Frequently Asked Questions

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Operations

Yes, the Learning Express business model functions best with a hands-on owner that is passionate about our mission of inspiring growth through play.
We won’t sugar-coat it. Running a thriving specialty toy store is hard work. Hard but rewarding. Our franchisees report to us that they generally work between 40-60 hours per week on their business, some more, some less. However, that time is very flexible and varies season to season. Many owners work both from their store and their home, and many tell us one of the great things about owning your own business is the ability to be flexible with your time. Want to catch a child’s soccer game? No problem.

When you get access to the FDD, you should call our owners and ask them what their work-life balance is like. They’ll tell it how it is!

The franchise agreement has provisions for opening additional locations with the franchisor’s approval. We will work together with you to get you ready for second-store ownership, when and if you choose to pursue an additional location. That said, owning multiple stores isn’t for everyone, and we can discuss with you the pros and cons of becoming a multi-unit owner.
It is best that the operator of the franchise has a vested interest in the success of the store, which is why we target owner-operators when evaluating new franchisees. That said, there are exceptions to every rule, and each circumstance is different. Ask us a question or request franchise information if you’d like to discuss your particular situation.

Financials

We get this question all the time, and it’s one that we unfortunately cannot answer for you. Our Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) Item 19 will disclose to you our financial performance representations, which is all that any franchisor can discuss when it comes to the sales and profits of operating a franchise business.

Not to worry, if you are seriously interested in owning and qualified to own a Learning Express and have the patience to follow the first three steps of our process, you’ll receive our FDD Item 19 and have access to call every one of our franchisees and ask them questions related to building your pro-forma financial statements and business plan.

Our average opening investment is listed in Item 7 of our Franchise Disclosure Document. We have posted a copy of that information here.
We target areas with average household incomes above $80,000 per year with 100,000 people and 20,000 kids ages 0-14 in a five-mile radius. We license data from a sophisticated demograhics engine that will help us find the best demographics within a reasonable driving distance of your residence.

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Marketing

Yes! Our marketing and graphics department produces several printed catalogs each year that you can send to your customers, and we also provide custom graphics for email and social media. Some of our best marketing ideas have come directly from interaction with stores. Want to try a new marketing platform or program? We’ll see how we can help, and, if it works, we’ll spread the word so that all stores can benefit!
All small businesses, toy retailers included, are challenged by large competitors with greater resources, whether they are selling specialty toys, sandwiches or haircuts. Smart small business owners flip the equation and use their size and local image to their advantage. As a national franchise, Learning Express enjoys both the scale benefits of a larger organization and the nimble operations and marketing capabilities of a locally-owned business.

Our storeowners can compete and win against Amazon and other online competitors through our Team, Product & WOW! (TPW) philosophy:

  1. Team: Learning Express team members are trained to engage the customer, demo product, dress up as popular costume characters, gift wrap, identify the perfect gift and provide a buying experience that isn’t possible online. True, it’s hard work, but it’s those store owners and team members for whom running a toy store doesn’t seem like work who are the best at their job.
  2. Product: The internet is an extremely efficient platform if you know exactly what you want. Learning Express cuts through the clutter for the customer and merchandises product in a way that it can be experienced, not analyzed. People love to shop in physical stores where they can see, touch, hear and smell product. What’s more, there are many toy categories that lend themselves to a brick and mortar shopping experience, such as fashion, dolls, plush, party favors, impulse, candy, and many more.
  3. WOW Experience: If the Team and the Product weren’t enough to engage the customer, our focus on providing a WOW Experience for the customer is what drives customers back to the store, week after week. Our stores are a playground for the imagination, where you can play a new game with a sales associate, try out the newest gadgets, participate in an art or community event, or just browse the unique product selection that isn’t readily visible online. In our stores, you are in the moment, and you can feel the excitement.

You can read more about TPW here.

Real Estate

There are many sources of information for commercial real estate, including real estate brokers, local listings, LoopNet, other online sources and word of mouth. Often, the best technique to find a location is to think about the busiest shopping centers in your area and locate the leasing information on a sign at the center.

Once you have found a location that looks appropriate, we will help you negotiate the business terms of your lease in a document called a Letter of Intent, or LOI. The LOI will contain key lease information like rent, term, renewal options, tenant allowance and more. Once you agree to an LOI, the landlord will provide a lease, which you will review with your attorney.

Most commercial leases are known as triple-net (NNN) leases. A triple-net lease has a base rent, usually quoted in a cost per square foot per year (or per month in some regions, such as CA). Then there are three “nets”: Property Tax, Common Area Maintenance (CAM) and Insurance. The Base Rent plus the NNN expenses become your Gross Rent, or the total amount of your lease.

Example: A store is 2,500 square feet with an annual base rent of $25 and annual NNN charges of $5. The Gross Rent would be $25 plus $5, or $30, multiplied by 2,500, or $75,000 per year. The monthly lease payment would be $75,000/12, or $6,250 per month.

From the time you sign your lease and franchise agreement, it generally takes about 12 weeks to get the store open. That said, it can take any amount of time for you to locate an agreeable space in the right location at a rent that works for you. We recommend that you begin looking for real estate early in the process but also work with us to help negotiate the business terms of your lease.
We target 100,000 people in a franchise territory and assign the territories based on zip codes.

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