Closing time: Moving the storefront online

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The storefront is dying as more and more brokers are ditching them in favour of catching eyes online and not on the street.

“I have a corporate head office – in the past three years I’ve only had two clients come,” Jessi Johnson of Verico told “If I was willing to invest in an area with high amount of foot traffic, I would consider a storefront but at this point I think being completely dependent on virtual is completely sufficient.”

Even brokers currently running their business out of a storefront office believe they aren’t very efficient for building a client base. Still, the increasingly high-profile True North Mortgage has moved to widen its own collection of upscale storefronts in Canada’s largest urban centres. That business model is more and more the exception.

“If I had to rely on all my business coming in from walk-ins I would have closed my business a long time ago,” Terry Kilakos of North East Mortgages told “Maybe we’ll get one a week or one every couple of weeks that will actually walk in, on average. Maybe it’s not bad for some but it’s not great for us.”

Kilakos moved to the retail space -- which was once a bank and is situated on a major intersection in St-Laurent, Que. -- two years ago, after spending the majority of his career in a second storey office. He attributes the success of his business to actively advertising in the local media – and not due to walk-in business.

“We’re actually in the media a lot and that is what generates most of the walk-ins,” Kilakos said. “As far as people just walking by, you don’t get a lot of that. The storefront doesn’t make a lot of difference; brokers should focus a lot on advertising and getting their name out.”

However, although the foot traffic isn’t generating business, Kilakos isn’t about to move.

“We plan on staying; this is our location, this is our home,” he said earlier this week. “We didn’t choose the location to get walk-in clients, we chose it because it was convenient for clients and it just happened to be a storefront.”

  • @kiltedbroker on 2013-08-22 7:20:16 AM

    I leased a prime storefront location in Regina Sk (if there is such a thing here...) on the main drag for 3 years. In that 3 years, I received 2 walkins. The first was a complete nightmare of a file, the second was looking for directions to the Travelodge. I have since moved sold my brokerage to First Foundation and now work from home.

    You have to ask yourself, with the way business is moving online and clients are able to access information like never before, do you actually trust someone who just walks in off the street? I think it is fishy and red flags go up immediately.

    The year before I sold my brokerage, I actually stopped taking cold calls on the phone. If the client didn't come directly from a referral partner or another client, I was not interested in even taking an application.

    Now just so you don't think I am crazy, I spent a lot of time looking over my previous files and studied the numbers. I found that clients with no previous connection to me (cold clients) were (almost) 4 times more likely to bail on me half-way through the process for a lower rate or because of a previous bank relationship. This is the profile of your typical rate shopper.

    I figure let the banks or other brokers like Dan (who I think has a great business model) deal with these guys while I will spend my time working with clients who have a higher chance of being happy with the service and product I provide.

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