement,” Fuqua said. “We try to just keep what is new and fresh and what customers are looking for in stock. Of course costumes will always be apart of Halloween business, but it seems now more customers are going for the accessories, so we have expanded out with those items and really focus on that.”
Bright, inviting colors draw customers into the main floor of the store itself, and upon entering they’ll find checkouts and the balloon center to the left, wedding rental displays to the right and the middle open for easy access of getting in and out. There are a total of five aisles, each 60 feet long, with jumbo foils on the front walls and 8-inch foils along the sidewalls.
When it comes to party supplies, Fuqua said they do well year round with balloons and solid color plates, napkins and cups and juvenile patterns.
“Display is a big part for me to make sure I’m getting the most per square foot,” Fuqua said. “I look at an item, and if it isn’t moving in 30 days, I look at where I can move it and make better use of the space and it always helps to mix in different merchandise to help move it faster.
“I am a big believer of keeping items inline,” he continued. “It’s usually easier for the customer to shop, and I also keep all of one theme together instead of making them walk all over the store to find what goes together.”
Anything with zebra print will sell, and polka dots are another pattern that they can’t keep on the shelves. As far as the characters, Mickey Mouse, Thomas the Train and even Barney are hanging around, with newer ones like Angry Birds, anything with superheroes — especially Justice League, Hello Kitty and Disney Princesses climbing to the top.
Because they aim be the only store a customer needs, their wedding and party rentals for any occasion are a big part of what’s kept the successful.
What started off with 100 chairs and 10 8-foot tables has since expanded to 2,000 chairs and more than 200 tables. They have also gotten into the bounce house rentals, starting off with five jumpers and expanding to more than 20 units. Although the party supplies are still 75 percent of their business and rentals 25 percent at this time, the party retail has grown 8 to 10 percent a year and rentals have grown 15 to 20 percent a year.
Fuqua said rentals are a lot of work and time consuming, but if run right, they are worth having. Once the items are paid off, their profit goes up, and they take good care of the equipment and make sure everything is clean and working properly before it goes out the doors.
“With rentals, it is a lot of word of mouth, so we have to make sure all our customers are happy with what they get and are taken care of,” Fuqua said. “Having a rental business in with a party retail store can be challenging. We make sure all of our associates are trained to answer questions regarding both the party side and rentals, and with having as many rentals as we do now, that is quite a bit they must learn. Having a good rental manager to keep things going smoothly is a must.”
As a result of expanding their rental business, their wedding business has grown by leaps and bridal bounds and they’re already booking weddings for the end of the year. The invitation business is doing well for them as well, and they even have a link on their website where customers can go and order their invitations and it automatically sends it to the invitation company.
In fact, Fuqua said their website has helped out in many ways.
“So many people use the Internet to find what they are looking for, and being on there ensures they will find our store,” Fuqua said. “With our website customers can view our balloons, rentals, patterns, location, phone number, hours, etc. Facebook also allows us to stay connected with our most frequent customers, as well as getting new customers to find out about us.”
Whether it’s online or in store, Fuqua said they make sure customer service is No. 1 and that they have the merchandise customers are looking for, no matter what it is.