The kind of homogenous approach you find in many franchises is not the answer when people are investing in their future
Devens, MA (Vocus) February 4, 2010
Ask any evolutionary biologist—in a volatile environment with limited resources, specialization is the key to survival. In 2009, a franchise of specialty toy stores proved the theory. Learning Express, the nation’s leading educational toy retailer, opened fourteen new locations and twelve temporary “pop-up” stores for the holiday season, five of which remain open with short-term leases. The company also reported that sales were up from the previous year. According to CEO Sharon DiMinico, it’s all thanks to specialization and adaptation.
“The kind of homogenous approach you find in many franchises is not the answer when people are investing in their future,” says DiMinico. “Learning Express is built for the independent entrepreneur. Our franchisees benefit from nearly thirty years of experience and we have a significant support system in place, but there’s a lot of freedom. We want our stores to be unique and special in their local community. The cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work with our concept; our owners need to be responsive to their regional markets.”
Learning Express plans to open 17-20 new toy store franchises in 2010. Exact locations have yet to be decided and the company is actively seeking additional applicants for what promises to be another year of positive growth in the world of toys. Research indicates locations throughout California including San Diego, Los Angeles, Citrus Beach, Huntington Beach, Manhattan Beach, Laguna Niguel, Los Angeles, Del Mar, La Jolla, Chino Hills, Temecula, Sacramento, Folsom, and San Francisco are optimal locations for a new Learning Express franchise.
Among the company’s other achievements from 2009 were 14 exclusive educational toys, available only at Learning Express during the holiday season, and the introduction of company-wide blogging and social networking. The latter is just another example of how the company adapts to the times. According to DiMinico, it’s one more way to reach out to the moms of tomorrow and the young entrepreneurs of today.
“Owning a toy store is incredibly rewarding,” she says. “Other independents and even the mass retailers have found the industry challenging, but it’s different when you have a team behind you and a family of stores sharing vital sales and event information. To do it well you have to have a strategic vision that is focused on the child as much as it is on the parent. That’s something we’ve got, and that’s the reason folks continue to choose Learning Express."
Learning Express has a family of more than 140 franchise toy store owners. Each location provides an extraordinary shopping experience with knowledgeable sales staff who can offer expert advice on choosing the perfect toy, for every child, for every occasion. The Learning Express product mix is carefully selected from manufacturers around the world and each toy has exceptional play value. A birthday gift registry, free gift-wrapping, free personalization, civic fundraising, and customer VIP programs make each Learning Express store an integral part of its community.
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