The Story Behind Once Upon A Child®

With over 350 stores in operation experiencing average unit volumes of $966,865 in 2016, Once Upon A Child® has achieved remarkable success in the resale space through franchising. The brand has grown exponentially since it was established in 1984 by its Ohio-based entrepreneurs.

The founders came up with the concept after having young kids who were constantly outgrowing their perfectly good clothes, shoes, toys, books, and equipment. They wanted to find a new home for these items while also recouping some of their investment, so they created the resale store concept targeting parents of infants through preteens.

Ten years and 20 franchises later, the founders decided it was time to bring Once Upon A Child to even more markets throughout the country. They turned to Winmark Corporation®, parent company of Winmark Franchise Partners, for the guidance and investment they needed. In just 16 years, Winmark helped the brand more than double the average unit volume of each store, while also increasing its unit footprint by almost twenty fold.

Why Winmark Invested in the Brand

The Once Upon A Child concept was appealing to Winmark Corporation because it was a sound resale investment. They saw potential in the model and knew that with appropriate inventory levels and the right franchisees, they could turn Once Upon A Child into a nationally-recognized and successful brand.

Today, the top 25 percent of their stores average over $1.5 million annually with a gross margin of roughly 62 percent. They attribute their sales and average unit volume increases to Winmark’s values and guidance to franchisees:

  • Buying Right

In resale, the focus should always be on buying the right items at the right time and price. If franchisees restricted buying, they would restrict sales. Winmark helped franchisees recognize this and prepare buying plans that would work to not only build sales, but also profits.

  • Sticking to the Core Message

Once Upon A Child is a convenient, high-quality place for families to buy and sell gently-used items. Items are usually priced at discounts of up to 70 to 90 percent off retail prices, making them an affordable option for everyone. They are also the only resale concept in the market that pays their customers cash on the spot for gently used items, making them extremely desirable to sellers. Sticking to those core brand messages has helped franchisees maintain a consistent flow of buyers and sellers, greatly improving sales and margins.

  • Community Involvement

As local business owners, it’s important for franchisees to be involved in their communities. They need to be where their customers are and support the things that are important to them. This way, they can get more brand awareness by supporting local causes, and stay top of mind among their customers when it comes to shopping for their children.

  • Keeping an Inviting, Vibrant Store

Winmark refreshes the look and feel of their stores every few years in order to provide the best customer experience. They also stay on top of retail shopping trends so their customers get what they want. Providing the best value in the market and keeping a fresh, welcoming environment are essential components in Once Upon A Child’s high return on investment to franchisees and their customers.

After almost 30 years in business, Once Upon A Child is still gaining momentum—and Winmark plans to grow the brand in even more territories across North America. It’s this proven track record of taking brands to the next level that Winmark Franchise Partners can leverage in working with entrepreneurs and management teams looking into franchising as a business growth strategy.

Working as a consultant and potentially a business incubator, we provide support and direction to emerging brands that have begun to franchise but hit a wall in growth. Winmark Franchise Partners expands upon traditional consulting services to also offer investment capital for select proven, sustainable business models.

If you are interested in franchising your business or are an existing franchisor looking for help, contact us for more information or call (866) 994-5191. You can also read more franchise success stories!


[1] *The Average Store numbers are the 2016 Average Gross Sales amounts stated in Item 19 of the 2017 Once Upon A Child® Franchise Disclosure Document (as reported by 316 of the 317 stores that had been in operation at least one year as of December 31, 2016). Of the 316 reporting stores, 143 or 45% of the stores attained or exceeded the Average Gross Sales. The Top Quartile Average Gross Sales only relates to 79 of the reporting Once Upon A Child Stores who ranked in the top 25% of the gross sales range. Of the 79 reporting stores in the top quartile, 32 or 41% pf the stores attained or exceeded the top quartile Average Gross Sales. A new franchisee’s results will likely differ from these results.

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