Homeier-Schwien left the agriculture industry for RTO and
found her cash cow.
|Gloria Homeier-Schwien was featured in the
RTO Excellence section of the January 2006 issue of
the rental purchase industry's leading print trade
Each issue of
RTO Magazine (Print
Edition) recognizes one rent to own owner or operator that
has built a successful business through a day-to-day commitment
to excellence. Our goal is to recognize achievement, find out
what drives success, and to share hints we can learn from and
The January 2006 issue's
success story is Gloria Homeier-Schwien, Full House Rentals.
It was supposed to be a two-week job. A young Gloria Homeier
needed temporary part-time work and found it - working for the
federal government measuring grain bins and counting cows of the
“I was not the person the farmers wanted to see coming. I
monitored compliance, so they were always nervous when my truck
pulled onto their property,” says Gloria.
Fifteen years (and many cows) later, Gloria knew she needed a
“I have to admit, I had a good job. I eventually became the
County Executive Director for the Farm Services Agency in the US
Department of Agriculture. I implemented all of the farm
programs in my part of Kansas. The government was good to me,
but I was bored. After you master your tasks, there is no
challenge. And I needed to be challenged. I really wanted to go
out on my own.”
Luckily for Gloria, she had a close role model. In 1990,
Gloria’s father, Richard Cross, had begun opening Hometown Brand
Center stores in Kansas and Nebraska. A long-time Sears dealer,
he needed a new concept when Sears started to consolidate and
close his stand-alone rural locations.
Since Gloria’s US Department of Agriculture position only
required a four day work week, she would often spend a day or
two working under the tutelage of her dad. Eventually he maxed
out at five locations.
“He’d have kept going, but my mom wouldn’t let him open any
more!” says Gloria.
Bit by the entrepreneurial bug and intrigued with the
possibility of opening her own stores, she started to look for
locations near her home in Russell, Kansas.
“My very first thought was Beloit, Kansas (population:
4,000). I looked at the push-pull factors published by Kansas
State University and felt there was enough stability despite the
rural location and seemingly small population. Beloit had a
rather high pull factor, meaning people were going in to conduct
business there from other towns, making it all the more
So in November 2001, Gloria Homeier-Schwien became
Owner/President of G-5 Retail, Inc. and opened her first RTO
store, A Full House.
“From day one, we did payday loans, rent-to-own, retail, 90 days
same as cash, you name it. The way it breaks down is that 30% of
the Beloit transactions are retail purchases and the rest are
rent-to-own. And frankly, the payday loans complement the
business wonderfully. Customers come in for a loan and end up
looking at the merchandise on the floor.”
Interestingly enough, the one thing Beloit customers won’t see
on the sales floor are male employees. Gloria’s entire staff,
from delivery driver to service tech to store manager, are all
women. When asked if this was intentional, Gloria has a
“I would like to think that I hire the best qualified
candidate for every position. It just so happens that they were
all female. I have the same expectations for every employee. If
I expect a guy to lift it, I expect a woman to lift it. I also
expect them to be able to take a washer apart and repair it and
to perform routine maintenance on our vehicles. The entire
Beloit staff is female, but we have two other stores now and
there are a few male employees, as well.”
In fact, out of Gloria’s 13 employees, three are male and the
rest are women. And out of her three store managers (other A
Full House stores are located in McPherson, KS - opened February
2003; and Pratt, KS - opened October 2004) not one of them is a
“Like I said, my expectations are the same for every employee
and they come through every time. I have three great store
managers and I hope I get to keep them forever!”
Gloria has created a warm, friendly atmosphere in her company
where she just might get to keep her employees that long. After
experiencing high turnover among delivery drivers early on, she
upped the pay scale and added benefits such as health, dental
and life insurance, making it more of a management track. It
worked, since every one of her three current managers started as
a delivery driver.
“I’m in every store at least once a week, and sometimes twice. I
believe in working right beside the store staff. In fact, the
hard (collection) cases come right to me. When the store owner
knocks on the customer’s door the reaction you get is a little
That reaction must usually be good, since Gloria’s company went
from day one until this past September without experiencing a
single customer skip - that’s nearly a four-year stretch without
losing any merchandise.
“The benefit of operating in a rural environment is that my
managers have lived in the area and know our customers and know
their families. Collections are not really an issue, although we
all know sometimes things happen and accounts will become
One practice Gloria has instituted to help curb delinquencies is
a merit-based pay system that factors delinquency percentages
into managers’ compensation.
“The formula that is working for us is a certain percent of
total revenue, less the percent of delinquencies. It might sound
overly simple, but since we started this, I have seen tremendous
changes. Overall revenue is up 15%. Delinquencies have been
reduced by 30%. The best part of all, though, is that my
managers’ pay is up 20%. And we all couldn’t be happier!”
That’s good, since Gloria’s stores are preparing for the
upcoming rush, when income tax refunds have a strong impact on
“Normally, Beloit is about 30% retail purchases and Pratt and
McPherson are about 15-20% retail. But February is our highest
sales month overall, hands down. You really see the impact of
those refunds both on the RTO and the retail side.”
Gloria’s stores aren’t huge (they all average about 400 BOR per
store and 4,000 square feet of display space), but they are
successful because she keeps her overhead low and her growth in
“If you grow too fast, it can take lots of cash to buy the
merchandise you need. Our third store (Pratt, KS) grew so fast
we sold out the entire store faster than I thought possible.
It’s hard to know how to make sure you have enough merchandise.
What was interesting is that the first day in Pratt we had NO
business. Nothing. Whereas in the previous two stores, we were
renting merchandise on day one. But by the fourth week in Pratt,
we had gone through our entire warehouse. Now the Pratt store is
consistently giving McPherson a run for its money for the
highest company BOR.”
It also helps the profitability of her stores that a large
number of rental agreements progress to ownership.
“In Beloit, nearly 85% of the rental agreements pay out in full.
In McPherson, the number’s between 45% and 50%. In Pratt, it’s
still too soon to tell, but the number should be at least close
Gloria’s company, G-5 Retail, Inc. owns the real estate occupied
by all three stores, soon to be four. She also takes great pains
to finalize her advertising in advance, to ensure a plan is in
place and costs are kept in check.
“In December, we have our plan completed for the entire next
year. I’ll never spend 10% of my revenue on marketing, but I
might spend 5%. You know you’ll never beat word of mouth, so I
try to capitalize on that by controlling employee turnover. I
want our customers to see familiar faces in the stores. Beyond
that, cable TV has been good to us. I mainly have folks say they
saw our commercial on American Choppers or during wrestling. And
the pricing is pretty advantageous, especially when the cable
company will create the ad for you. I also like running ads in
those free shopper publications.”
According to Gloria, that plan typically includes cable ads
every week, a shopper ad every other month, and an on-going
direct mail program.
“When we first enter a market, I hire someone from an area
community college to enter every address in the area into a
database. Then, we can reach just about every person out there.”
Gloria also credits Ideal Software’s marketing function for
allowing her to run direct mail offers to her customers.
“One of the best offers I use is $5 the first week rents
anything in the store. It always brings customers in. The key,
though, is making sure you’re staying within the customers’
Another key, says Gloria, is offering the right mix of
merchandise and being able to service what you rent. While A
Full House stores rent Ashley furniture, and Pioneer, JVC and
Sony electronics, they only offer one brand of appliances.
“We strictly rent Whirlpool appliances. Our techs know their
merchandise, and they all have attended Whirlpool training at
Whirlpool’s facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a result, we service
everything we rent or sell in our own stores. Refrigerators,
stoves, washers and dryers, we know how to do it all.”
After 15 years in RTO (10 working for her father and 5 on her
own), Gloria has seen some changes in the business.
“Customers now are much more educated. They shop around. They
have choices. There is definitely more shopping and browsing
than ever before. Of course, the merchandise has changed
drastically since 1990. We love those plasma TV’s and LCD TV’s,
and not just because they weigh so much less!”
Gloria plans to soon open her fourth store in five years, and
eventually build A Full House into a force to be reckoned with.
“My goal is to be the biggest privately-owned RTO company
started by a woman.”
So while it might seem like a long way from climbing grain bins
in rural Kansas to climbing toward RTO excellence, for Gloria
Homeier-Schwien, it’s just another job well done.
sales@rtoonline to recommend dealers for the RTO Excellence
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