Winmark (WINA) is a North-American franchisor of five value-oriented retail concepts. Customers can sell/trade-in their used merchandise for cash or store credit. The store then marks up the used merchandise and sells it back to other customers at a ~60% gross margin, but still significantly below retail price. The company currently has 1,264 franchised stores (128 in Canada and 1,136 in US) and generates revenue from five sources. The largest most significant source of operating income is from royalty income that WINA collects from franchisees. This capital-light model has allowed the company to generate >100% ROIC over the past decade.
The five retail concepts are:
·Plato’s Closet (43% of royalties)
oBegan franchising in 1999, $444 million in system-wide sales across 485 stores
oFashion clothing (e.g. lululemon, American eagle, adidas, Birkenstock, etc.)
oAges 13 – 22
·Once Upon A Child (29% of royalties)
oBegan franchising in 1993, $312 million in system-wide sales across 399 stores
oToddler’s clothes, toys, furniture, equipment, etc.
oAges 0 – 13
·Play It Again Sports (22% of royalties)
oBegan franchising in 1988, $250 million in system-wide sales across 274 stores
oUsed and new sporting goods and equipment
·Style Encore (4% of royalties)
oBegan franchising in 2013, $36 million in system-wide sales across 69 stores
oHigher quality used women’s clothing and accessories selling at 40-50% below retail
oAges 25 -- 54
·Music Go Round (2% of royalties)
oBegan franchising in 1994, $33 million in system-wide sales across 37 stores
oUsed music instruments, equipment, and related accessories
Royalties (70% of revenue)
Franchisees are required to pay WINA royalties of 5% of system-wide sales.
Franchise Fees (2% of revenue)
Initial franchise agreements are typically 10 years in length with 10-year renewal periods. Franchisees pay WINA fees at inception and renewal. Franchisees are also responsible for finding locations, renovating the leased space, and purchasing start-up inventory from customers during a start-up period (i.e. no incremental capex is required from WINA as its footprint increases).
Equipment Leasing (22% of revenue)
WINA uses some of its cash flow generated by the royalties and franchise fees segments to purchase and lease high-tech assets to mid-market businesses.
Merchandise Sales (3% of revenue)
WINA sells new merchandise at wholesale price to Play It Again Sports franchisees.
WINA’s previous Executive Chairman, John Morgan, joined the company in 2000, turning the company around from the brink of bankruptcy. He sold off failing concepts and placed a larger focus on screening for quality franchisees. It is worth noting that during this his tenure, John opted to receive no equity grants and purchased all of the stock he owned in the open market; prior to the company’s tender offer in 2020, John owned almost 1/3 of the company. He has since retired in March 2020 and CEO Brett Heffes took over as Chairman. Brett has been at Winmark for 18 years, where he has served as CFO, President, and most recently CEO in 2016. I believe his two decades working under John will pay dividends as he takes on the Chairman role as well. What is unusual is that Ronald Olson, co-founder of Winmark, continues to own 9.8% of the company’s stock despite being President of NTY Franchise company, a franchisor that owns rival retail concepts (which we will touch on later).
WINA’s a small cap stock (~700M market cap) that is overlooked because of its low investor outreach (no earnings calls, investor relations page, or analyst coverage).
Thesis I: Opportunities for Style Encore Expansion
WINA’s store count growth has slowed as it reaches penetration in its Music Go Round, Plato’s Closet, Once Upon a Child, and Play It Again Sports banners. However, I believe Style Encore still has runway for growth. Within the more luxury second-hand merchandise category, it competes primarily with franchisor Clothes Mentor (whose parent company is NTY Franchise, Ronald Olson’s company) which has 127 stores across the US, the majority of locations being in the Midwest and South.
By my estimates, there are 10 states where Clothes Mentor operates in, but Style Encore has no presence in; Clothes Mentor currently only has 21 stores in these markets. As a result, I believe these states are underpenetrated and Style Encore is well positioned to expand into these areas.
In addition, Style Encore launched their e-commerce site in late 2019, whereas Clothes Mentor’s website didn’t launch until August 2020. From an execution perspective, Clothes Mentor seems to still be figuring out their online model. On Style Encore’s website, a customer can easily search for items based on zip code, whereas Clothes Mentor requires the customer to manually filter through a long list of cities. As Style Encore continues its expansion into new markets, a flywheel effect can occur: new customers find a product on the website -> decide to pick up in their nearby store -> return to store/website in the future for future purchases.
The question then becomes whether it makes financial sense for new and/or existing franchisees to want to open a new Style Encore store. Based off conversations with Style Encore franchisee, I estimate the average store runs at ~10-13% pre-tax margin, depending on the sqft lease price. I believe franchisees should be able to find affordable real estate in these suburban regions to make a new location attractive.