Winmark Embarks on Canadian Store Expansion for its Retail Resale Franchise Banners [Interview]

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Winmark Corporation, the unique national retail resale franchise company, continues to grow its presence in Canada with future growth planned for several of its brands in the market.

Winmark’s resale franchise brands include Plato’s Closet, Once Upon A ChildPlay It Again Sports, Style Encore and Music Go Round

Renae Gaudette

Renae Gaudette, Chief Operating Officer for the Minneapolis-based company, said the resale market has been “wonderful” in recent years. 

“We like to say we’re recession proof from a franchising perspective and consumers want our brands and want our products right now. They want the value. Not only that but we pay them cash. They bring in their products to us, we pay them immediately on the spot. And then obviously that fills the racks, providing great value to all of our families and consumers across Canada and North America,” she said.

“We’re on a mission. We’re on a mission to provide resale for everyone and we think all of our brands fill a niche in all the communities across North America and Canada, especially for families, growing families, young.”

Style Encore (Image: Winmark)

Most recently, the company opened its latest Style Encore store in Markham, Ontario, specializing in resale clothing and accessories designed by women, for women.

“Our official company is called Winmark – the Resale Company. We’ve been around for over 30 years. We’re a franchisor of five wonderful resale brands. And we’ve got almost 1,300 locations across North America,” said Gaudette.

“Play It Again Sports, which deals with sporting goods, quality sporting goods new and used, was our first original resale brand. Next came Once Upon A Child which deals in children’s items, gently used, toys and equipment. After that came Music Go Round. We don’t have any locations in Canada right now but that one is one of our smaller brands but we are franchising in Canada. That deals with used musical instruments. And then came Plato’s Closet which is our teen and young adult gently used franchise that is our largest brand. We have almost 500 locations. Our newest brand was Style Encore which we started franchising in 2013 and opened our first Canadian location I believe it was 2016-2017. That is our women’s, gently used, resale brand. It’s like a big sister to Plato’s Closet.

“In Canada, we have almost 400 open stores across all four of those brands and another 15 signed and ready to be open.”

Play It Again Sports (Image: Winmark)
Play It Again Sports (Image: Winmark)

Gaudette said because the products in the stores are locally sourced, the inflationary costs of shipping and supply chain are not passed on to the consumer and that’s where the value truly comes in for the customers.

While Music Go Round does not have a presence in Canada today, she said the company is actively looking for franchise partners who love the music industry. 

“We have almost 200 territories across all of our brands that we’re actively looking for franchise partners to open one of our stores (in Canada),” added Gaudette.

Once Upon a Child (Image: Winmark)
Once Upon a Child (Image: Winmark)

“Canadians love our brands. All of our franchise partners have been executing at a very high level, especially during the pandemic. Our brands are very sustainable, they’re recession proof. There’s no other retail concept that actually pays money back into the community. Customers come in and they want to sell us their gently-used stuff. We pay them and it’s on average per store over $350,000 that our franchisees pay back into the community. That’s the beauty of our model. 

“There’s no other retail industry out there that can say that and it’s a win-win because not only do we pay the customer and it goes back out into the community but then they come to our stores and see the value that’s on the rack. It’s a win-win situation. That’s the beauty of our model. And we’re doing our little part, our franchisees and consumers, of keeping things out of the landfill.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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