Shopping Centers Today

OCT 2018

Shopping Centers Today is the news magazine of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)

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Page 21 of 59

S T O R E F R O N T S 22 S C T / O C T O B E R 2 0 1 8 saysRobert Wilke, the chain's presi- dent. "It really depends on the indi- vidual franchise owner and what they want to do with their stores," he said. HobbyTown carries avariety of radio-controlled boats, planes, trucks and drones, and all theaccessories to keep them running: batteries, power packs, spare parts and motors. In July the company announced a partnership with RadioShack for puttingstore-in-store units within HobbyTown stores. "The demograph- ics of [the RadioShack]customer align with our customer, and it was a natural fit to partner with them," said Wilke. RadioShack operates rough- ly400 locations across the U.S., most of them in small or rural markets. "It's a win-win: For RadioShack, it gets them back into those larger markets, and for us, it opens the door to a whole new customer base," Wilke said. The initial goal is to bring RadioShack into about 100 stores by September. There willbe roughly 20 linear feet of RadioShack merchan- dise, plus in-store signage promoting RadioShack. HobbyTownis to be listed on the RadioShack website as an authorized retailer. The HobbyTown in Mooresville, N.C.,was among the first to intro- duce the store-in-a-store concept, with some of the core RadioShack merchandise on offer: the likes of switches, wiring and connectors for electronic toys and projects. "The initial stage-one rollout is to get that type of microelectronics into the HobbyTowns, because it is really a symbiotic relationship between what we do and what RadioShack does," saidfranchiseeJack Hunt, owner of the Mooresville HobbyTown. HobbyTown wants to keep expand- ingits store base at the rate of about 10 stores per year. "We have identified about 400 markets where we would like to have stores, so we do have a lot of growth upside ahead," said Wilke. "The challenge for us is just finding franchisees in each of those locations." In these target markets, HobbyTown hasits eye on some independent hobby-store operators with the poten- tial for conversionto a co-branded HobbyTown teams with RadioShack to offer more toys for adults W ho needs knitting and scrapbooking when you can build and launch your own model rocket or take your remote- controlled racing boat out for a spin? HobbyTown is testament to the fact that people's passion for hob- bies goes well beyond the typical arts-and-crafts project. The nation- alchain is a dominant player in a segment of the hobby market that includes radio-controlled and spe- cialty toys,model trainsand more. HobbyTown has come a long way since Chick Bartlett opened its first store, in Lincoln, Neb.,in 1946. He operated that single store for about three decades. In 1980 he soldthe business to Merlin Hayes and Thomas Walla, who made the store a household name in the Lincoln area and then began building a national franchise model, in 1986. TodayHobbyTownhas 145 franchised stores across roughly 40 states. The stores typically measure about 4,500 square feet each, though some may be as small as1,000 square feet, andothers are as large as30,000 square feet. Of the600,000 products HobbyTown carriesin-storeor online, thosesmaller stores carry about 15,000,and the larger ones stock as many as three times that number. The operators are free to customize their stores in keepingwith local demand, sothereisvariety in store appearanceand organization as well, The retailer now sells planes, trains and rockets in some 40 states By Beth Mattson-Teig We have identified about 400 markets where we would like to have stores, so we do have a lot of growth ahead. The challenge for us is just finding franchisees in each of these locations

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