Pop-up Fashion Franchise TaylorMarie’s Targets Senior Market
Heidi Welbig, founder of TaylorMarie's Apparel, speaks with a customer at The Waters of Excelsior in Minnesota during her pop-up shopping event on Tuesday, February 4.
Photos by Callie Evergreen / Franchise Times
Heidi Welbig and her grandmother went shopping—that was their favorite activity to do together. But as Welbig’s grandma grew older, traveling to various stores became too challenging.
“She was a fashionista before the word existed,” Welbig said.
One day, Welbig’s grandmother shared how frustrated she was because she missed shopping and wished someone could just bring her racks of clothing. That’s when Welbig first hatched the idea for TaylorMarie’s.
A pop-up retail franchise marketed toward senior women, TaylorMarie’s has a unique business model in this technology age as there is no option to buy online. The concept is bringing shopping events and fashion shows to women in senior centers, assisted living communities, churches and country clubs.
Seniors have historically been under-represented in the fashion industry, but are slowly making their way onto the scene. In the fall 2017 fashion season, there were 21 models over the age of 50 that walked the runways of New York, London, Milan and Paris. People are paying more attention to this age group—as they should. The baby boomer population controls 70 percent of all disposable income in the U.S. and spends $548.1 billion annually, according to Epsilon and the 2015 Baby Boomer Report by U.S. News.
“With my grandmother’s situation, they were still having parties and going to the theater,” Welbig said. “And with all their peers, they want to look nice on a daily basis.”
Many staff members at the various venues also buy from Welbig’s mobile boutique, based in the greater Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Her five franchisees are spaced out throughout the country in Maryland, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Gina and Becky Brockel, sisters and franchisees in Arizona, discovered the TaylorMarie’s franchise opportunity online. They had sold their houses and moved home to take care of their mother, so the business struck a chord for them.
“When our mom was sick and losing weight, she wasn’t herself,” Becky said. “We took her shopping and she became more sociable again and felt good about her appearance—she wanted to meet her friends and cousins for lunch again.”
Welbig flew down for the sisters’ first fashion show in February 2015 to help with training, set-up and marketing. As their business grew, Gina and Becky realized some apparel that worked in Minnesota wasn’t working in Arizona, such as jackets or heavier sweaters. Welbig gave them the flexibility to buy the kinds of clothes that worked for their client base.
“When you’re talking about fashion, it’s really different from one area of the country to the next,” Becky said. “It’s all about being flexible and responding to the market.”
Each TaylorMarie’s pop-up shop sells clothing from brands such as Skye’s the Limit, Papillon, Southern Lady and Alfred Dunner. Some customers comment on the fact that they could get bigger discounts on some of these brands at department stores like JCPenney. To this, TaylorMarie’s responds that it differentiates itself by offering better customer service, such as personal styling and help with fitting.
“They used to bring the clothes to you in the changing room,” Becky said. “The population we’re working with are used to that kind of customer service.”
Customers are even allowed to take clothes to their apartments to try on and see if they match anything else in their closets.
“This business works well because we go to the people, we don’t have a brick and mortar store where they have to come to us,” Gina said.
For the Brockel sisters, fashion shows are where they really shine. They ask residents of each venue to model in the shows, and request that the women be representative of their communities in all shapes, sizes and abilities.
“We’ve had models who have walkers and said they don’t want to use it,” Becky said. “But we always say, we’re setting an example. There may be someone in the audience who was just told they have to start using a walker and they’re not comfortable with that, and if they see you out there looking fabulous, that might make it an easier transition for them.”
Sarah Ott, franchisee in Pennsylvania, searched for a business she and her husband could work in together without a high overhead. Ott “fell upon” TaylorMarie’s and decided to attend a fashion show.
“I fell in love with the idea, the whole concept,” Ott said. “I was sold right then and there.”
Ott said her customers vary in age from 40 to 100-plus. One customer, a 102-year-old woman, really wanted a denim jacket, but wasn’t sure she could pull it off. With the friendly encouragement of Ott, she bought the jacket and ended up loving it.
“I just love the people we meet and making them happy,” Ott said. “Some of these ladies who can’t necessarily get out, it makes their day to be a model in a fashion show.”
Ott averages about $1,500 in sales per event. Welbig advises her franchisees to host 20 events per month, but they’re only obligated to work 10 months per year. She also requires her ‘zees to stock 25,000 items in inventory per season, including jewelry and accessories.
“Helping women enjoy what they’re wearing and feel confident and pretty no matter what age they are” is the most rewarding part of this business for Welbig. “I love waking up and still doing this after 15 years.”