Phil Castle, The Business Times
Debra Eichhorst knows from personal experience that purchasing used clothing and toys can save money in raising children.
Eichhorst now offers what she calls the same “resource” to other parents in opening a Once Upon a Child resale store in Grand Junction. What’s more, Eichhorst believes the timing couldn’t be better as a stubbornly slow economy and high unemployment rates press families to look for ways to cut costs. “This is the perfect time for something like this.”
Once Upon a Child is open for the time being strictly to purchase gently used children’s apparel, toys and equipment. But Eichhorst expects to purchase enough inventory over the next six weeks or so to stock shelves and racks. That means she should be able to open the store for sales in November.
One of four resale brands franchised by Winmark Corp., Once Upon a Child buys and sells used clothing, toys and equipment for infants and children up to 12 years old.
The Grand Junction location is one of nine Once Upon a Child stores in Colorado and more than 240 outlets in the United States and Canada. Counting its Music Go Round, Plato’s Closet and Play It Again Sports brands, Winmark has a total of more than 900 franchise locations in operation.
Eichhorst and her husband, Steve, say they opened the Grand Junction location in part because of their own experiences shopping at Once Upon a Child stores. They say they used to shop at the stores to purchase clothing for their foster children as well their own children.
“That was a really good resource for us,” Debra Eichhorst says.
When the Eichhorsts first considered opening a franchise business, the Once Upon a Child brand led them to Winmark and, in turn, the business model for the operation. “We just really liked the business model,” she says.
Once Upon a Child sells used merchandise at 30 percent to 50 percent of the price of new merchandise. The store in turn purchases merchandise for 30 percent to 50 percent of its resale price, she says.
Pete First, director of franchise development for Winmark, says the company’s Once Upon a Child franchises generate an average of $723,000 a year.
Winmark provides a range of support services to its franchise owners, including proprietary computer software that helps them price merchandise for purchase and sale, First says. “We’ve taken all the guesswork out of it.”
Eichhorst says Once Upon a Child is different from other resale stores in that it’s not a consignment operation. Rather, the store pays the people from which it purchases merchandise in cash and on the spot. Moreover, the store buys clothing for all seasons all the time.
Children’s clothing works especially well for a resale store since children, especially young children, tend to outgrow their clothes before the wear them out, she says. A lot of merchandise is nearly new and, in some cases, never worn.
That offers value for parents who not only sell clothes their children have outgrown, but also buy clothes at discounted prices, she adds.
Eichhorst says Once Upon a Child taps into two increasingly popular trends that reflect the times: thrift and recycling.
In the aftermath of an economic downturn, families have become more careful about how they spend money, she says. “Thrift has become popular these days.”
At the same tune, a resale store fits in with the green movement and recycling, says Steve Eichhorst. “It’s recycling clothing. It sounds kind of weird to say it that way, but it really is.”