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'Tis The Season

Start planning now to deck the malls with profits as the owner of a seasonal opportunity.

A part-time business racks up full-time profits for Carl Wiederaenders of Des Moines, Iowa, who operates his Calendar Club stores from mid-September to mid-February each year. With 1997 revenues of more than $2.4 million, Wiederaenders has already marked his calendar for this year's holiday season.

As a temporary mall tenant, Wiederaenders is part of a growing trend: entrepreneurs who capitalize on increased consumer traffic during the winter holidays, October through December. "[The best time to] be in retail is when people are shopping," Wiederaenders says. "And during the holidays, there are more people shopping than at any other time of the year."

Such specialty leasing, also called seasonal selling, started during the mid-1980s as a way for malls to fill empty storefronts and corridors with temporary carts, stores and kiosks. "It's an inexpensive way to build a store for yourself and put it in the busiest part of a mall, where thousands of people walk by every day," says Tom Vitacco, national sales director for retail licensing at Fannie May Candies.

Franchise and business opportunity companies such as Fannie May and Calendar Club provide entrepreneurs with a ready-made means of entry into temporary businesses as franchisees or licensees--and often make start-up easy by negotiating leases, providing merchandise or designing business plans.

Entrepreneurs who buy the Calendar Club business opportunity, for instance, use the company's name, operating system, procedures, displays and products. Special cash registers not only ring up sales, calculate sales tax and run daily register reports, but also dial into the distribution center at day's end so Calendar Club can replenish your inventory and automatically deduct its share from your bank account, leaving behind your 16 percent.

Calendar Club, founded in 1993, even provides its 90 operators with an assortment of calendars targeted to individual regions' demographics. For instance, a Calendar Club near a ski resort would stock more ski calendars than an urban location would.

Wiederaenders, who runs a home renovation business the rest of the year, joined Calendar Club in 1993 after managing a friend's store for a season. He opened five stores the following year, for a fee of $2,500 each. His revenues from mid-November to the first week of January that year surpassed $400,000. Last year, he oversaw 26 stores in the Midwest. He travels from location to location during the week and hires managers to help run his stores.

Sandra Mardenfeld, a freelance writer in New York City, has written for The New York Times Book Review and Working Woman.

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This article was originally published in the July 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: 'Tis The Season.

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