Unique Concepts Winter 2009
Twelve Unique Concepts
A Maryland inline expands its one-stop game-room concept as a franchise.
NBC’s hit show “The Office” is the first to have its own mall cart.
A successful boutique for dogs tests a mall expansion with a holiday kiosk.
Teen Vogue launches its first pop-up store in a New Jersey mall to build brand visibility and generate buzz for itself and its partners-while driving sales to its retail neighbors.
Customers create their own state-of-the-art HD videos at MyStudio.
Tourists and locals are drawn to unique products made with wood from the ‘hood by Hawaiian Accessories.
A Patron kiosk is only the latest specialty retail venture from this entrepreneurial couple.
With a new demonstration kiosk, iRobot takes its home robotics products directly to the consumer.
A mall cart helps this visitors bureau expand its marketing, generate sales and connect with the community.
A new holiday inline helps consumers live the eco-conscious life while cutting their energy bills at Current Energy.
A fashion-focused firm opens two airport carts for its brick-and-mortar expansion.
A Q&A with Candus Johnson, owner of Zoey’s World.
HomeGamers Launches Inline Franchise
Marc Heyman, co-owner and president of HomeGamers, a 9,500-square-foot store in the Town Mall of Westminster in Westminster, MD, explains the problem his store is designed to solve. “People usually have to get their home theatre furniture from one store, their pool table from another and their NFL-licensed items from another,” he explains. “Our store puts it all together” so customers “can shop for the whole basement here.”
Heyman and his business partner Jeff Hinton opened HomeGamers (HomeGamers.net) in March 2007. The pair, along with a third partner, Seth Richards, have since launched a separate company, the Monster Home Entertainment Franchise Group, for the purpose of selling franchises.
Beyond pool tables and home-entertainment furniture-which includes home theatre cabinets, bars, pub and poker tables, stools, sofas and recliners-the store also carries ping-pong and football tables, slot machines, jukeboxes, popcorn machines, arcade games, retro soda vending machines, dart boards, neon signs, nostalgic decorative items and barware. Items run the gamut from 99 cents to around $4,000.
According to Heyman, 50 percent of sales comes from licensed products from the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Collegiate Athletic Association and Harley-Davidson Motorcycles. Apparel, artwork and anything else for the coolest home-entertainment space is on display at Home Gamers.
Given its location, the Maryland store sees big demand for Baltimore Ravens products. Ravens offerings include dart boards, cabinet sets, glass lamps, neon signs, pool cues, billiard cloths, bar stools, pub tables, pool tables, sofas and recliners-all featuring the team logo.
“The licensed sports products industry never has a recession,” Heyman says. “No matter what the economy is doing, you still see packed football
stadiums with people wearing jerseys and tailgating. We felt it was a great time for this type of store. People don’t want to spend money traveling … and they’re investing more in home entertainment.” According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, retail sales of licensed sports products were strong in 2007 at $13.7 billion.
The partners hope this bodes well for their ability to attract franchisees to operate the 6,000-square-foot stores planned for malls. The company provides
complete training, site-selection guidance, an approved-suppliers database, marketing materials, presence on the HomeGamers website, an established system of procedures and standards for running a franchise location and the support of the HomeGamers team with extensive product knowledge.
Heyman said HomeGamers’ eclectic products are a result of “hundreds and hundreds of hours of research, whether on the Internet or by traveling around the country” to find the latest products that home-entertainment consumers want.
Heyman says franchisees benefit from “a proven concept with software systems in place, setup support, training and an excellent list of vendors. We have products you can’t find anywhere else.”
“The Office” Cart: A Hit with Scranton Shoppers
When Gennady Zaritsky drove a 26-foot truck packed with “The Office” merchandise to Scranton, PA in late 2007 to take part in the city’s convention for the NBC hit show, he didn’t know how fans would respond. As the network’s senior marketing manager for retail operations, his plan was to sell hundreds of Dunder Mifflin T-shirts, travel mugs and bobble heads from a few makeshift tables, but there was no telling whether fans would scoop up the merchandise or pass him by.
Calling the convention sales “the ultimate test” of the show’s ability to sell merchandise beyond the 20,000-square-foot NBC Experience store at the corner of Rockefeller Plaza in New York, (where “The Office” has the biggest slice of the sales floor), Zaritsky says the results were decisive.
For three days in October, “every time we set up a table, we had a minimum of 150 people in line,” he recalls. “The whole entire time, from the minute we opened to the minute we closed. We had two registers out there and people waited in line so long for us. They didn’t care it was raining.”
That kind of fan devotion is what every network retail marketing manager hopes for, so it definitely got Zaritsky’s attention. It also caught the attention of Amy Zellers, the
specialty leasing manager of Scranton’s The Mall at Steamtown. She approached him about opening a seasonal location in the mall for the winter holidays, but there wasn’t time to pull together a solid launch with the selling season about to kick off.
Not one to let an opportunity pass, though, by the time the ’08 winter holidays rolled around, Zaritsky was unpacking boxes at NBC’s first mall cart for one of its shows, dubbed NBC Experience Presents the Dunder Mifflin Store.
I was there for three days and everybody in the mall stopped at our [cart],” Zaritsky says. “We did more than anybody expected. It just proved to us that if you have the right product and it connects with fans, that they want that connection.” He cautions that it has to be the right product, not just any product. “They don’t want a typical product like a T-shirt that just says ‘The Office’ on it. They want the shirt that’s in the show.”
A case in point: “The Dwight bobble-head was something that was given as a present on the show and then people, through the blogs, started a petition saying, ‘NBC needs to sell this product.’ We went ahead and we made it, and to this day it is one of our top sellers”-on the Internet, at the cart and in the NBC Experience Rockfeller store. “Sales on the Michael bobble-head are great, but they’re nowhere near what Dwight does.” Other products sold at the cart include key chains, pens, T-shirts, mugs, tumblers, baby onesies and messenger bags.
The cart also gives NBC the chance to test the sales potential of other NBC merchandise, such as T-shirts for cult favorites like The Big Labowski and More Cowbell, which gained a life of its own after an SNL skit a few years back starring Christopher Walken.
“The beauty of what we have here in the mall is that if we feel that something’s not working out, we can pull it and send something else,” Zaritsky says. “It’s easy for us to test products.” Ninety-five percent of the cart merchandise is for “The Office,” he adds.
He also notes that although “everything we have at the Scranton location, we have on the Internet, people want to see the product and feel the product, and when you get that, you get the purchase of more multiple items. At the end of the day, when you can touch and feel something, it gives you more of that impulse, more of that ‘Wow, I have to get this, this is so cool!’ feeling.”
Although cart revenues are important, Zaritsky says, “If people can come to the mall and take a piece of ‘The Office’ home with them, then that’s great for us. But obviously, as a retail-minded person, we need to make that revenue, to see the upside” from the cart.
Beyond sales, “For brand presence, the mall location is really big for us. It’s a huge brand presence, another aspect of marketing for us. We can sometimes say the economy is bad, but we’re definitely impressed with what we’re seeing” at the newest Dunder Mifflin branch in The Mall at Steamtown.
Sloppy Kisses Kiosk Tests Mall Market
Nestled in the quaint tourist town of Saratoga Springs, NY, Sloppy Kisses is a colorful, energy-filled doggie boutique that offers fresh-baked treats, toys, trendy outfits and a host of accessories for man’s best friend. Now Sloppy Kisses is testing an expansion with a new holiday kiosk in Clifton Park Center, the mall in nearby Clifton Park, NY.
The kiosk is a mini version of the store, says owner Melanie Dallas, who opened the original Sloppy Kisses store (SloppyKissesOfSaratoga.com) nearly three years ago. “We just came off our most successful summer so far,” she says. “We thought the time was right to expand the business.”
Dallas’s husband, Eugene, quit his job as an engineer to run the kiosk through the holiday season. If all goes well, the couple hopes to open an inline store with an outdoor entrance in Clifton Park this spring so that, like its flagship store, the Sloppy Kisses store in the mall would be accessible to four-legged shoppers.
Lots of customers bring along their furry friends on shopping outings, considering them just another family member. In fact, pets are such prized members of the family unit, that where spending has dropped off in many categories lately, the pet industry is doing relatively well, with total US expenditures on pets expected to grow from $41.2 billion in 2007 to $43.4 billion in 2008, according to the American Pet Products Association.
The average dog owner spends $66 per year on treats alone, so it’s no mistake that a large section of the Sloppy Kisses kiosk is glass-encased shelves devoted to the upscale barkery treats like doggy tacos, poochie pizza, pupcakes and cannolis. The goodies “look like their human counterparts but they are healthy treats made for dogs,” says Dallas, who started baking goodies for her chocolate lab, Marley, almost 12 years ago. (Treats are baked in the Saratoga Springs store and outside bakeries then transported to the kiosk.)
Like the store, the kiosk also features canine clothing, accessories such as collars and leashes as well as luxurious dog beds and designer toys, including a squeaky blue box from Sniffany & Co. and Jimmy Chew shoes.
Participating in community events such as a Halloween parade and pet beauty pageants has been an important part of the business’s marketing plan, Dallas says, adding that she plans to use the same strategy at Clifton Park. In fact, she’s already started the marketing ball rolling by sponsoring the mall’s “BarkFest with Santa.” Pet owners can bring their pets to be photographed with Santa one morning before the mall opens. The kiosk will provide complimentary treats for the event as well as for a nighttime holiday photo event for pets. Hopefully, shoppers will revel in the Christmas canine spirit and find that perfect gift for Fido among the kiosk’s trendy threads and tasty treats.
“If I had a dollar for every time someone walked into the store and said, ‘Oh, this is so cute!’ I’d be rich,” says Dallas. “We were going for the same kind of feeling at the kiosk.”
Succeeding Without Sales at Teen Vogue’s Holiday Haute Spot
For a store not expected to generate a single retail sale this holiday season, the Teen Vogue Holiday Haute Spot that opened in the Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey in November came with some high expectations. Its founders, along with other merchants in the mall, hoped the store would boost not only recognition of Teen Vogue magazine, but that it would also generate buzz and promote brand loyalty between teen shoppers and the publication’s top advertisers.
The magazine opened its first Teen Vogue Holiday Haute Spot inline to provide a space for teen girls to hang out, try on clothes, recharge their cell phones, experiment with makeup and
But the magazine wasn’t selling any of these products in its store. Instead, the goal was to put the products, provided by the magazine’s advertisers, into the hands of Teen Vogue’s readers, who would then hopefully purchase the clothing, makeup and perfume on display at the Holiday Haute Spot from nearby mall retailers (or later through any retailer).
The store provided “an opportunity for consumers to look at, feel and touch the products,” says Laura McEwen, publisher of Teen Vogue. “It’s an important step in the buying process. The girls will see the products from the magazine come to life in this arena. It brings the consumer closer to the product and, hopefully, that translates into a later sale.”
The store, which remained open through December 26th, is the first themed pop-up store Teen Vogue has opened. The Mall at Short Hills generally draws about 1.1 million shoppers in December, McEwen says, and many of those shoppers are members of Teen Vogue’s core audience.
The magazine plans to open three more temporary stores in 2009, one to coincide with prom season, a second for the spring fashion season and a third for the winter holiday season. Specific locations haven’t been selected yet.
Teen Vogue “received some wonderful e-mails” from girls who were excited about the store even before it opened, McEwen says. “We have a passionate audience that loves to communicate with the magazine. The Holiday Haute Spot will help them do that.”
Visitors to the Holiday Haute Spot had the chance to munch on complimentary snacks, try on clothes, sample the scents at a perfume bar, experiment with beauty tips at a makeup station and charge their cell phones and iPods. More than 20 advertisers with Teen Vogue participated in the venture, including companies such as Clinique, Dior and Aldo.
The store was a big hit with consumers and mall management. The Holiday Haute Spot was designed to bring “a very targeted, fun, fashionable, interactive program to the Teen Vogue target audience ‚Ä¶ [to] create a lot of buzz for Teen Vogue and The Mall at Short Hills, as well as help to drive business to our merchants,” says Janet Cesario, marketing and sponsorship director at the mall. “Our experience with these types of unique, targeted concepts has proven to us how successful they can be. We would welcome the opportunity to continue with these programs for the foreseeable future.”
MyStudio Launches DIY Video Concept in Malls
The creative forces behind MyStudio know one thing about human nature: Everyone wants to be a star. They’re hoping that means big business for their new mall-based venture.
Scottsdale, Arizona-based Studio One Media opened its first MyStudio location in the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall in early September. It’s a self-contained, state-of-the-art, high-definition, interactive audio/video recording studio where customers use green-screen technology to create four-minute videos ($20 retail) doing just about anything they want-singing songs, acting out a part in a drama, doing a comedy skit, or creating a video r√©sum√© for a job search. Hundreds of HD virtual backgrounds and thousands of songs from music giant EMI’s collection are available to create a professional presentation with top-notch graphics and sound.
Every user receives a DVD of their session and their video is automatically uploaded to the company’s website, MyStudio.net, which offers video sharing and member pages in a social networking setting. From the website, videos can be linked to other sites like MySpace or YouTube; entered into music, modeling and comedy contests; or sent to talent, dating or job-search agencies worldwide.
The concept is obviously attractive for aspiring actors, entertainers and job seekers of any kind who need a professional video clip for their portfolios, but it’s also a lot of fun for the average shopper who wants to be the star of the show, explains
Anna Madrid, vice president of business development for Studio One. “Our vision is to bring Hollywood to mainstream America in a way that has never been done before. We like to think of ourselves as a YouTube-meets-American-Idol type of concept.”
During the booth’s first week of business, an average of 70 customers a day made their own videos. Several more mall locations were in the process of being launched for the 2008
holiday season as of this writing, and the plan is to be in every state by the end of 2009.
The time is right for the MyStudio concept to take off in malls nationwide, Madrid says. “Shopping centers are looking for new ways to provide entertainment. This is a unique way to do it. Especially when the economy is down like it is, people focus on things that can make them feel good. That’s a lot of what our concept is about.”
Hawaiian Accessories Showcases Local Roots
Randall G. Mielke
The Koa wood we use for our products is native to the islands,” explains Curtis Wilmington, owner of Hawaiian Accessories (HawaiianAccessories.com). He’s describing the raw material used to create many of the products sold on his carts in two of Hawaii’s premier shopping centers, Ala Moana Center in Honolulu and Pearlridge Center just a few miles northwest in Aiea, Hawaii. The carts feature handmade jewelry and accessories-pendants, bracelets, rings, necklaces, jewelry boxes, etc.-made from native materials including the wood of the Koa tree.
“Tourists like our products because they are more cultural,” Wilmington says. “The locals love the fact that the product is from the islands.”
Retail prices range from $10 for pendants to $200 for necklaces. He estimates that about 65 percent of sales are to tourists. Locals were the majority of the customer base for Wilmington’s first cart, which he opened nearly 20 years ago in another Hawaii mall after a successful stint exhibiting at craft shows.
The startup cost was “appealing” to secure a cart that gave him a permanent storefront for his business in a mall that had a lot of upscale foot traffic. He moved into Ala Moana in 1999, and then opened two stores inside hotels in Honolulu. Last July he added the cart at Pearlridge, where his daughter, Kaui, a graphic designer by trade, manages operations.
Sales are up 25 percent over last year, which Wilmington credits in part to hiring the best employees and paying them well. “I never had the right employees before. Now I give workers 20 percent commission on sales,” he says. “That way I get good people.”
But it’s also crucial to have a good product that had a true cultural connection to the islands, he adds. “I am Hawaiian, and all of the motifs [on the Hawaiian Accessories products] are designs of historical things I learned from school and from my family,” he says. “The product is from Hawaii, so people prefer to take this home rather than something that was made in China.”
His handcrafted pieces are all unique, small works of art in their own right. Art with a function. “It is not something that you put up on a mantel piece,” he says. “You can wear it!”
Vegas Shoppers Drink Up Patron Products
Liz and Matt DeFilippo, owners of Las Vegas-based Agave, are dedicated not only to each other but also to entrepreneurial retail. They’ve turned out one unique concept after another since they opened their first cart in 1991. It all began with Easy Money, a cart in The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace that featured money-themed T-shirts, notepads, key chains and other impulse products.
“We wanted a product people would love, and people love money,” says Liz DeFilippo. People love money-or at least money-themed products-so much that the sales started rolling in. In 1992, when the Mall of America opened, promising to draw tens of millions of shoppers in just its first year, the DeFilippos jumped at the chance to operate in the newest, biggest shopping venue in the US.
They opened an inline and a cart in the sprawling Minnesota mall, enjoyed two successful years of operation, but in the end… Vegas beckoned. Returning west, they launched Desert Colors, a chili pepper and hot sauces cart in the Tower Shops at the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino, eventually expanding to eight area locations. On a lark, one day Matt added a small impulse product to the merchandise mix-lighters bearing the Corona beer logo. They sold so quickly that a Corona T-shirt was added in short order. “People loved it,” Matt says. The more Corona merchandise was added, the higher sales climbed.
The official switchover over to Corona Zona was straightforward, since the DeFilippos had to remerchandise carts as opposed to inline stores. They rode the Corona wave for seven years, Matt says, until the market recently became flooded with competitors. Forced to pull back to just a few of their best-performing carts, the couple knew there was potential for a similar alcohol-themed concept to take off, if they could find the right product. It didn’t take long.
“The response has been wonderful” since the September launch of their Patron kiosk, Liz says. The ultra-premium tequila merchandise is a great fit in the upscale Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian Hotel Resort & Casino, Matt says. “People come to Vegas to party and Patron caters to that party crowd.”
Products include hats, shot glasses, T-shirts and jackets (“Trendy, for the nightclub person,” Liz says) and bathing suits (“People love them!”). Cleverly packaged souvenirs include boxer shorts packaged in plastic Patron bottles. The remaining Corona locations are converting to the new Patron concept.
A key to success in specialty retail is “finding something unique, or something people collect,” Liz says. Being in Vegas is another big factor. The Vegas vibe, especially when it comes to shopping, is hard to beat. Tourists flock to Vegas from around the globe and locals love to shop the city, too. The DeFilippos, it seems, are now permanent residents with an up-and-coming new retail concept.
“I love Vegas,” Liz says. “It’s kind of a rags to riches thing.”
iRobot Opens First Kiosk
In a Massachusetts mall last Christmas, small robots were spotted cleaning up messes with, well, robot-like efficiency.
No, they’re weren’t part of a new robotic custodial service for shopping centers. These super-fast, super-efficient robots are the latest products from iRobot Corp., a $250 million publicly
traded firm headquartered in Bedford, MA that opened its first retail location, a seasonal kiosk, in Burlington Mall just in time for the holidays.
Although iRobot develops and sells a host of robotic products for government and military use, the company is best known to consumers as the maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum, Scooba floor-washing robot and Dirt Dog workshop robot. Less well known are the Verro pool-cleaning robot and the Looj gutter-cleaning robot. All of these products, part of the company’s Home Robots division, were demonstrated at the kiosk.
“What we’ve learned during the last five years is that when people can see and touch the product, they develop a sense of its value even more,” explains Matt Palma, vice president of sales and marketing for iRobot. “We’re feeling a lot of excitement about what we’re doing with the kiosk,” which generated “a lot of buzz.”
The kiosk allows iRobot’s trained sales force to demonstrate its products one-on-one with shoppers, which is “a great way to educate consumers on exactly what the products can do for them,” Palma says. “We’ve enjoyed great success online and in traditional retail environments, and the kiosk gives us a creative new way to sell. Live demonstrations are very
powerful. They help people understand how our products fit in with their lives.”
The kiosk also helped the company generate consumer feedback, which is incredibly valuable, Palma says. The kiosk “allows customers to tell us what they need. We also have a broader assortment of products at the kiosk than we might at a store where we are part of a larger retail entity.” Product selection at the kiosk was “similar to what a customer will find from us online” at http://store.iRobot.com.
In the first quarter of 2009, iRobot will take a close look at the results generated by the holiday kiosk to make decisions on future kiosk openings.
“This is a learning experience for us, a time to gather information,” Palma says. “We hope that it’s successful in the sense of making sales and generating consumer education. If it does, there’s a possibility we could broaden and expand. We’re excited about the possibilities.”
Visitors Bureau Cart Raises Revenue-and Hometown Pride
Fayetteville, NC is home to Fort Bragg, one of the world’s largest military installations. Much of the town’s population-and a large portion of the Cross Creek Mall’s customers-are soldiers in town for a brief time, on their way somewhere else after training is complete.
“Many of the [soldiers] have come into the mall and asked ‚Ä¶ where they can find Fayetteville souvenirs to remember their time here,” says Dina Simcox, the assistant general manager and specialty retail manager at the Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville.
It seemed natural then for her to reach out to the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (VisitFayettevilleNC.com), which was already in the business of selling Fayetteville
souvenirs online as FayettevilleOutfitters.com, to discuss a local souvenirs cart that could cater to the needs of soldiers and other mall visitors. The Bureau opened its Fayetteville Outfitters cart in October for a three-month trial run.
Products include baseball caps, sweatshirts, doormats, bags, umbrellas, pins and novelties, some promoting Fayetteville with phrases such as “Land of the Free” or “Home of the Brave.” A top-selling item at the cart is the Ringer T-shirt, which commemorates Babe Ruth’s first home run, hit in Fayetteville in 1914.
“Part of the marketability of this item is that it allows people to tell their friends an interesting tidbit about our town,” says John Meroski, chief executive officer for the Bureau. “Several years ago, we dug deep into developing a community brand. We looked at the core personality of our community, which is all-American and patriotic.” The Bureau developed a line of merchandise around the theme that has an old-time-tradition look with a patriotic slant. The line has been selling online since early 2008.
Shoppers at the cart love the locally themed merchandise and the mall enjoys having a one-of-a-kind local merchant who connects with customers on a local community level.
“We have a great relationship with our mall,” Meroski says, adding that his office already had a visitor center at Cross Creek. “The mall has been a good partner from start to finish, which has made starting something brand new easier than expected.”
Meroski says the Visitor’s Bureau made a strategic decision to get into the merchandising business for several reasons. Besides providing the Visitors Bureau with welcome revenues, the program “builds hometown pride” and helps market Fayetteville as a community-minded, close-knit town, which is attractive to business owners as well as individuals looking for a great place to live.
The cart helps Fayetteville reach an audience it would otherwise not reach. When tourists and other visitors buy from Fayetteville Outfitters, Meroski says, they “go back home and carry our message on their clothing.”
Current Energy Greens the Holidays
In 2007, the US Department of Energy gave its Energy Innovators Award to Dallas, TX-based Current Energy for opening “the world’s first energy efficiency store.” Located in the Knox-Henderson area of Dallas, the store focuses on products that boost energy efficiency and helping consumers with energy-saving strategies and installation advice.
In announcing the award, the DOE said the store caught its attention because it “educated homeowners and businesses on how to save energy and save money while still being stylish, which is a win-win-win scenario.”
Turns out that the DOE wasn’t the only one enamored with the new Current Energy retail store-consumers loved it, too. Now Current is hoping to repeat that success with a 2,400-square-foot holiday inline in Dallas’s NorthPark Center. The new store features a variety of energy-education components along with a host of green gifts, including compact fluorescent lights, a variety of solar-powered gadgets, eco-friendly cleaning materials and personal items such as bamboo towels, robes and slippers. Air conditioners, insulation and bath fixtures are on display as well.
The store also has an end-cap informational kiosk from TXU Energy, a Dallas-based energy provider. Staffed by TXU employees, the touch-screen kiosk helps consumers learn about TXU’s EarthWise renewable-energy plans and find out how energy-efficiency tools such as power monitors and thermostats can reduce energy bills. TXU offers its customers various energy plans that include wind power, which “certainly fits in with our overall plan to help educate people” about the role of sustainable energy, says Joe Harberg, a principal partner at Current Energy (CurrentEnergy.com).
The store hosts a number of educational promotions with the help of its partner vendors, which include Pure Water 2 Go, Recycled Dogs and Seed Sucker. Children are not only welcome, but are encouraged to check out the various displays and products to learn more about how energy is produced and used. “We have a kids’ area where they can play computer games that help them learn about [energy and] the environment,” Harberg says.
Creative marketing is part of the store’s success strategy. Harberg hosts an environmentally themed radio show airing in 21 US markets, and the holiday store at NorthPark Center will serve as secondary broadcasting home over the holidays. Going forward into 2009, the company has its eye on expanding to Houston, California and elsewhere, where consumers are focused on sustainability and green products.
“There are lots of green stores with so-called granola products,” he says. “We started a company with green products dedicated to saving people money, saving people time and helping save gas consumption and electricity.”
Octavio Miles Has a Passion for Fashion
It’s easy to find a bagel or book at any airport these days, but great-looking, upscale fashion accessories for men and women are a bit harder to come by. As of last October, though, travelers in the Philadelphia International Airport can find two attractive carts that carry top-notch fashion accessories for men and women.
Octavio Miles for Him and Octavio Miles for Her are two carts launched by Philadelphia-based The Octavio Miles Collection. They’re part of The Philadelphia International Airport’s specialty leasing program, Philadelphia Marketplace, which is managed onsite by MarketPlace Redwood. The program includes more than 125 inline stores, restaurants and traveler-services providers, along with some 40 carts and kiosks.
Octavio Miles for Him opened in early July at the airport, specializing in lively, unique ties that are part of The Octavio Miles Collection line, as well as wallets, handkerchiefs and other upscale accessories. The first cart was followed in October by the launch of Octavio Miles for Her, which offers unique women’s hats, jewelry, clutches and handbags.
The two airport carts expanded The Octavio Miles Collection from its origins as an online catalog (OctavioMiles.com) and a personal fashion consulting firm that also runs special events such as fashion-focused home parties.
To make the jump to brick-and-mortar, “We wanted a unique and unusual concept, and opening the airport locations seemed the best way to do that,” explains Kenyon Octavio Holley, who co-founded the company with business partner Miles Bond.
Sales over the summer were a bit slow, then picked up considerably in the fall, Holley says. The carts’ best customers have been travelers looking for quality fashion accessories to add to their collections or those who may have left an important accessory at home.
Both men have a passion for fashion that they bring to their fashion consulting and cart businesses every day. “We interact with the customer to find out more about them, whether they are conservative or trendy, and help them make the best choices,” Holley says. “The sales staff needs to engage the customer to sell the product.”
Holley and Bond say they’re encouraged by their sales so far and will expand to other airport locations if a good opportunity presents itself. “We’re definitely looking to expand,” Holley says. “As we figure out our best options, airports may prove to be the perfect place for what we offer.”
Last summer Candus Johnson launched Zoey’s World, a cart that offered makeover fun for young girls, in General Growth Properties’ Pierre Bossier Mall in Bossier City, LA. By fall she’d expanded to an inline space. As a companion piece to our Fall 2008 profile, “Making Sales and Smiles at Zoey’s World,” Johnson agreed to answer a few questions about what made her launch her venture and explains why growing to an inline was “the easiest thing in the world.”
Tanker: You’re an elementary school teacher in Louisiana. What made you decide to start a retail business?
Johnson: My mom [who is in the private-parties-for-girls business] always wanted Zoey’s World to be big and popular, so she made the remark that I should go to the mall to check on a store. So I prayed and asked¬†God to lead and guide me on what to say and do. I went in on an interview with Lance [Johnson, the mall's group business development representative] and Steve [Siles, general manager] with a vision and a pink bag with all the products that I would sell. A couple of months later, I had¬†a beautiful cart.
Tanker: Where did the name come from? Is there a Zoey?
Johnson: Yes, there is a Zoey! She is my beautiful five-year-old daughter. She is the reason why we created the business. She loves to come in her place and fix her own makeover. Zoey is very modest and¬†humble¬†about her place. She still acts like the normal country girl that she is. She’s just diva with it!
Tanker: What was the hardest part of turning your cart concept into an inline concept?
Johnson: To be honest, opening and transforming this business was the easiest thing I’ve every done in my life. I’ve grown to know that when God gives you something, he paves the road to make it so easy for you. I never got a headache or upset, not one time. That’s how I knew my business was God-given-because it was a breeze. The bank, mall management and every source I needed was a “yes” for everything, so that made it so much easier. God is good!
Tanker: How helpful was the mall management in terms of helping you transition?
Johnson: Mall management rocks! They are so supportive of whatever I do. I love them! Steve, Lance, Regina [Treadway, common-area coordinator] and Elizabeth [Hilliard-Bolden, administrative assistant] have stressful jobs because they have to listen¬†to everyone’s problems, but I try to take it easy and follow the rules.
Tanker: How did your customers react to the new inline space?
Johnson: Our customers love the new store. It’s more exotic and personal. And they just seem to respect and enjoy a store better.
Tanker: What types of services or products are you able to offer in the inline that you couldn’t on a cart?
Johnson: My new products are create-your-own lip glosses, shimmers, lotions and sugar scrubs, plus chocolate and strawberry facials, glamour shots and private parties.
Tanker: What are the services or products that tween/teen girls love best or are drawn to?
Johnson: My most popular item¬†is the spa package. The girls receive a spa robe and flip flops, a chocolate or strawberry facial, cucumber eyes, a pedicure, manicure, hairdo, makeup and a goody bag.
Tanker: Your mom has a somewhat similar business in Louisiana creating private children’s makeover parties. How instrumental was your mom in encouraging you to launch Zoey’s World?
Johnson: My mom gives me a lot of words of wisdom. She is my best friend. If it wasn’t for her I don’t¬†know where I would be.
Tanker: How have your employees been instrumental in your success?
Johnson: I have the best employees in the world. They work so hard. I try to do whatever¬†I can to be a help to them. I love them!
Tanker: What’s the best part of having a kids’ store?
Johnson: I love working with children because their¬†life is so easy and perfect to them. I like just being a part of their¬†world-at Zoey’s World! I love the business. I have a wonderful¬†husband who supports me a 110 percent. He has been by my side through it all. I wouldn’t trade him for the world.¬†So right now I thank God¬†for all he has done for me. And I especially thank God¬†for the people at General Growth Properties who gave me a chance.
Candus Johnson is the owner of Zoey’s World in the Pierre Bossier Mall, Bossier City, LA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 318-752-9001.
Zoey’s World was profiled in our Fall 2008 Unique Concepts article.