New Brunswick — In an unexpected and aggressive move, Frenchy’s has announced that they are taking over Target’s retail space in New Brunswick. The second-hand clothing mavens believe they can fill the vacuum left by the failed retail mega-giant. This move into the soon-to-be vacated Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John retail spaces represents a major expansion for Frenchy’s. But, the hugely popular niche player is betting they can translate their value vestments into big bucks.
“Can Frenchy’s succeed where Kmart, Woolco, Zellers and now Target have failed? Absolutely yes!” said independent operator Vernon Orr. “Our customers are passionate, loyal, thrifty and dedicated to finding the best value for their dollar. If we can succeed in 2,000 square feet, think of what we could do in 200,000 square feet!”
The Frenchy’s phenomenon began with Boston native Edwin Theriault. His mother was an Acadian Nova Scotian, so his Boston friends nicknamed him “Frenchy.” A born entrepreneur, Theriault brought a 1,000-pound bale of used clothes to Meteghan in the 1970s, and was amazed at how well it sold. At age 37, he bought an old warehouse for $6,000 and opened the first store in that small Digby-county fishing village, calling it Frenchy’s.
One of Edwin’s first employees was Guy LeBlanc, who wanted to do something similar in Digby using the Frenchy’s name. LeBlanc now has 19 stores across Atlantic Canada, and Theriault says that another 25 stores also carry the Frenchy’s name. Those 25 stores are all owned and operated independently like Orr’s planned venture into Target’s retail space.
When asked how Orr intends to fill 200,000 square feet, he said he will use a simple rule of thumb. “We want to use the same format that has been so successful for us in our smaller locations. So, since these locations are 100 times larger, we’ll just do the same thing only 100 times bigger!”
“For example, instead of 6 racks of women’s tank tops for $3.99 each, we’ll have 600 racks of tank tops! Can’t you just see it? Instead of a 20-foot rack of women’s sweaters and sweatshirts for $5.49 each, we’ll have a rack 2,000 feet long! You could spend an entire weekend just shopping for fleece,” he envisioned. Gesticulating wildly, he shouted, “BOOM! Did I just blow your ever-loving mind or what?!”
He continued, “Imagine our current stores, but bigger! Clothing bins the size of backyard swimming pools! Shopping carts the size of Volkswagens! Enough used bedding to outfit a 3-star hotel!”
Orr says he’s not planning to expand the variety of products in the store, preferring to stick with the blueprint that has worked for them to date. “Variety didn’t save any of those failed chain stores, so we’re sticking with what we know. Besides, where else can you get maternity pants for $7.99 each? Or a 3-piece suit for $28.99? And a flashy new tie to go along with it for just $3.99? Or coveralls for just $11.99 ($19.99 with winter lining)? No one else is doing what we do and that makes us unique in the marketplace.”
When asked about the very real risk of having empty store shelves due to inability to stock them, Orr shrugged. “It never seemed to bother the people running Target.”