A small shopping-window of opportunity at Lillians

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Kelli and Eric Holt will hold their grand opening for Lillians, a women’s accessories and fashion retail store, Feb. 4-7 at 7477 N. Academy Blvd. The new store will be open each month, but only for four days.

Here’s a unique retail situation. Kelli Holt, a former retail store manager turned insurance agent, will lease a 1,480-foot space in the Falcon Landing Shopping Center near Academy Boulevard and Woodmen Road. She’ll make her monthly lease payment — just like most other retailers — but her store will only be open for four days each month.

Huh?

“Once the concept catches on, we’ll get a whole month’s worth of customers in those four days,” said Holt, who along with her husband Eric purchased the franchise for Lillians in Colorado Springs. “If women know they only have four days to shop, they’ll be in our shop during those four days.”

Sisters Cindy Deuser and Sue Olmscheid founded Lillians Shoppes in Buffalo, Minnesota during 2005 and have since opened 32 stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Illinois and Colorado. Business has been so good that the pair decided to begin offering franchises during 2008.

All stores follow the occasional-sale concept. They’re open for limited times.

“Think of it as 25 women in a store having a dress-up party, a big shopping party where they’re all trying on clothes and playing with hand bags,” Holt said. “We have 600 hand bags now. And we’ll have scarves and sunglasses, wallets, jewelry and clothing, all at affordable prices.”

“We’ll have a sale for four days, then we’ll close for the rest of the month,” Holt said. “When we open back up the next month, we’ll have a practically new inventory. Every month will be fresh and exciting. That creates a craze. People will want to get to our store early because what you see is what you get and when it’s gone … it’s gone.”

The Lillians company buys inventory for each location. Holt said the week after the Colorado Springs store closes, its buyers will travel to New York to buy all of the handbags, accessories and other inventory for the next month’s opening. All of those products will then be shipped directly to the Colorado Springs store.

During the third week, company buyers will purchase clothing from both New York and California and ship that inventory directly to the Colorado Springs store.

Even with the store closed for three weeks out of every month, Holt said the job as owner and manager means she’ll work on average 30 hours a week.

“This opportunity really fell in our lap,” she said. “It’s a quiet time in the insurance business for me. And February is a good time to get spring inventory in, so it made sense to get everything started while we had personal time.”

Lillians will hold its grand opening sale Feb. 4-7 at the store, 7477 N. Academy Blvd. And, just as announced, will close for the remainder of the month.

Holt received some help from a commercial broker, but chose the location on Academy based specifically on demographics.

“We wanted a place where women like to eat and shop, and North Academy is a Mecca of that,” she said.

Entrepreneurially, Holt doesn’t seem bothered by our sluggish economy, even inferring that women’s accessories might be recession proof.

“I think it’s a little scary, but at the same time the timing felt right for us,” she said. “The nice thing about our industry is that a woman can spend $50 and get a couple of scarves and some jewelry. She’ll be able to give herself an update on her wardrobe just by accessorizing.”

Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.