The Royal Treatment

Oct 22, 2013

Almost 30 years later, the same part of town is thriving and the company now showcases its wares in a 10-year-old facility constructed in front of its original storefront and away from the shade, according to owner Terra Richardson.

TopperKing’s store in Brandon sits on 3.5 acres of land, while the company’s second location in Clearwater, Fla., spans 2.5 acres. Between both stores, the company inventories thousands of products and several hundred toppers, according to Richardson.

“We have a dedicated wholesale department which has increased sales,” Richardson says. “We have a dedicated person who visits dealers, delivers products, then we do the install at our shop.”


A Family Affair

Richardson works as the general manager at the TopperKing in Brandon-a city located 12 miles from Tampa, Fla. Richardson’s brother, Mark Beasley, serves as general manager of the Clearwater store, which is approximately 35 miles from Brandon. The brother-sister team represents the second generation of the family to head the company operations.

“My mother and father started the business,” Richardson says. “The company went from a small little office on the far side of Brandon to a much bigger building.

“I was raised in the business and know it inside and out,” she says.

Richardson and her family are well known within the Brandon and Tampa areas. However, their reputation is not only based on their name, but the many years running a well-established business.

“We have been around long enough to where we have built up a strong customer base. We are extremely knowledgeable because we have done this for so long. We also stay competitive and believe in the importance of branding everything that goes out of our location,” she says.

Richardson’s sons, Ryan and Conner Richardson, and her husband, Dave Richardson, work for TopperKing. Ryan works in the accounting department. Conner, still in high school, works the front counter greeting and cashing out customers, while Dave serves as the purchasing manager at the Brandon location.

Even employees who are not relatives are still treated like family, Richardson says. The company employs more than a dozen people between both locations.

“Although we are a family-owned business, we are firm believers in moving people up in the company. One employee has been with us for more than 15 years,” Richardson says. “I believe that employee advancement helps to make working here feel like more of a career than just a job.”

Richardson’s mother, Sharron Beasly, the president of TopperKing, earned special recognition and certification for the store as a woman-owned business.

“Being a minority-owned business helps us gain government contracts,” Richardson says.


Product Selection

As the nameplate hints, TopperKing specializes in truck caps-more commonly known as “toppers” in the Florida market.

“We also sell your typical accessories such as hitches, tool boxes, drop-in bedliners, chrome, LEDs, and undercarriage LED lighting,” Richardson says.

Within TopperKing’s 4,500-square-foot showroom in Brandon, a variety of retail displays showcase the company’s best-selling items. One display includes a full-size Bedslide.

“We have a whole section dedicated to LED lighting, a ‘topper tree,’ which is comprised of toppers hanging in the shape of a tree, and an area for Leer products,” Richardson says. “We always receive a Leer award year-after-year and have all of our awards on display within the store.”

Other popular products offered by the shop include fiberglass and soft tonneau covers, nerf bars, toolboxes, and spray-on bedliners. Brands include Bushwhacker, Westin Automotive Products, Undercover, Extang and T-Rex.

Window tinting long ago emerged as one of the most popular services offered by TopperKing.

“It’s a big business in Florida because it’s hot and people want to stay cool while protecting their vehicle’s interior,” Richardson says.

The avid outdoor lifestyle in Florida also affords TopperKing the ability to sell a substantial amount of cargo carriers and racks, according to Richardson.

“We have a whole display dedicated to bike, canoe, and kayak carriers,” she says.

Yakima is TopperKing’s best-selling cargo system but the shop also provides custom racks “for guys who work any type of job straight out of their vehicles,” Richardson says.

Although the store does not provide financing, it has always been Richardson’s mission to offer a variety of items at different price points to meet every customer’s need, she says.


Staying on Top

Certain strategies TopperKing subscribes to-keeping in touch with manufacturers, tracking industry-wide trends, and offering an expansive product selection-play significant roles in the company’s sustained success. Another key ingredient is TopperKing’s commitment to providing the best retail experience possible to its customers, Richardson says.

“Our customer service has helped us to stand out from our competition,” she says. “When someone walks through our doors, everyone is greeted.

“We also wear a lot of hats,” Richardson says. “For example, I am the general manager but will always actively help our customers and will never let anyone wait (to be helped). We always stand behind our products and service.”

The quality of service delivered by TopperKing reflects the amount of training Richardson offers her employees. Richardson says she and her staff have participated in numerous training courses, including everything from “attending window tint classes, to receiving official Reflex spray-on bedliner training.

“Our employees have also attended Dale Carnegie classes, which have provided them with great management skills,” she says.

The classes have benefitted employees in all departments-from sales floor workers to those who work within the 10-bay, 4,000-square-foot installation garage-according to Richardson.

Customers are able to get a good idea of the brands and products offered by TopperKing before ever entering the store. That fact is thanks to Richardson’s 20-year-old son Ryan, who built the TopperKing website,
www.topperking.com, which displays all the company’s wares at the click of a button. He also designed a truck accessory catalog viewable on the website and now manages the store’s social media operations through Facebook.

The company has plans to sometime soon expand the website to include an online store.

“Getting sales online is on our list of things to do. We just haven’t gotten there yet,” Richardson says.


Marketing The ‘King’

Although word-of-mouth has proven to be a valuable ‘free reach’ when it comes to marketing and gaining customers, TopperKing has flirted with a number of other marketing media-some have worked, others not so much, according to Richardson.

“We used to sponsor vehicles, local shows and races, but we have not done that in a while,” she says. “Our biggest response has come from TV and we usually run two TV campaigns during the year. The first commercial runs at the beginning of summer and the second runs during football season and Christmas.

“We also have an outdoor digital LED sign that is 5-by-10-feet and has scrolling videos in front of the store,” she adds. “That LED screen has been our biggest, but best investment.”

What hasn’t worked as well for the store is advertising in print.

“It’s hard to get feedback from them,” Richardson says.

The company’s marketing strategy shifts depending on the season. Business is good during the hot and muggy months of summer and remains steady in the fall. That’s when the company’s three- to four-week TV commercial campaigns are launched.

“Then, in early winter, business picks back up for the holidays,” Richardson says. “Holiday purchases usually include small stocking stuffer items to actual toppers, and chrome accessories.”