Shoe Sensation is taking rural communities by storm as it opens its 100th store this year and celebrates 30 years of bringing well-known footwear brands to small-town America. “We have been able to survive through the thick and thin of the economy and expand our model currently to 14 states – 16 states come September,” CEO Mike Zawoysky says. “We have been able to deliver new stores each year and comparable store growth for each of the past six consecutive years.”

The Jeffersonville, Ind.-based company was founded by an entrepreneur whose vision was to open shoe stores in rural towns located 30 to 45 miles away from a regional mall. “He wanted to make it more convenient for the local community to come in and purchase branded, high-quality footwear,” Zawoysky says. “At the time, many family owned shoes stores in small-town America were closing.” 

Shoe Sensation took the idea of niche big-box retailers and designed a scaled-down branded concept for smaller communities. The company’s headquarters supports each location with 15,000 square feet of offices, a 50,000-square-foot distribution center and 800 employees. 

Read more: Shoe Sensation

After more than a century of service, Rexall has developed a reputation as one of the leading pharmacy brands in Canada. Established in 1904, Rexall has adapted over time from its beginnings as apothecary-style drugstores into a network of contemporary community pharmacies. It is a member of the Katz Group of Companies, a privately-held Canadian-owned and operated organization.

The company strives to help Canadian families and communities become healthier through increased accessibility to quality healthcare and products. Today, the company boasts a network of 425 Rexall and Rexall Pharma Plus locations. It has a staff of 8,600 staff serving 180 communities across Canada.

Rexall offers a wide array of pharmacy, health and wellness, beauty, daily living, seasonal, exclusive and online photo products and services. It also delivers special offers and coupons to its customer base. In addition, it operates Rexall Specialty Pharmacy, a division that aims to provide highly specialized clinical care and complex medication management services in the world of transitional care.

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Since its inception in 1989, H2O+’s business model has truly evolved. Founder Cindy Melk, an entrepreneur and ocean-lover at heart, along with her R&D team launched the skin and body care brand in the U.S. with innovative gel-based, oil-free formulas that were viewed as more natural alternatives to traditional heavy creams and lotions. Her original brand vision was to harness the power of the ocean to create water-based beauty care products that protect and transform the skin. As the company celebrates its 25-year anniversary in 2014, that concept has not wavered.

From its Chicago base, H2O+ came into the marketplace via free-standing retail stores in prime shopping street and mall destinations in North America. Melk then cued the company up for worldwide success in an unorthodox manner. Instead of taking the standard route through Europe, the brand debuted on the international scene in reverse fashion; H2O+ was one of the very first skincare brands to successfully launch in the Chinese market and by doing so gained an early and very strong and valuable foothold in Asia. 

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As one of the world’s largest hair salon brands, Great Clips was built on the principles of giving customers the highest level of care and convenience for their hair. The company has grown to encompass almost 3,600 franchised salons in the United States and Canada, and continues to grow each year because customers know they can expect to get great service every time they walk through the door. CEO Rhoda Olsen says the core concept behind the company’s success is simple, but Great Clips never stops working to ensure customers get the best experience from any Great Clips salon they visit. 

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In terms of function, there isn’t a big difference between a pair of shoes and a set of car tires. Each serves a similar basic purpose – getting a person from one place to another – only on a much different scale. Work shoe wearers and drivers also have similar expectations for the products such as grip, performance and durability.

For more than 100 years, iconic tire brand Goodyear has applied many of the qualities and materials of its tires to the soles of shoes. After seeing success with footwear in the international market for the past several years, the company is now looking to expand its shoe licensing efforts to the U.S. market. 

Read more: Goodyear

If the parents know it and love it, if the grandparents know it and love it, there’s a great chance they’ll buy it for the kids. The trick is, the kids have to love it, too. To the younger generation, for kitschy to be cool, old has to seem new. 

That’s the beauty – and challenge – of vintage brands. 

Maximizing the captivating potential of retro is the task of Michael Connolly, head of global consumer products at DreamWorks Animation, the Hollywood studio that has produced such franchises as Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda.

“Vintage is in – from Lucky Charms to Jack Daniels,” Connolly says. “But it’s been in for 20 years now. It’s not a trend anymore, it’s a market.”

Read more: DreamWorks Animation

The plus-size women’s apparel market – sizes 14-32 – is growing fast. The average American woman has moved from a size 8 to a size 14 over the past 40 years. Every 10 years, the average increases one size and 10 pounds. The plus-size market reached $16.2 billion in 2013 – and will no doubt continue to increase since more than half of American women are plus-size but plus-size clothing accounts for only 19 percent of apparel sales in the United States. 

Avenue, a national specialty retailer for plus-size women, is positioned to take advantage of its burgeoning target market. The New Jersey-based company, founded in 1983, operates 283 stores, mostly in strip centers across the country, and a growing e-commerce business. It sells modern, fashionable clothes at affordable prices, targeting a customer who is 35 to 65 years old and has an average annual household income of $65,000.

Read more: Avenue

As a fashion retailer, Apricot Lane loves to lead new trends. Founded in 2007 by CEO Ken Petersen and partners Scott Jacobs and Tom Brady, the company brought together two familiar but typically separate concepts and launched a women’s boutique fashion franchise.

“This fashion retail industry didn’t really have franchises,” Petersen says. “But we’re franchisors and we’re good at it. With 22 years of experience in franchising, I thought, ‘My gosh, there has to be a lot of people who would love to have a fashion boutique, but the risk is high without the infrastructure of support, leverage and networking that franchising provides.’ So in 2007 we launched and grew right through the most difficult economy since the Great Depression.” 

Read more: Apricot Lane

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