Winner: Once Upon a Child
Finalists: Mainstream Boutique and Plato’s Closet
Brands under the Winmark Corp. umbrella are great to own and work within—and franchisee Jordan Prater would know as she’s spent most of her adult life involved with company.
“I thought the business model was so intriguing and interesting,” said Prater, who now owns Once Upon a Child, Plato’s Closet and Style Encore stores in Jonesboro, Arkansas. “It catered to things that I’m interested in, because I’ve always been thrifty and love fashion. So, it kind of put the two together.”
Franchise Times selected Once Upon a Child as a Zor Awards winner, noting growth in its average unit volume as it hit $1.05 million in 2021, up from $780,000 in 2020 and outdoing its 2019 performance of $970,000. Once Upon a Child lists average sales and average profits in its Item 19 and organized by which year the store opened. Average gross profit among the franchise’s 385 stores opened in 2020 or earlier was $708,807.
The cost to open a Once Upon a Child location ranges from $276,200 to $417,400. Winmark is also the franchisor of fellow resale brands Style Encore, Plato’s Closet, Music Go Round and Play It Again Sports.
Prater worked at a Plato’s Closet store in college, eventually moving up to a management position. She opened her first store in 2012, followed by Style Encore in 2016 and Once Upon a Child in 2021. She was interested in Once Upon a Child even before having her own children—she has two now—and excited to open a store when she had the parenting experience.
“I have been asked, since we opened Plato’s in 2012, ‘When are you gonna open a Once Upon a Child?’” Prater said. “I knew there was a need for it on our community. We don’t have anything like that around here.”
Prater spends three or four days a week working in her stores. “My day is typically wherever I am needed,” she said. She works all the roles, from buying and managing inventory, walking the floor and connecting with customers to training staff.
To manage inventory—a key part of the business—Prater and her staff analyze clothing and accessories on a monthly basis to communicate with buying staff what is needed or not needed. Her buyers also chat with customers to see what they’re missing in the store, and what they think there’s too much of.
Throughout the development of her three stores, Prater said Winmark helped her prepare not only for the opening but to be a successful operator.
“I’ve always gotten the support that I needed, whether that be from the marketing side, the business side or the operation,” Prater said. “When you’re opening a business here, you’re not just becoming a business owner. You’re having to learn the operations; you have to learn all of the marketing side of things.”
Her first year as a Once Upon a Child franchisee was a record-breaker, with sales of $1.75 million. Her grand opening total of $41,639 also broke the record.
Her experience with Once Upon a Child is further proof, she said, that Winmark’s resale stores can thrive in any type of economy. “When the economy is doing great, we’re doing great. But when the economy is not doing great, we’re also doing great,” she said.
In suburban Milwaukee, franchisee Jess McGurn bought an existing store in July 2021 after the previous owner retired and after she for years had clothed her four children as a customer of secondhand shops.
“I had been looking for the right opportunity for myself,” said McGurn, who was a full-time blogger at the time. “I just immediately was like, ‘I can do this. I am well prepared for this.’”
To acquire the location, McGurn needed Winmark’s approval, a swift process: she saw the for-sale sign in March and took over July 1. Before signing on, she visited 11 different stores to spend a day with the owners, have her questions answered and to experience what ownership is like. “By the time that I took over my location, I had seen how lots of other owners were doing,” she said.
McGurn can also turn to a field operations manager with questions or concerns. Support, she said “has been one of the keys to my success.” She added she always looks forward to software updates within the company because they’re frequent and helpful.
McGurn intends to open more stores in the Milwaukee area when the time is right. Buying and reselling children’s clothing is a business model the local community appreciates, she said. “The business model is outstanding for sustainability,” McGurn said. “Most children’s clothing doesn’t get worn all that much, so there’s a lot of life left in it.”
Once Upon a Child
- Once Upon a Child is one of five brands under Minneapolis-based Winmark Corp., which has more than 30 years of experience in resale franchising.
- Winmark shares the names of successful owners with prospective franchisees so they can have their questions and concerns addressed by those who have direct experience. “I just think the best resource for me was other owners,” one franchisee states.
- Because of the brand’s resale business model, owners typically have to buy clothes for several weeks before they have enough stock to open for selling. “We bought for like, seven weeks, and then once Winmark felt like our inventory was at a good place, that’s when we had our grand opening,” a franchisee says.
Once Upon a Child is a children’s clothing store that buys and resells products. The brand’s AUV surpassed $1 million in 2021, also a record year for systemwide sales. It has more than 400 locations.
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‘Zor Awards Introduction
How we chose the Zor Awards