Summer 2012 Specialty Retail Hall of Fame Awards
Lifetime Achievement: Industry Game-Changer Recognized
Specialty retail veteran recognized for vision, leadership and humanitarian efforts. by Duffy Weir
It is no secret that Marc Winkelman, the CEO of Calendar Club, is a game-changer and a visionary. After all, says Patricia Norins, the publisher of Specialty Retail Report, who recently presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award, that’s what it takes to successfully run the world’s largest seasonal specialty retail program.
Winkelman learned retail through osmosis while growing up in a family of retailers. In 1977 he opened a large bookstore and café in suburban Detroit and ran it successfully for 13 years. It was during this time that Winkelman noticed the calendar business grow naturally out of the book business as publishers began producing more calendars every year. From Sierra Club titles to Ansel Adams photography and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editions, calendars were becoming popular gift-giving items. “Each year I was in the book business, publishers offered more calendars and by the mid-80’s, our bookstore offered more than 300 different titles and our customers loved them,” Winkelman says.
Noticing how well the calendars did in the store, Winkelman thought a kiosk in a mall would make a logical extension. However, success was not immediate. Testing a mall calendar kiosk, Winkelman tinkered with the temporary seasonal calendar business for a couple of years in the mid-eighties. Those early decisions—especially merchandising calendars on the wrong fixtures; a weak selection of calendars and the wrong mall location served as lessons learned while he figured out how to proceed.
A few years later, in the early ’90s, Eddie Brasch, a partner in Bighorn Sheepskin Company, one of specialty retail’s most successful iconic operators asked Winkelman to try the calendar operation again. “Eddie and Barry Silverman [with Bighorn] knew a lot more about seasonal retailing than I did,” says Winkelman. It was during this period that Calendar Club was started as a division of Bighorn Sheepskin and Winkelman partnered with the two sheepskin retailers. Now Winkelman can look back on those early days as learning experiences that guided the management of the successful Calendar Club that he operates today.
Calendar Club has built a successful international component to the business too. Winkelman says his greatest accomplishment is in building an organization with operations in many countries outside the United States—including Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
Today, Calendar Club operates 1100 temporary locations and has diversified its product mix. “Right now we have 30+ (year round) game, toy and book locations and we are looking for other concepts,” Winkelman says.
Norins points out that the Lifetime Achievement Award was created to recognize professionals “who have achieved truly outstanding success and who stand out as industry game-changers.” She says that in talking with the Calendar Club team, she was impressed at how often they used words like integrity, honesty, passion and intelligence to describe Winkelman. In recognizing Winkelman with the honor at SPREE, Norins said the award was “based on Marc’s relentless passion for the industry, his amazing vision, his tremendous leadership skills, his humanitarian efforts and his innate ability to run a very successful company.”
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