Founded in 1991 by Marie DeNicola as a direct sales company, Mainstream Boutique is a women’s retail clothing and accessories franchise that offers a variety of affordable, fashion-forward pieces for women of all ages.
The franchise has 22 successful boutiques operating in 10 states, with four locations currently under development. The Minnesota-based company, which began franchising in 1998, is set to double in size by 2013, with expansion plans in Texas, Illinois, Colorado, and Wisconsin.
In addition to growing the franchise system, Mainstream Boutique also experienced robust store sales, with an average same-store sales increase of more than $100,000 between 2010 and 2011.
Marie DeNicola, the founder, president, and CEO of Mainstream Boutique, has more than 20 years of experience in the fashion industry as a buyer, merchandiser, and planner for large retail companies in the Los Angeles Fashion District.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you share with us the story of how Mainstream Boutique got its start?
Marie DeNicola (MD): I always dreamt of a company that could offer unique, fun, and exciting apparel and accessories for today’s busy woman. With decades of experience in the fashion industry as a buyer, merchandiser, and planner for large retail companies, I always yearned to branch out and run my own company. I spent years in the Los Angeles Fashion District as a buyer, merchandiser, and planner for such companies as Windsor Fashions and the now defunct Clothestime.
Mainstream Boutique began in 1991 as a direct sales company selling unique apparel and accessories in homes and businesses throughout the Twin Cities. Soon after its inception, the company was doing 100 shows per month, and the word spread all the way to The Oprah Show where I was featured as a successful entrepreneur. Calls came in from people all over the world wanting to know how they could do the same thing in their area, and it was at that moment I realized franchising was the answer.
Over the years, Mainstream has evolved and kept up with the ever-changing fashion trends. Mainstream Boutique was born around the kitchen table and now has 22 stores in 10 states nationwide. Its corporate headquarters and main retail store are located in Apple Valley, Minnesota.
FC: What sets Mainstream Boutique apart from department stores, specialty retailers, and other boutiques selling women’s clothing?
MD: We’ve managed to carve out a niche by satisfying customer demand for unique and trendy, but affordable fashions. With the buying power of large department stores, but the individuality of an independent boutique, Mainstream Boutique fills the space between the two, literally creating the best of both worlds for our franchisees and for our customers.
Unlike large department stores that have huge volumes of merchandise, Mainstream Boutique’s typical 1,500 square-foot stores carry smaller quantities of inventory, which allows franchise owners to respond quickly to changing trends, giving their customers the latest fashions on the market.
Contrasting most retailers who buy for an entire season at once, our franchisees are constantly buying to ensure they always have new and unique fashions. And because we have multiple stores and established relationships with designers and manufacturers, we have buying power that helps control costs for our franchisees and ultimately our customers.
FC: What are the advantages of owning a Mainstream Boutique franchise over starting a women’s clothing store from scratch?
MD: One of the key benefits of being a Mainstream Boutique franchise owner is access to our experienced buying organization. We shop with an eye for the unique and a clear idea of what shop owners’ customers will buy. We work with some of the biggest names in the industry, and our buying power allows us to offer affordable prices while maintaining favorable margins for our franchisees.
We provide our franchisees access to a password protected gallery. There, they can choose from a wide range of clothing and accessories to purchase for their inventory. If they would like to carry a line that isn’t pre-approved, there is a process in place for gaining approval.
The Mainstream brand has been building for more than twenty years in the fashion industry. Because we have a strong infrastructure and business model, it has given us the necessary staying power to be successful in the marketplace.
FC: What are some of the most popular brands that you carry in your stores?
MD: Each Mainstream Boutique location offers pieces from an assortment of brands such as Paige Premium Denim, Miss Me, Rock Revival, and many others.
FC: What do you look for in a prospective franchisee?
MD: Mainstream Boutique attracts a variety of franchisees, typically women, with a passion for fashion and a desire to own their own business. Our franchisees are savvy, both sales-and-fashion-oriented, and love working with people.
FC: Can you describe the ideal location and demographics for a Mainstream Boutique? Who is your target customer?
MD: Our core customer is essentially women of all ages, all sizes, and always on the lookout for something out of the ordinary at affordable prices. This gives us a broad customer base as we can sell to multiple generations.
Our customers are busy women who want a convenient location that has easy parking so they can get in and get out without fighting crowds and cars. Typically, we are in modern strip plazas with a vendor mix that also attracts women, such as hair salons, tanning salons, fitness centers, etc. Plazas such as this offer our franchisees cost-effective rent, allowing them to be more profitable.
FC: What kind of training and support can your franchisees expect to receive?
MD: We conduct extensive market research to identify the most effective ways to promote each new Mainstream Boutique. We provide owners with resources to create the signage, advertising, and promotional material. Also, Mainstream Boutique’s strategic marketing campaign allows owners to promote their business locally and drive traffic to their store.
We are dedicated to the success of each franchise owner and are committed to offering continuous training, leadership, and support. Our experienced corporate team is always available to help answer any questions they may have along the way.
Support starts from day one. Our team offers an extensive training program at our corporate offices in Apple Valley, MN. They will learn basic operating skills as well as hands-on training, customer service, and a variety of marketing techniques. Helping franchisees develop a successful business is our mission, and our training provides franchise owners with the tools they need to flourish in their business.
Prior to each grand opening, a representative from our corporate staff will visit each store and assist the franchisee in areas such as initial store set-up, merchandising, and computer operations. We provide useful advice and a unique, integrated approach to help each owner manage their business and achieve their goals.
FC: What are some common characteristics of your top performing stores and franchisees?
MD: Our top franchise owners are hard-working, passionate women who follow our proven business model. They are computer savvy and understand the importance of social networking. They are hands on women that love fashion and truly enjoy working with, and helping other women.
FC: What can you tell us about the estimated initial investment, royalty fees, and profit potential for a Mainstream Boutique franchise?
MD: It costs between $43,650 and $129,500 to open a Mainstream Boutique. Royalty fees are 7.5 to 8 percent of sales.
The profit potential of our franchise is favorable, and our franchisees know the more they sell, the more they will earn. We train them to do business inside and outside of the brick and mortar store. We have franchisees that make tens of thousands of dollars in direct sales, enhancing store sales.
In addition, we are working on e-commerce, which we will be testing in the next month. We are committed to giving our franchises multiple ways to drive sales. This, coupled with our purchasing savvy in getting the best prices, sets them up for success.
FC: What are your growth targets for Mainstream Boutique in 2012, and beyond? Which regions of the country are you targeting for expansion?
MD: There are 22 Mainstream Boutique locations open and operating. The company would like to double its footprint in 2013, and have a total of 80 stores within three years. There are currently 5 Mainstream Boutique locations in development.
Mainstream Boutique would like to expand its presence in the state of Texas. The company currently has two locations that recently opened in Texas, which can hold 10-12 locations.
Other regions we are looking to grow in are:
- Chicago, Ill.
- Denver, Colo.
- Milwaukee, Wis.
- Lake Geneva, Wis.
For more information on franchise opportunities, visit http://mainstreamboutique.com/newsite/retail-clothing-franchise.