Metal Supermarkets Finds Niche by Saying “Yes”!

In business, it’s often what people aren’t doing that provides the best opportunities.

That was the case with Metal Supermarkets, which was established in 1985 in Mississauga, Ontario by industry veteran Bill Mair. He spent decades selling metal in mid to large quantities to major players while continually saying “no” to small and mid-size businesses that required smaller quantities of metal.

After leaving one of the large quantity distributors, Bill started saying “yes” to these small-quantity metal customers when he founded Metal Supermarkets and the business has been thriving ever since.

Now a private company including ownership by President and CEO Stephen Schober and Vice President Franchising Andrew Arminen, Metal Supermarkets continues to grow across the continent and across the pond in the United Kingdom. Metal Supermarkets’ customers include machine shops, smaller-scale manufacturers, governments, maintenance providers, contractors and small to midsize fabricators. The business started franchising back in 1987 and has grown to 72 locations. The company is currently opening a new franchised store every six weeks, Arminen said during a recent interview from the Metal Supermarkets headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario.

“There is a huge need for our service because of the way the steel industry is structured. Most vendors concentrate on high volume sales, so they don’t look after the small quantity users, often requiring them to buy more than they need and providing disinterested service. They don’t solve these customers’ problems,” Arminen explained. “So, they’re often left out in the cold.”

These smaller quantity purchasers can depend on Metal Supermarkets to sell them any quantity of metal they need and to do it quickly and efficiently, the co-owner added.

Arminen has been involved with Metal Supermarkets since 2001. He saw a great opportunity to run a unique business that served a niche, had limited competition, and had huge potential. He and Schober acquired the business as part of a management lead investment group in 2010 and have been running it ever since.


The franchise typically attracts persons who want to invest in a solid, non-fad business that promises stability. Generally, Metal Supermarkets franchisees want a Monday to Friday business rather than one that is open for extended hours such as in food services. And, typically, Arminen added, franchisees are interested in business-to-business transactions because it fits with their prior employment background.

The company employs a rigorous franchise development process that includes a series of phone calls, webinars, interviews and meetings with Metal Supermarkets employees and current franchisees to help the company find the best possible candidates. If potential franchisees make a good impression and both parties believe it could be a sound partnership, the prospective franchisee attends a two day discovery process. The desired outcome is to mutually determine if Metal Supermarkets is the right business opportunity.

“Our franchise development approach is not to sell a franchise,” Arminen noted. “It’s actually to see if the candidate is the right fit for Metal Supermarkets. If the fit is right, the business essentially sells itself and it turns into a win-win.”

Once a franchisee is on board, Metal Supermarkets supports them through an extensive 12-week pre-opening program. Prior to opening, the new franchisee will attend a two week training session at the company’s headquarters. They will experience what it is like to work in a store, as they spend an entire week working in a fully functional store. The second week is dedicated to in-class training covering topics such as business development, operations, staffing and training on the company’s proprietary software system.

Additionally, Metal Supermarkets sends its business consultants to the new franchisees’ location for two weeks so they are present for the opening and immediately after. To make sure they’re off to a good start new franchisees have weekly phone calls with the company’s operations group to review the business and formulate strategies for the upcoming week.

The operations team pays the franchisee regular site visits and are focused on training not just the franchisee, but also working with the franchisees’ staff to make sure they understand the business model and systems so that they can maximize the market potential.

“Our dedication to monitoring performance, mentoring for success, and ongoing training helps set Metal Supermarkets apart from other industrial or business-to-business franchises”, Arminen said.

The experience of the team along with Metal Supermarkets’ focus on developing “Profitable Partnerships” with its franchisees goes a long way towards establishing their credibility as a franchisor who knows how to run the business and make the franchisee successful.

Metal Supermarkets views the ‘profitable partnership’ philosophy with its franchisees as an integral part of its franchise offering and the ongoing success of both franchisee and franchisor. The company works very closely with all its franchisee partners in measuring key performance areas such as customer service, store financial review, and business model execution. “We are very aligned to the success of our franchisees” Arminen adds. “Profitable and satisfied franchisees make the franchisor successful. We live and breathe this philosophy day in and day out.” Thus far, those partnerships include 44 locations in the U.S., 22 in Canada and six in the UK. There are still lots of territories available, as the company has its sights set on eventually having 150 – 200 locations in the U.S. alone.

Arminen said there are territories available in almost every state including California, Texas, Kansas, New Jersey, New York and Florida.

He pointed to his and Schober’s investment in the company as solid proof that they are dedicated to seeing franchisees succeed. “We have a demonstrated long-term commitment to the success of the Metal Supermarkets business,” he said. “We’re passionate about growing and developing a good organization to build for the future, for our franchisees and ourselves.”

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