Big-Box Boss Moves: How One Stylist Expanded Hair Salons Into Walmart

Instore leasing is a great way to expand your business

(Image: ThinkStock)
(Image: ThinkStock)

At the age of 20, Asia Seman fled to Kenya from her native Ethiopia, which was engaged in a civil war.  She later relocated to the United States after winning a lottery for a green card. In 1996, the master cosmetologist set up shop to do hair out of her apartment. A year later she opened her first retail outlet called Monaliza Hair Studio. Shortly afterward, she decided to expand the business to local shopping malls, changing the brand name to Cleopatra Beauty Spa.

“As an empowered black women entrepreneur I came up with a concept of taking my brand to Walmart” says Seman. But whereas she to provides full-service hair care to customers via the shopping malls, Seman tailored the business to provide only express haircuts to busy Walmart shoppers.  “Since I am a proud wife and mother of three beautiful children I have always shopped at Walmart for my family needs. Since Walmart is an all in one store for families, why not create a family oriented express haircut studio,” she adds. “It is convenient because a mother can do her shopping while her kid is getting a haircut.”

Today, the savvy business owner has three Cleopatra Beauty Shops inside Walmart stores at four different locations throughout Georgia. Entrepreneurs can gain direct access to Walmart’s customers and benefit from the retailer’s success by leasing space, explains Anthonyn Hylton, senior director, Walmart Store Channel.

The Walmart In-Store Leasing Program provides local, regional, and national businesses the opportunity to lease space in front of operating Walmart stores and supercenters. It is a way to help entrepreneurs expand or establish retail, banking, food service, or other business types inside an operating Walmart. These proven, high traffic locations work well for service-oriented businesses and add value to Walmart’s “One Less Stop Shopping”. But this is no guarantee for success, you still have to have a viable business model and to heavily market your brand, cautions Hylton.

Some popular franchises are a regular presence in many Walmart superstores including McDonalds, Subway and Dunkin Donuts. If you are interested in owning one of these franchises, you could apply for retail space with appropriate facilities, such as a kitchen, when you become a franchise owner.

Walmart is not the only retail company to offer in-store leasing to small and big outlets alike. In fact, the store-within-a-store concept is used by Bloomingdale department store, which has such arrangements with major brands like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, DKNY, and Kenneth Cole.

To receive consideration, a business must not compete directly with the retailer or provide items or services that conflict with its policies. Lease spaces are available only in the vestibules of the stores. Interested entrepreneurs should adhere to the following the initial process to inquire about leasing space in Walmart:

1.    Review the Landlord and Tenant Handbook to ensure your business model can comply with the general operating requirements
2.    Review the Available Spaces and identify which location you have interest in by Store # and space size
3.    Fill out the New Tenant Business Summary Form
4.    E-mail the New Tenant Business Summary Form to the Contact listed on the Territory Map including the Store # and Size of the location you have interest in.

5. Review Front End Tenant Signage Guidelines and Advertising and Lease Line Guide to gain further insight about the program.

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