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Hot Concepts


A shop dedicated to flip flops and a value-priced healthy-foods supermarket chain are among the 2010 recipients of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Hot Retailers awards. Based on a survey of ICSC’s worldwide members, the awards are designed to recognize innovative retail concepts. Some of the previous winners include J. Crew, Pinkberry, Billabong, Apple Stores, Coach, Build-A-Bear, Trader, ULTA and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro.

Here’s a brief look at this year’s winners:

-- Charming Charlie: Fun, stylish and affordable women’s accessories are the main attraction at Houston-based Charming Charlie, whose offerings range from handbags and scarves to bracelets and earrings (some 7,000 pairs to be exact).

To make it easier for customers to coordinate their outfits, merchandise is organized by color, not category. Stores average 10,000 sq. ft. to 11,000 sq. ft., and prices range from $5 to $50.

The company, which was founded in 2004, currently operates some 60 stores, with a heavy concentration in the South and Southeast. It’s expanding nationwide, with stores on tap in Chicago and St. Louis.

Charming Charlie expects to end 2010 with some 80 stores as it capitalizes on shopping center vacancies spurred by the recession.

-- Flip Flop Shops: Billing itself as the nation’s first chain dedicated to flip flops and sandals, the Kennesaw, Ga.-based company has 18 locations nationwide and 50 more in development (see related story).

Edible Arrangements: Now in its 11th year, Edible Arrangements is still tempting consumers with its artistically-designed, home-delivered fresh fruit arrangements. Also on the menu: chocolate-dipped fruits and other treats.

From a single shop into a franchise business with 956 locations, the company has expanded from the United States and Canada to markets around the globe, including the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Italy and, most recently, Hong Kong. It is well on its way of meeting its goal of 1,000 units by the end of 2010.

Edible Arrangements’ stores range from 500 sq. ft. to 1,500 sq. ft. and are located in both open-air centers and Main Street sites. In 2009, the Wallingford, Conn.-based company launched a new concept, Frutation, specializing in grab-and-go smoothies, juices, fruit salads and other fresh-fruit products.

-- Sunflower Farmers Market: Sunflowers Farmers Market believes that healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive. The Phoenix-based grocer, founded in 2002 by former Wild Oats co-founder Mike Gilliland, takes its tag line of “Serious food… Silly prices” to heart. Value pricing is key to its strategy.

A low-cost economic model drives the company, which offers a more affordable, no-frills alternative to more upscale natural-and organic-foods supermarkets. Sunflower keeps its overhead low, utilizing basic fixtures and furnishings and a simple store build-out that lowers construction costs. It buys big and sources directly, and buys produce by the truckload directly from farmers. Private-label products figure prominently in its mix.

With 30 stores throughout New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Texas, Sunflower is growing at a steady but conservative pace. It is looking to open seven to 10 stores annually.


-- Too Hotties: From the pool table, massage chairs and shoe-shine stand to the peanut-butter-and-jelly bar and high-definition TVs with an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Too Hotties is not your ordinary barbershop by any means.

The Springfield, Mo.-based men’s hair-care salon offers a range of salon services, from haircuts and beard trims to hot-towel treatments and straight-razor shaves, all delivered by attractive female stylists. To date, it has opened seven locations.

-- Best Buy Express: Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy reaches out to consumers on the go with Best Buy Express, a vending machine-styled kiosk that stocks cell phones, computer accessories, digital cameras, headphones, travel adapters and other gadgets.

The concept was rolled out in 2008 at 12 major U.S. airports in cities nationwide. It now counts a total of 78 locations. Best Buy’s partner in the venture is ZoomSystems, a San Francisco-based vending machine company.

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