Many retailers today are focused on creating an entertaining environment for their customers, but Flemington, N.J.-based We're Entertainment is fixated on it. Not only are the stores fun places to shop, but every item of merchandise is related in some way to the world of entertainment - whether that is cartoon characters, comics, movies, television shows or musical groups.
With merchandise sporting everything from Betty Boop to Scooby Doo and characters from "I Love Lucy" to "The Three Stooges," We're Entertainment is the "headquarters for entertainment-themed, licensed apparel, accessories and gifts," says Jeremy Friedman, the company's president and chief operating officer. "We sell American icons," he says. Each store carries approximately 60 to 70 licensed product properties.
Friedman, along with partner Robert Weiser, chief executive officer of the company, founded the concept in 1995. The two previously ran a men's apparel business, where they witnessed the popularity of novelty ties and boxer shorts, which were being tested in the store.
"We felt there was a need to create more fun in the shopping experience," Friedman says. The stores are set up in zones that are property-oriented,like Coca-Cola, or character-oriented, like Snoopy.
Each location also features a number of entertainment components, including cartoon cutouts where customers can take pictures; carnival-type fun mirrors; a big-screen television; and a theater-quality sound system. The company also conducts in-store trivia contests during peak traffic times.
Because of the activities and entertainment-related merchandise, families with children are primarily attracted to We're Entertainment. But, Friedman says, the concept appeals to a broad customer base reaching all socioeconomic levels and age groups.
"The vast majority of merchandise is purchased by and for adults," he continues. The store is not just for children.
We're Entertainment opened its first three locations in November 1995. Currently, there are 31 stores, most of which are located in outlet centers and value megamalls.
"We built the concept to be in outlet centers," Friedman says, primarily because there was clearly a niche for an entertainment-type store in outlet retailing. Also, that was the retail environment he and Weiser had come from and understood best. "We transitioned that into value megamalls such as The Mills centers and are continuing in that direction by transitioning into regional mall locations.
"The company has no plans to franchise the concept but expects to expand its presence nationwide to 45 locations by year's end, Friedman says. In 1999, We're Entertainment plans to add approximately 25 stores and will start looking at downtown and tourist-type locations. The stores average 4,500 sq. ft. in outlet centers/value megamalls and 3,500 sq. ft. in regional malls.
"We are looking for a high-traffic location that allows for the broadest customer base to potentially walk by our store," Friedman says. He cites such retailers as Nike, The Gap and Old Navy as desirable co-tenants.
Determining the right fit and finding good locations is the serious side of the business, but Friedman never loses sight of the entertainment aspect. "We sell fun," he says. "It's neat to see how much fun people have in the store."