Although it’s in the business of selling gently used products, one Minneapolis based franchise is hoping to bring something new to the resale retail industry in the form of technology.
NTY, which stands for ‘New To You’, is a company that owns the franchising rights to five brands in the resale retail industry:
- Clothes Mentor, which buys and sells used women’s fashion;
- Children’s Orchard, which buys and sells children’s items;
- Device Pit Stop, for purchasing and reselling electronics;
- New Uses, which specializes in buying and reselling items for the home; and
- NTY Clothing Exchange, the company’s teen and young adult resale retail brand.
With its largest brand, Clothes Mentor, the company wants to introduce an online store so people can shop for used items online the same way they would shop for new items on the internet, NTY’s chief operating officer Chad Olson said during a recent interview from the company’s headquarters in Minneapolis.
A lot of new websites have popped up online over the last several years that offer the service of reselling used items to customers, Olson noted, which has changed the online resale retail landscape. With this change in the landscape comes opportunity for Clothes Mentor, which will start rolling out its online store in baby steps.
First off, customers will have the ability to ‘click and pick,’ meaning they can make a purchase at their local Clothes Mentor store and then pick it up at the physical store. From there, the online store will expand until it is an integral part of the business.
Clothes Mentor also has an app that will allow the brand to push messages out to customers, allow customers to check their loyalty program points and give them electronic receipts so they don’t have to hang onto the paper ones in case they want to return something. Eventually, Clothes Mentor’s online store will also be available through the app, but that is a ways off as the brand is just getting started with its online store.
“This is a pretty big shift in our business model, so we’re going to make sure we do it right,” Olson explained.
Clothes Mentor isn’t just using technology to give customers a better experience, though. It’s also using technology to give its franchisees a boost, too. Specifically, it’s collecting more data on customers so franchisees can give them more personalized marketing. Recent generations like Millennials appreciate this more personalized marketing, Olson observed.
Across all five of the company’s brands, it has 193 stores open with another 56 in development. Clothes Mentor, NTY’s flagship franchise, claims the majority of those locations.
“Our number one goal is to offer the customer what we refer to as ‘Ultra high value retail’,” Olson said. “The stuff that we’re selling at the store level is at a much deeper discount than anywhere else they can find it because it is gently used.”
Aside from giving people the opportunity to save money, NYT also offers people the chance to recycle their items and receive cash in return, Olson mentioned.
In the Beginning
Clothes Mentor was founded in Columbus, OH by a local couple in 2001. Aside from the Columbus store, Clothes Mentor had a licensed store in Canton, OH. Olson and his father, Ron Olson, decided to go into business together, both having retail franchising experience with another company.
When they began looking at what opportunities were out there for their own business, they found out about Clothes Mentor and noted the two stores were doing quite well. From there, the father and son negotiated the franchising rights to that brand in 2007 and have been adding to the NTY family ever since.
NTY’s franchisees come from all walks of life, from kindergarten teachers to former professional bull riders. Regardless of their background, though, NTY wants franchisees to have a strong work ethic and enthusiasm.
“We would like them to have general business acumen, but more importantly, is that they have the energy, the drive, the motivation to be entrepreneurial,” Olson said. “We’re looking for people that want to be their own boss, but who have experience in one facet or another. We want them to bring their own skill set to the company.”
Training and Support
Training involves flying new franchisees out to Minneapolis for the company’s comprehensive three week business training program. NTY trains them in finding and leasing a location, plus business plan training.
“We basically prepare them in that training to go to a bank to obtain financing,” Olson said. “So we create a three-year profit and loss and cash flow statement. So, they leave here after that first bit of training prepared to find and obtain a location and obtain financing for the business.”
Once they have a location and financing, franchisees come back to Minneapolis for two weeks of operations training, where they are taught all aspects of how to operate the business. At least one of those weeks is spent in a real store environment.
Once the new franchisee is set up, they can expect NTY to visit their location a minimum of three times throughout their first year. Once will be prior to their grand opening and will include additional training. Subsequent visits will be during the grand opening and then again 90 days after the grand opening. Each visit is to ensure new franchisees get off to the best start possible.
Franchisees will continue to get visits from the company at least once per year for business consultations, Olson added. In between visits, the company offers monthly support calls.
“The ongoing support is fairly extensive because obviously in the franchise business, if our franchisees aren’t successful, then us as a franchisor will not be successful making money,” the COO said.
All of NTY’s brands are open to expanding anywhere in the United States. Currently, the company has a presence in 30 states and is relatively well spread out, although a tad thin on the west coast, Olson noted.
“There’s lots of franchising opportunity available, especially on the west coast,” he explained.
For entrepreneurs who embrace technology, NTY, and Clothes Mentor in particular, offer a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something new and exciting in the resale retail industry.