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Public flocks to the Orchard

Profile: Mother of two sets of twins finds success with franchise retail outlet

Posted: September 20, 2010 10:57 p.m.
Updated: September 21, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Jobless with a second set of twins on the way, Janelle Costello opened Children’s Orchard in the Bouquet Canyon shopping center. The store sells upscale and high-end brand clothing for children ranging in size from newborn to 14 for a fraction of the retail price.

So how does a mother of two sets of twins — all 3 years old or younger — spend her days?
The answer will surprise most ordinary human beings.

Pregnant with her second set of twins, Janelle Costello found herself without a job when Wells Fargo closed its wholesale automotive loan division two years ago.

With a family that would soon include four hungry mouths to feed, twin girls and twin boys, Costello launched her next career when she purchased a franchise for the children’s retail outlet, Children’s Orchard, on the corner of Bouquet Canyon and Newhall Ranch roads. She assumed ownership at the end of 2008, when she was seven months pregnant.

Business growth
“Sales volume has grown 25 percent over the previous year,” Costello said recently.

A resident of Circle J Ranch, Costello had never worked in retail before. She said most of business growth is due to aggressive advertising and word of mouth.

Under Costello’s leadership, the business had to move into a larger location to accommodate the growth. And in less than two years, the store added five employees, bringing the total to eight.

Costello’s success came during the midst of a recession in which many retail outlets closed, and while caring for four very young children.

“Eighty percent of our inventory sells for $4.99 or less,” said Costello.

Employee initiative
 “We have a great working environment with flexible schedules and the employees are great. They take initiative and ownership,” said Costello.

In retailing, Costello said, an employee typically stays six months on average. But the 40-year-old businesswoman says she does not go through a lot of employees at Children’s Orchard.

The employees have a lot to do with the business and how it runs, said Costello. She said one employee manages all of the dance merchandise, keeping it stocked. Another employee acts as the merchandising department.

When the business recently relocated, the move was accomplished in one day. Children’s Orchard moved into a 2,100-square-foot retail location, three doors down from its former site. Costello said 100 people were waiting outside the new store when it opened.

“We never shut our doors,” said Costello of the move. “And the encouraging thing was that shoppers greeted us at the new location by clapping.”

Upscale resale
Children’s Orchard specializes in the resale market of upscale clothing brands. There are approximately 45 small retail locations in 17 states across the country. The store carries clothing for children ranging in size from newborn to size 14.

 “The clothing is only accepted if it’s in very good condition,” said Costello. “We inspect clothes under special lights before buying any resale merchandise.”

Costello said the store often buys clothing with store price tags intact.

“Sometimes people bring in clothing they bought for their children, but it was never worn either because the child outgrew the clothing too fast, they skipped sizes, or the moms got the clothing home and decided they didn’t like it,” she said.

Children’s Orchard shoppers are from all income levels, Costello said, but the majority are from middle-income families who want to buy good brands and save money.

She said many of her shoppers can afford to buy the higher-end merchandise new, but they like buying it for less money and they can buy more items at the lower prices.

The store also keeps wish lists of items shoppers are looking for and will call the shopper when an item matching the list comes in.

The store typically sells brand clothing at a fraction of the new retail prices. Last year it received more than 1,000 pieces of Lucky Brand clothing, a high-end brand.

The store also carried True Religion jeans, selling them for $10 to $20 a pair. True Religion jeans retail for $200 and more.

Children’s Orchard pays cash, or places credit on a store gift card, for the items it purchases. If a shopper prefers store credit, they get 30 percent more in store credit than they would in cash.

Costello said offering store credit for clothing helps with cash flow as she doesn’t have to put as much money in the register each day.

Customers bringing in clothing to sell to Children’s Orchard must make an appointment — except on Wednesdays, when sellers can walk in without an appointment. The items the store purchases are sold to local shoppers.

The store also sells gift cards to be given as gifts to others.

Holiday shopping
The retailer gears up for each holiday season by stocking the store with costumes or clothing appropriate for the holidays.

Costello said one mother came in with a Peter Pan theme in mind and specifically wanted to find Halloween costumes for Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook and an alligator.

“I was just really happy, with that specific a requirement of what she was looking for, that I was able to provide it,” said Costello.

 “I was really pleased we had costumes for each of the characters the mother wanted.”

Costello said she rents two storage lockers where she stores all the seasonal merchandise, reducing the need for an even larger store and increased overhead expenses.

Asked how Costello manages all of her responsibilities, she said she does so with the help of nannies, very little sleep, and the store employees.

Children’s Orchard is located at 26570 Bouquet Canyon Road, Santa Clarita. The store can be reached by calling (661) 263-1484.


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