Youth-Focused Second-Hand Retailer Plato’s Closet to Open More Canadian Stores Given Demand [Interview]

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Plato’s Closet, a retail leader in the buying and selling of name brand, gently used apparel and accessories for teens and twenty-something girls and guys, has opened its 500th store in North America in Windsor, Ontario with plans to continue to expand the brand in Canada and the U.S.

The retailer was founded in 1998 and Winmark – the Resale Company began franchising the concept in 1999. 

Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer, Vice President of Operations for Winmark, said Plato’s has opened 14 stores in 2022. It has 44 stores in Canada.

“We have 20 signed agreements for new stores, four of which are in Canada,” said Spencer.

“We are actively seeking candidates for our more than 450 open and available Plato’s Closet territories – 30+ of these open territories are in Canada. This really is a tremendous time to be looking at a franchise and in particular a franchise that is focused on providing ultra-high value with a strong focus on sustainability. There are so many great communities in Canada that would be perfect to add additional Plato’s Closet stores.”

Plato’s Closet (Image: Winmark)

The store was named after Plato, the Greek philosopher. At the time the founders, Dennis and Lynn Blum in Columbus, Ohio were searching for a name for their newest resale concept, their youngest son was doing a report on Plato. After reading his report they felt Plato himself was synonymous with “smart”, “wise”, and full of “wisdom”, therefore the name would appeal to smart shoppers who want to save money by buying and selling “gently used” items.

Plato’s Closet is a retail-resale store focused on the resale of Apparel, Footwear, and Accessories for teens and twenty-somethings.  

“Our stores provide value to local communities in a variety of ways. First, we price the items we sell at 70-80 per cent less than regular retail. We know that everyone appreciates a good deal. Second, we provide a convenient process where we pay customers cash on the spot for their gently used items (not consignment), and third we provide a more sustainable way to buy and sell Clothing, Footwear and Accessories,” said Spencer.

 “What people don’t realize sometimes is that Plato’s Closet is part of a network of stores that Winmark – the Resale Company franchises that include Once Upon A Child, Play It Again Sports, and Style Encore. All of the stores are focused on reselling gently used items. That entire system is now at just under 1,300 Stores. In fact, an interesting statistic is that since 2010 Winmark – the Resale company stores have helped extend the life of over 1.5 billion items. The numbers are continuously growing but that comes out to over 432,000 items a day, or more than five items per second. It really is an important network of stores in terms of bringing sustainability to the local level.

“When Plato’s Closet comes to a community, customers love the fact that they have a convenient local and more sustainable option to find the current styles they are looking for. Since we are able to buy our items directly from the communities we serve we tend to get the styles and trends that resonate well in that area and meet the demand of the buying customers. Another unique aspect is the treasure hunt and thrifting aspect of our stores where customers can find unique items at great value.  A treasure hunt sort of mentality.”

Plato’s Closet (Image: Winmark)

Spencer said the average Plato’s Closet puts over $350,000 back in their community by paying people for their items.

“We don’t want to look like a resale store, we want to look like a retail store. So the look and feel of our store is important and really we want to make the process convenient for our customers because bringing in items to sell is different. We don’t do that often in everyday life and we know people’s time is very valuable,” he said. 

“A unique aspect of our stores is whatever the community is bringing us in is the type of items that are in style in that community and in terms that’s the type of items we can offer to them as well. It’s unique that in some areas there’s brands and styles that become more important. Canada is a good example.”

A Plato’s Closet store is typically in the 3,500 to 4,000 square foot range.

Image: Plato’s Closet London

Once Upon A Child is Winmark’s retail store concept that focuses on the resale of children’s related apparel, accessories, footwear, and equipment.  Style Encore is for Women and Men’s clothing and accessories.  Play It Again Sports is for sporting good related items and Music Go Round for Musical instruments and accessories.

“As the resale market continues to grow, Plato’s Closet and Winmark – the Resale company are more optimistic than ever that our stores are well positioned to expand in the communities we already serve and the many open territories we have. If people are interested in bringing a resale store into their community they should check out winmarkfranchises.com for information on the resale market and how our stores operate. Store operators don’t need to be experts in retail to get involved in these concepts, as Winmark – the Resale Company provides an exceptional model for entrepreneurs to follow,” said Spencer.

With over 2,800 available territories in the U.S. and Canada across all five brands, Winmark Corporation has its eyes set on targeted development and is actively seeking to grow with qualified franchisees. The brand has pinpointed Sacramento, Los Angeles and Boston for immediate expansion. 

Once Upon a Child (Image: Winmark)
Play it Again (Image: Winmark)

“When you look back 20-30 years ago when Once Upon A Child and Plato’s Closet were founded. It really was about the two key things – sustainability, being helpful and friendly to the environment, but also providing value to people that maybe couldn’t afford these items,” said Spencer.

“I think as times have changed things have become more and more expensive and really this is allowing people that maybe weren’t able to afford certain brands or certain styles, now can afford these brands since we’re able to bring in so much good quality product for them. Interestingly enough in kind of this inflationary environment our prices that we sell items for have not really risen because we don’t have the transportation costs. Our customers are our supplier.

“Sustainability has much more important to this younger generation and it’s more mainstream and acceptable to buy and sell used items and at the same time whether you’re in a good economic environment or poor people always need value and we will provide that during all times.”

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. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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