To many, September means fashion. The month is highlighted by the annual New York Fashion Week, which brings thousands of people from around the world to the Northeast of the United States. Why? Clothing is BIG business. The apparel market in the U.S. alone is valued at almost $350 billion with clothing store sales accounting for over half of that amount.
It’s likely that many people won’t equate haute couture to franchising, but clothing franchises have a decent size imprint within the industry. The retail products and services franchise industry occupies a $43.5 billion dollar piece of the overall franchise industry, and clothing is a major part.
Retail clothing franchises largely fall into 2 broad categories: boutique and resell.
Boutique franchises are typically small stores that sell firsthand goods and cater to a certain subset of the population. For instance, Apricot Lane Boutique markets itself as a “mother/daughter boutique” with a customer base ranging from 16 to 50+. It collects its merchandise from many of the largest fashion trade shows in the U.S.
Another boutique franchise is fab’rik. Founded over 15 years ago, the motto of the franchise is “High style with heart, no attitude or sticker shock.” fab’rik’s founder, Dana Spinola, wanted to be a pioneer of affordable luxury saying, “I wanted to create a place where everyone could afford to feel that beautiful feeling.”
The other main type deals in secondhand sales. Resell retailing has reached new heights with consumers in recent years. Resell retail franchises offer “like new” or “gently used” goods sold to them by customers at a discounted rate to other customers.
The franchise leader in this area is Winmark Corporation, parent company of five, diverse resell concepts – three of which have a clothing focus: Once Upon A Child (children’s clothing and toys), Plato’s Closet (teen and young adult clothing), and Style Encore (women’s clothing and accessories).
According to Steve Murphy, president of franchising at Winmark, the market for these franchises has expanded considerably in recent years. As he remarked in an interview with All Business, “We’re seeing more and more new customers — from all walks of life and income levels — come into our store every day.”
In a similar fashion to the way the industry has expanded to accommodate customers, clothing franchises have emerged as a suitable outlet for those wanting to indulge the fashionista in them as a career, but desire support with business operations.
The support offered by franchises vary, but most offer training (classroom and on location), some kind of opening support, and continuing resources for marketing and business development.
Here’s an example of a rundown from Apricot Lane, which offers the following initial training:
- Home Training (40 hours)
- Classroom Training (5 days)
- On Location Training (3-5 days)
- Post-opening Support (120 days)
Marketing is also important to success. In addition to the support offered, prospective franchisees should pay special attention to the positioning of the franchise, or franchises, they are considering.
Having a clear recognition of their market position (kind of clothing sold, primary audience for sales, etc.) is important for clothing retail franchises – and not just for optimizing sales. Positioning falls under the broader concept of marketing, and retail franchises also use marketing principles to attract the right type of potential franchisees to their franchise opportunity.
“Nothing builds more leadership credits for the franchisor than raw marketing knowledge. Candidates can buy equipment and inventory and rent real property, but success is not made of equipment alone,” says Jim Bender, president and owner of Franchise System Builders. “To sell the inventory they now own, they need the market research, test marketing, marketing agencies, and the years of experience the franchise company can provide.”
Finding the franchise that aligns with your positioning ideals is the first step to success as a franchisee. If the marketing is clear, the franchise has a good grasp of where it stands in the marketplace and what its opportunities for growth truly are amongst numerous clothing franchises that are similar upon first glance.
Prospective franchisees may state that they are buying a franchise because of the franchisor’s success, average amount of money a unit in its system brings in, or the like. But, as Jim continues, what “they are really saying is, ‘[I’m buying a franchise’s] marketing expertise that generates the AUV (average unit volume i.e. sales), reduces the ramp-up curve, and ultimately provides the lifestyle I seek.”