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Browsing our way through four retail concepts


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The KASE

1. The KASE

The concept: With more than 150 stores in nearly 30 countries including France, Germany, India and Singapore,  The KASE has established itself as a formidable player globally where it sells custom-made cases and accessories for smartphones, laptops and tablets. Now, the company launched in France in 2012 wants to expand its U.S. footprint by selling franchises, said co-founder Steve Rosenblum.

The stats: Total costs for stores ranging from 400 to 700 square feet run from $234,800 to $413,250. Pop-up kiosk stores in malls or airports cost from $125,300 to $192,250.

Multi-unit agreements, allowing franchisees to open three to 10 locations, range from $259,800 to $570,750.  As of July, The KASE has company-owned stores in Staten Island, New York, Providence, Rhode Island, and Paramus, New Jersey. Plans are to first expand slowly with five to 10 franchises on the East Coast.

The rivals: The KASE has many competitors. They include Cellairis, CellularOutfitter.com, retailers like Best Buy and phone carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile. All are intense players in the nation’s $50 billion mobile phone accessories market. The KASE offers its own products at its stores, allowing franchisees to oversee all levels of their units.

The challenges: A big obstacle for KASE has been introducing its concept in the U.S because the retailer has little or no name recognition.“Once we’re able to get our name out there a little more, I’m confident that people will recognize what sets us apart,” Rosenblum says.


Palmetto Twist

2. Palmetto Twist

The concept: Not happy with corporate careers, Debra Patrick and Laura Gault decided at a Clemson football tailgate party to use their knowledge of the embroidery business to launch Palmetto Twist. It offers monogrammed and personalized services for women and children’s clothing, apparel and accessories.

The stats: The average investment for a Palmetto Twist ranges from $113,000 to $264,500. It began seeking franchisees in 2015. The owners opened the first store in 2012 in Boiling Springs, South Carolina, its headquarters and only company store. Palmetto Twist had five franchise-owned stores in North and South Carolina as of July. It hopes to have 13 stores by late 2016. Beyond that, Jereme Shelton, Palmetto Twist’s chief development officer, said the brand would be pleased to add 12 to 15 stores a year.

The rivals: Rivals include Big Frog Custom T-Shirts, a national franchisor with over 70 stores; and Marleylilly, a non-franchise online boutique offering monogrammed gifts and accessories. To help differentiate itself, Palmetto Twist employs professionals capable of producing items with the ability to make changes if needed. It also claims to offer more items that can be personalized than some rivals. Embroidery is a $7 billion industry and promotional/personalization is a $20-billion industry.

The challenges: A hurdle for the brand is helping new franchisees find the right mix of employees. Filling those positions can be tough as they require one set of workers who call sell goods and others experienced in embroidery and vinyl design to boost production.


3. Vaporfi

The concept: Ambitious to benefit from the nation’s $2.8-billion e-cigarette market, Vaporfi opened its first store four years ago. Its goal:  Offer e-cigarettes, personal vaporizers and e-liquids to everyone from novice to enthusiastic vaper users ready to ditch tobacco. Vaporfi, a unit of International Vapor Group, sells goods online and at store front.

The stats: Total investment runs from $124,400 to $256,850, depending on the store’s format. As of July, Vaporfi had 22 franchise locations in eight states and expects to open seven more by this fall. Based on Vaporfi’s current growth, plans call for at least 19 locations to be opened annually. Based in Miami Lakes, Florida, Vaporfi’s strategy includes foreign growth. “Our long-term goal is to position ourselves to be one of the largest national and international vapor retailers in the industry,” says Cortni Lewis, VP of store operations at International Vapor Group.

The rivals: Other emerging vaping brands include KURE Vapor, Lizard Juice and Vapor Shark.  Analytical studies claim that Vaporfi out-performs rivals on many fronts, although competitors claim favorable studies of their own.

The challenges: The greatest challenge will be reconciling with new rules the FDA will be rolling  out this year. The FDA will subject vaping products to a strict approval process similar to tobacco products. Vaporfi is actively taking steps to comply with the rules.


Scout and Molly's Boutique

4. Scout and Molly’s Boutique

The concept: A major illness has not stopped Founder and Chief Operating Officer Lisa Kornstein from pursuing her dreams. She opened the first store in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2002 and a second in the adjacent North Hills shopping area in 2007. Though diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008, Kornstein relied on her love of retailing and business savvy to spur growth. The Raleigh-based fashion boutique that sells women’s clothing had 19 stores in 22 states as of July. A loyal shopping base, strong social media presence and a franchise program launched in 2014 have been growth contributors.

The stats: It costs $250,000 to $300,000 to open a franchise. Offering a prototyped model that allows franchisees to open stores quickly has helped the brand’s rapid growth, said Ed Samane, CEO.

The rivals: Biggest competitors are independent retail boutiques and big box stores like Macy’s or Neiman Marcus. Scout & Molly’s uses retail analysts that help determine the need and demand of trending and upcoming fashion brands. It aims to capture $500 million to $750 million market share in the women’s clothing industry.

The challenges: An obstacle is providing a consistently good shopping experience for the customer. Samane says the brand hopes to launch an e-commerce platform in 2017 to help boost sales. “We want to target communities and neighborhoods with higher disposable income,” said Samane.

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