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Tilly's opened its 100th store, in Florida, this month and it seemed like a great time to talk to CEO Hezy Shaked about the company, its growth and how it is doing in the current downturn.
While other retailers are declaring bankruptcy, Tilly's continues to open stores and is on track to open 15 this year. Here's the amazing thing: the company opens the stores using cash, Hezy said.
"We are not leveraging ourselves," he said. "We do not eat more than we can chew. Because we are not leveraged, that is how we are able to do this in tough times."
Hezy said operating his business without debt is a personal thing. "I don't believe in it," he said. "You can't afford it if you owe money on it."
In its 27 years in business, Tilly's has expanded from its Orange County, Calif., base, and now has stores in California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Maryland and New Jersey.
Hezy said Tilly's will focus new openings in Florida, the Mid-Atlantic, the Northeast and a few in California as good opportunities arise.
When I asked how business was going in the current consumer slowdown, Hezy said, "Our business is good. We are seeing some signs of the decline slowing. We see light at the end of the tunnel."
He would not disclose same-store sales figures.
Hezy did say the company is planning the business very tightly so it has enough cash to open the stores.
"Most retailers aren't opening stores now," he said. "For us, it was planned in advance. There's no reason to slow down. We would open more if the economy was better."
I asked Hezy if Tilly's was getting great deals on good locations because of the recession. He said at the best locations, there aren't many vacancies. If there are any, the rents are very high.
And at the "B" and "C" locations, "you can get a better deal, but who wants to be there?"