Open for Business: 9 Retail Franchise Ideas In the retail realm, there's something for everyone--you've just got to find your niche. To help you wade through the choices, we've selected 9 ideas as a sample of what retail franchises can offer.

By Laura Tiffany

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The world of retail is a vast place, much larger than the clothes and groceries that might immediately come to mind. If a product can be sold, there's probably a store somewhere specializing in selling it. And if there's a store selling it, it's likely there's a franchise opportunity in that field.

We've got a whopping 28 categories in our Franchise Zone Retail category , and to help introduce you to the wide variety of franchised retail stores within those categories, we've plucked out nine unique concepts. We're not specifically endorsing or recommending these particular franchises; rather, we offer these ideas as a way to get a feel for the wide variety of retail franchises available.

HobbyTown USA
Walking into a HobbyTown USA is like taking a small step back in time: radio-controlled cars, planes and boats line the shelves. Model railroad enthusiasts comb the aisles. You can find board games; plane, car and military model kits; and rockets, plus all the tools and paint you need to master your hobby, whatever it may be. If you spent a good part of your childhood (or adulthood) creating models from kits, shooting rockets into the sky or perfecting your model train wonderland, this is the franchise for you.

Wireless Zone
The Wireless Zone is self-explanatory: They sell all manners of wireless communication, including phones, internet devices, accessories and prepaid services. Formerly called The Car Phone store, founder Russ Pheldon recognized early the potential of cellular phones, and now The Wireless Zone has more than 250 locations in the Northeast and MidAtlantic regions, as well as Florida.

Batteries Plus
Everyone is familiar with your garden-variety alphabet batteries: AA, AAA, C, D. There are those tiny watch batteries. And car batteries. Now, keep going ... and going and going. Trust us, Batteries Plus has more batteries than you can possibly think of. Just take a look at this list . There are more than 225 Batteries Plus locations nationwide, offering customers a one-stop shop for what can often be a hard-to-find product.

Gateway Cigars/Newstands
Newstands are a convenient way for people in office buildings, railway or subway stations, or malls to get the items they need--be it a snack, soda, newspaper, lottery ticket or pack of gum--fast. Unlike a normal convenience store, Gateway Newstands' hours of operation are based on their location, so if you have retail or convenience store experience but can't stand the 24/7 lifestyle, Gateway offers an alternative.

Plato's Closet
If there's anything that can change at the drop of the hat, it's a teenager's wardrobe. Whether they grow out of something or just find a style so last week, teens always want new clothes and parents always need a reprieve for their pocketbooks. Plato's Closet offers teens cash for their gently used clothing and then resells said clothing at a deep discount compared to what it would cost new. Winmark Corporation, the parent company of Plato's Closet, has a stable of similar franchise offerings that deal in new and used items, including Play It Again Sports, Once Upon a Child and Music Go Round, so the franchise offers a tested business model and proprietary software to help with the store's unique buying and selling transactions.

Card$mart offers a retail gift and card experience with one big twist: All cards are 50-percent off every day, as are gift wrap, bags, bows and tissue. These inexpensive items draw in customers, who also purchase full-priced gifts and keepsakes from Card$mart's inventory of dolls, stuffed animals, candles, home d�cor, photo albums, frames and more. According to Card$mart, these sales can make up as much as 60 percent of total store sales volume.

Theater Xtreme
The customers of Theater Xtreme are serious about their TV. This retail franchise offers custom home theater systems starting at $2,999, with screens anywhere from six to 10 feet in size. The entire retail experience is tooled for a full immersion into fun: Stores resemble theater lobbies with a ticket counter and free popcorn. The goal is to offer reasonably priced systems for the average Joe or Jane, and to show that you don't have to be a rich celebrity to have your own home theater.

Wine inspires a devotion and obsession unlike any other beverage. For oenophiles, their local wine store can become a weekly stop, a hang-out and even a sanctuary. WineStyles is such a store. Designed to evoke a traditional European wine cellar, WineStyles brings affordable luxury to its customers with more than 100 wines for under $25 in each store. WineStyles provides customers an effortless wine education by categorizing wines into taste "styles" and offering information on each wine. The company specializes in unique and hard-to-find wines, some of which are exclusive to WineStyles.

Schakolad Chocolate Factory
So wine isn't your thing? That doesn't mean you can't still have a decadent retail franchise that caters to gourmands. When visitors step into a Schakolad Chocolate Factory, they're treated to a chocolate sensory overload. They smell the rich aroma of the fresh chocolate; see a river of both liquid chocolate in the window and a cornucopia of candy choices in the display cases; and taste sweet samples. It's hard to imagine any chocolate lover walking out empty-handed. Created by a family of chocolatiers, Schakolad uses high-quality ingredients to create their assorted chocolates and truffles. For their franchisees, they've created a unique experience with four revenue streams: the retail outlet, corporate clients, hotels and parties/weddings.

Ready, Set, Research
If you didn't find anything that suits your taste on this list, don't worry: There are dozens of ideas in the retail section of our Franchise Zone or you to browse.

When one catches your eye, begin your research. Due diligence includes thoroughly reading a company's literature and its Uniform Franchise Offering Circular, calling and visiting the existing franchisees, and consulting with an attorney and an accountant. Use our thorough how-to o guide you on your journey.

Wavy Line

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