The fast growing celebrity-inspired boutiques bring west coast styles and designer labels to the convenience of neighborhoods across the country by offering a very unique franchise system.
The biggest factor setting Apricot Lane apart from other franchises is its flexibility, something not often associated with franchising. “We found that by letting franchisees try new things, it only ended up benefitting our entire company and definitely has helped to increase our growth.” explained Ken Petersen, founder and CEO. Petersen along with Tom Brady, co-founder, are both retired firefighters turned fashion gurus after creating an Apricot Lane store just a few years ago and run the company along with Scott Jacobs from the headquarters in Vacaville, CA.
Apricot Lane has grown exponentially each year, doubling the number of stores last year alone. With 53 current stores open and another 12 set to open during the remainder of 2011 operating in 27 states, the company already has another 42 stores planned to open in 2012. With the growth of the stores throughout the country, the franchisor along with its franchisees is able to provide 424 jobs in the retail industry. Out of those positions 242 were created just within this year alone. Some franchisees have embraced the system so much they have opened numerous stores, having five, eight or more stores which they operate in their own neighborhoods and increase jobs locally as well.
Apricot Lane knows a key to its success is learning from each other and throughout its growth the company has brought on the services of a social media guru and a public relations expert, both found through its franchisees. Other essential additions were added to the corporate headquarter family as well lately, such as graphic design, project coordinator and administrative and visual merchandiser.
The stores can benefit from all of their expertise in addition to the most recent addition of a newly hired Director of Fashion, Design & Development, Lyndsey Kacalek. Kacalek’s background in fashion design, styling, product coordination and costume coordination gives her the experience to offer franchisees the most up-to-date, cutting-edge trend reports to help store owners communicate current styles better to their customers in store and via social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and so many others.
After developing a new partnership with a well known factory located in Los Angeles, CA, a new private label –offered in three price points known as Apricot Lane with an ivory label with items which will retail under $40, Apricot Lane collection with a black label which will retail from the $40 to $85, and finally the Apricot Lane Couture gold label for items retailing over $85 are announced and will be made not only in the USA but right in Los Angeles in the fashion district, something customers have explained to store owners that they really like.
Each of the labels consists of stylish tops, tanks, Ts, sweater knits, dresses, skirts, pants, jackets and novelty items. There are cohesive collections built around a theme/trend according to each season.
“By offering a unique branded collection of custom designs to our customers it further distinguishes us from our competition in each marketplace. The chance to design our own merchandise allows us to improve margins and gives us more control having our own designs to ensure we are offering our own branded products that cannot be found anywhere else which is essentially what our boutique shoppers look for,” explained Kacalek.
The first samples of the collection are currently arriving and franchisees all over the country are placing orders that will be major hits in Apricot Lane Boutiques later this fall. In keeping with the store model where owners see success by creating a unique atmosphere appealing to both mothers and daughters, these private label designs of fashions and accessories allow women of different ages to express their individual style now with pieces that are also sure to be unique. Apricot Lane’s concept of constantly changing inventory allows the stores to stay on top of ever emerging fashion trends and with the rest of the inventory only found in minimal quantities it keeps customers coming back frequently while creating excitement and a sense of urgency to see what arrived in store most recently and to buy that item the first time they see it since it may not be there an hour later in their particular size.
By providing franchisees with the support and benefits of a large corporate retail system yet still giving each store owner the flexibility to make their own decisions regarding design aspects of their store, merchandise selection and more they are really getting the best of both worlds,” explained Petersen. “We are there with the technological systems in place for effective communications with franchisees, customers and staff and can hold their hand as much or as little as a store owner is comfortable with,” he continued.