Retail Operations at Five Below


The Philadelphia-based company is one of the fastest growing retailers in the U.S.A. with over 700 stores in 33 states. In 2018, they cut the ribbon on over 100 new stores, on top of opening 90+ stores in 2017.

Interview with Dave Sanborn, Senior Director of Operations at Five Below


Tell us a bit about your background and role.

“My name is Dave Sanborn, I’m the Senior Director of Operations for Five Below. I have been in retail for over 30 years, with 22 years at Petsmart, and the last 3+ years at Five Below. My role really is to be an advocate for the stores, and a bridge between the stores and our head office, and to build processes, programs, and technology to make things simpler for our stores so that they can spend more time with customers.”


What were your considerations when it came to evaluating different communication and store management platforms?

“We looked at a bunch of different vendors, but one of the things that we absolutely loved about Foko Retail, when you kind of think about who our managers are and who our associates are, is that they’re very much big advocates of social media, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The tools that we were using in the past were pretty old school, and we were really looking for something that would be a tool that our core demographic of managers, leaders and our associates and our buildings could utilize for communication, so we really looked for Foko to do that.”



How are you using Foko Retail today?

“We use it to centralize our communication and operations. In the field, that communication is instant, and accessible. The accessibility of Foko Retail with tablets, handhelds, and desktops, it’s game changing for us. Our connectivity and the accessibility of communication was so limiting before. An example I always give about our store managers is that they had to go through a locked office in the back room and a password protected computer in order to get communication. Now they can be right on the sales floor grabbing their communication in the moment.”


What would you say has been the most noticeable benefit of using Foko Retail?

“We call it our ‘one-stop-shop’, so being an entrepreneurial company, in some ways you’ve built Frankenstein, so you have all these different tools coming from all different places, and with all the right best intentions by different departments. What we really strive for is to have that one-stop-shop of all communication, and Foko Retail has really helped us do that, so that we are not using three or four different tools to accomplish communication, we are just using one. The efficiency that we gain from the head office is tremendous, but the efficiencies that we get from the stores is even better, because they just go to one place for all of their information. You kind of think of old, archaic kind of communications like email and text messages. We’re aspiring as a goal to eliminate those communication channels from our company, and really using the Foko Retail tool to do that. There’s really no another tool out there that really does that, so that’s one of the things that we feel very excited about Foko Retail.”


The efficiency that we gain from the head office is tremendous, but the efficiencies that we get from the stores is even better…it allows our store management team just to spend more time engaging with our customers.

- Dave Sanborn, Senior Director of Operations

How would you say that better communication has impacted what’s going on in stores?

“Communication is the grease that drives everything, and if you don’t communicate well, you’re not going to execute well at the end of the day. Anything that we can do to make our stores simpler to run, who benefits that, is the customer. Everything we do at Five Below is for the customer, and if we can improve communication an X amount of percent, it allows our store management team just to spend more time engaging with our customers, and we’ve seen the benefit of doing that.”


What has been the impact of Foko Retail on compliance?

“Qualitatively our field leaders definitely believe that they are seeing a measurable difference in compliance. In the past with communication tools, they might have to print out thirty to forty page documents in black and white. Now they have a tablet on the sales floor, in color and zooming capability, so it’s just common sense that we’re going to improve our execution just by the improvement of the tool.”



What has been the reception from your field and store teams? Have you gotten any feedback from them?

“When it comes to training our field leaders, at the end of every presentation, we’ve gotten a big round of applause. They are using words like “Awesome!”, “Can’t believe it!”, “It’s about time!”, so the reception from our pilot districts and even the ones that are about to roll out, they just get it. They just understand what we are trying to accomplish, and are just so thankful that we are building this tool to make their lives easier.”


What would you say sets Foko Retail apart from other vendors?

“Foko when they first engaged us was an incredible communication tool, but we saw opportunities in how it dealt with a repository of documents and Task Management. One of the things that we as a leadership team have absolutely loved about Foko has been their nimbleness with us. The credibility with the Foko Team here at Five Below is so high and it’s literally one of the best technology companies I’ve ever dealt with, because usually you are buying something off the shelf and their nimbleness to support your needs is sometimes limiting, and Foko has just done a tremendous job for us in closing those gaps, and really building the tool and roadmap that we need to be successful in our stores.”


What would you say is Five Below’s role in the future of retail, discount retail specifically?

“Five Below’s place, it’s differentiated. When you think of the value of retailers, we offer great value, and great products, but when you really think of the experience at Five Below, you don’t really get those in discount stores. Our store is a little bit different than say like the other dollar stores. It’s a place that you want to be. We call ourselves “The Yes Store” because it’s very hard to say no. When you kind of think about other discount stores, they may not know who their customers are. We know exactly who our customers are, and we know how to build the environment for them. I would say our biggest is our differentiation, the experience that we provide.”



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