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VOL. 132 | NO. 151 | Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Once Upon A Child Franchisee Expands Footprint

By Michael Waddell

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East Memphis residents now have a new option for getting rid of unneeded kids’ clothing, toys and other equipment as retailer Once Upon A Child recently opened its doors at 6100 Primacy Parkway near St. Francis Hospital-Memphis.

It is the fifth Once Upon A Child in the region for franchisee Paul Fermi.

Fermi, who has a background in chemical engineering, had not owned a franchise before. In the early 2000s, he decided to get out of the engineering business and go into the real estate market.

“As I saw a decline in the real estate market in 2007, I decided that I would look to open a franchise,” said Fermi, who had young children at the time. “I saw that I had a bunch of kids’ stuff around the house, and I learned of places that did consignment, and then Once Upon A Child that resells kids’ stuff. So I looked into the franchise.”

Paul Fermi, a Once Upon A Child franchisee for the Memphis area, has opened his fifth store. Success at his first location in Cordova in 2008 helped fuel his territory growth.  (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

He decided to open his first location in Cordova in September 2008, and its success led to opening more stores in Collierville, Southaven, and Jackson, Tennessee.

“We had a huge response from the community bringing their items to us, which led to us building our inventory very quickly at the Cordova location,” Fermi said.

He began buying product for the new location in East Memphis in late March of this year, and the store and its 10 employees celebrated a grand opening on June 15.

Unlike a typical consignment store, Once Upon A Child does not require appointments and pays on the spot for items it purchases from consumers. At Once Upon A Child, families are able to buy necessities for their children at great values, while others turn their gently used items into cash.

“We pay cash for 100 percent of the goods people bring in. It makes us different from the consignment shops in town because you get your cash immediately, you don’t have to wait for it,” Fermi said.

In addition to clothes ranging from newborn to size 20, the store accepts shoes, toys, books and baby equipment like strollers, high chairs and walkers. For safety reasons, it does not take car seats, undergarments or bottles.

Natalie Hughes, an employee at Once Upon a Child, checks out a customer. Once Upon A Child buys children’s clothing and toys for cash. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

His stores buy for all seasons, all year around, and all brands, knowing that sales are based on demand and the style and condition of products in the stores. Toys, shoes and apparel are the top three sellers.

Excess items that are not purchased are stored and then brought out immediately once the season changes.

“The season is about to change in July for back-to-school, so we’ll start to put out our fall and winter items that we have in back stock here shortly,” Fermi said.

Items brought in that the store does not purchase can be donated to local charities like AMVETS at the seller’s request.

Once Upon A Child ensures that all products purchased and sold meet mandatory and voluntary safety standards. Staff members stay up-to-date on recalled items, immediately pulling all recalled products from shelves and making sure all items purchased are safety checked to meet current standards.

There are about 350 Once Upon A Child locations across the country, and Fermi’s five stores employ a total of 85 people. In 2016, the average Once Upon A Child store had sales of $966,865 with an average gross profit of $606,069 (62.6 percent).

Minneapolis-based franchiser Winmark Corp. owns Once Upon A Child, Plato’s Closet, Play It Again Sports, Music Go Round and Style Encore. All five retail brands – with a total of more than 1,200 locations – work in the gently used, second-hand arena.

“The territories for Once Upon A Child and Plato’s Closet are now totally sold out for the Memphis market, and we expect our other brands to follow suit,” said Pete First, Winmark’s director of franchise development. “So we’ve got growth opportunities with our newest brand Style Encore, which has about 50 locations nationwide. And with Play It Again Sports and Music Go Round we have open territories in the Memphis area.”

The Memphis market currently has four Style Encore, three Play It Again Sports and two Music Go Round territories available for new franchisees, who must be prepared to invest $250,000 to $350,000. They must have $75,000 in cash or liquid assets, and have equity to collateralize a loan for the balance.

PROPERTY SALES 85 305 21,577
MORTGAGES 62 223 16,417
BANKRUPTCIES 34 138 6,717