Once Upon A Child leads North America in the buying and selling of gently used kids’ stuff. With more than 345 franchised stores, the brand buys and sells quality, gently used children’s apparel, baby equipment, footwear, books, toys, and more.
In this Q&A, franchise owners Kevin and Sara Allan discuss how they’ve endeared their Abbotsford, British Columbia store to the community.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Why did you want to open a Once Upon A Child store in Abbotsford?
Sara Allan (SA): As parents of three young children, we felt there was a need for a store like this. Children grow out of their apparel, shoes, toys, equipment, and accessories quickly, so the potential to spend a lot on these items is quite great.
Parents of newborns through pre-teen children have to make difficult decisions on where to spend their money. Many are on a budget and keeping up can be difficult. But Once Upon A Child gives parents a venue to bring in their children’s outgrown items and turn them into cash in our stores.
At the same time, they can find gently used items for their kids all in one convenient place at discounted prices.
We opened in January 2014.
FC: What is the community like?
Kevin Allan (KA): Abbotsford is an ethnically diverse community of 143,000 people with a wide range of income levels. We see all income levels in our store.
Because real estate is relatively cheap in the Fraser Valley, many young families are moving here from Vancouver. Abbotsford pulls from several smaller surrounding cities and is on its way to becoming a city of 200,000 people.
FC: What kind of events do you participate in outside of your Once Upon A Child that makes your store feel like part of the community?
KA: We’ve hosted some in-store events occasionally, such as a story time and costume party for kids, which were popular and drew a lot of families into the store. But we prefer to participate in events around our community. Our focus has been more on local charitable, non-profit connections in the community. That was one of my main reasons for starting the business.
We are heavily involved with many organizations in the community through financial donations, clothing donations, and by providing hands-on help. Some of the charitable events we’ve been a part of include:
- Providing job shadowing for individuals through Abbotsford Works Employment Center
- Sponsoring galas for the Mission Association for Community Living, an organization supporting people with intellectual disabilities
- Providing deeper discounts to foster families to help them clothe their foster kids
- Sponsoring a radio campaign for the Meadow Rose Society, which helps financially strapped families with children 3 years old and younger
- Helping fill every closet in transitional homes of the Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley with children’s clothing through inventory donations
- Donating clothing to refugee families, which is big in Canada and the United States
Promoting other small businesses using social media is one way we are involved in the business community. Typically we’ll promote them and they’ll promote us and we’ll both have some giveaways, which generates a ton of interest for us both. The results have been added traffic in our store.
Our Once Upon A Child store was also the main anchor at a baby and toddler trade show at the local Tradex Center. We set up a mini Once Upon A Child store and it generated a lot of revenue at the show and at our regular store. Trade show attendees left the exhibition center to visit our brick and mortar location, and many of the visitors turned into new customers.
We’ve also set up a booth at the annual Canada Day celebration, a national holiday marking the birthday of our country, and gave away items, which also attracted new customers.
FC: Why is this important?
KA: We do these things because we want to be a good neighbor, but our involvement has positive effects for our business. Word travels fast from consumer to consumer.
FC: How do these events affect your business?
SA: They have a positive effect on our bottom line. Our participation shows genuine interest in the community and our local economy, so residents view us favorably. Local consumers are typically more likely to frequent businesses that show love for their community.
KA: Because our Once Upon A Child store has done so well, we were able to open a Plato’s Closet in the same mall in 2016. The franchise also operates under Winmark Corporation and is a similar concept, but targets teens and twentysomethings.
FC: What tips do you have for retailers to be more engaged in their communities?
KA: We recommend you do the following to endear your business to the community:
- Volunteer – Find a local cause you and your employees believe in and lend a helping hand.
- Sponsor a cause – Pay for an advertising campaign for a non-profit group or donate money to a scholarship fund for families in need. There are several ways to sponsor a cause.
- Make a charitable donation – This can be monetary or in-kind with products or services.
- Hold events – Host an event that appeals to your target customers. This will cause them to remember you.