HobbyTown USA

Bob Wilke, President of Hobby Town Discusses Exceeding Franchisor Expectations

How was your HobbyTown USA originally started?

HobbyTown USA founders Thomas Walla and Merlin Hayes purchased a long established local hobby store in Lincoln, NE in 1980. After opening a second location in Lincoln they began to receive multiple inquiries about franchising the business.


What was your original vision for HobbyTown USA company? How has that changed over time?

The original franchise concept modeled the original Lincoln stores with a smaller inventory and footprint that was more narrowly focused on the hobby segments of games, plastic models, model railroading, surface radio control and general hobby supplies. The smaller stores were more suitable for servicing smaller market areas as more of a convenience to the local hobbyists. The franchise concept has evolved over the years into larger footprint stores with a greater diversity of inventory to include specialty toys and all versions of radio control products (land, sea and air) creating a much larger market draw. Operation of the franchise store has evolved and been enhanced with the development of a proprietary point of sale system, proprietary products and on-line sales.


What do you believe is the single most important factor when choosing a franchise?

The value of the service and support provided by the franchisor must always exceed the expectations and needs of the franchisees.


Why should someone choose a HobbyTown USA franchise over other similar franchises?

The value of the ongoing service and support of the franchisor exceeds the expectations and needs of the franchisees and provides opportunities for the franchisee to differentiate in the hobby and specialty toy marketplace.


What makes your industry attractive?

Both the hobby and specialty toy industries are constantly changing, selling fun and rewarding family products is gratifying to the retailer and the consumer.


What types of qualities do you look for in potential HobbyTown USA franchisees?

Hard working, high integrity individuals that seek to operate within a proven system and a desire to provide a community destination for family fun and entertainment.


What do your franchise fees and royalties cover?

We provide turnkey store opening, ongoing operational support, exclusive products and distribution, marketing services, annual national convention, proprietary point of sale system & software upgrades, monthly financial processing and income statement preparation, I/T support, national POS sales data analysis and inventory database maintenance.


How do territories work for your franchisees?

We provide a protected area based upon the inventory valuation in the store (larger inventories offer a proportionally larger protected territory).


Why has the HobbyTown USA franchise model been successful?

 We have established a culture during the past twenty five years of developing and evolving the franchise system based on the best practices of our franchisees.


Where do you see HobbyTown USA in 5 years and 10 years?

Our vision is to continue to be the leading multi-channel retailer in the hobby and specialty toy industries by embracing, supporting and maximizing the strengths and diversity of each franchisee to become the foremost resource and destination for family fun and entertainment. We will continue to develop and expand US and international markets.


What is your favorite advice for new franchisees to help them succeed?

Follow our proven franchise system processes and best practices. After the store meets or exceeds our average sales and profitability performance you can begin to explore or consider additional stores and alternative retailing ideas and concepts.


What would you tell potential HobbyTown USA franchisees that may be nervous about the financial burdens of starting a franchise?

Regardless of start-up business there will be inherent risk. A franchise system with a history of success and experience will certainly increase your odds for success.


Can you explain your financial assistance?

We provide assistance in writing your business plan and guidance as you explore financing options.


On average, how long does it take to start a new HobbyTown USA franchise from the franchisees point of view?

Financing and site occupancy are the two primary variables. After the funding is in place and the lease is executed, we generally open for business in 8 weeks.  

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