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Apricot Lane Boutique | A franchise that puts relationships first

Chris Lanning, CEO and President of Apricot Lane knows a thing or two about relationship building. Working on the customer facing side of retail for over 30 years with heavy hitters like Coca Cola and The GAP, his journey with Apricot Lane has provided him a different lens: the boutique-minded customer. Now with over 115 locations across the USA, we sat down with Lanning and franchise owner operator Stephanie Robinson, to get a picture of what's made Apricot Lane such a success.

Business Type

Women's Apparel

Products Used

Lightspeed Retail
Lightspeed Payments
Lightspeed Pro-Services


United States

“At the end of the day, we all want more and bigger transactions. But in the boutique business the way you go about it is building relationships.”

Locations where life happens

“We want to be where she does life.” This is how Lanning sums up the inspired real estate strategy behind where Apricot Lane locations land. The franchise pursues spots that have consistently high traffic. When you take a look around Winter Garden you see what this means. Within a 5 mile radius—locals have everything they need: a movie theatre, salon, a pet shop, a variety of restaurants and coffee shops. It’s stomping grounds for locals. Heading downtown is a part of their routine—one that includes Apricot Lane.

“We want to be part of the customer’s everyday journey. If you're in their weekly routine, they’re going to be more likely to pop in. And if your customer knows you get new goods all the time—they'll think “I'll stop by on the way.”

One bench, many coaches

The relationship building extends beyond the customer. Arguably, it begins with a mindset that is coming top down from corporate. With specialized individuals extending across all disciplines of retail, Chris describes the team that supports the franchisee’s as their “bench”. Their onboarding is immersive and rigorous with the intention of supplying these entrepreneurs, that range from former franchise owners to new business owners, with everything they need to succeed.

“As a franchisor, and particularly in our business model, we're not centrally dictating. We are providing tools, resources and best practices that hopefully influence our owners and help them be more successful toward fulfilling their dreams.”

“We're really privileged to serve over 100 communities across the US. And serve is a keyword—it's not just about selling things. You can buy products anywhere, but how do you create an experience that's relevant and that keeps you front of mind?”

Meet Stephanie Robinson

Stephanie Robinson dreamed of owning her own business. After many years as a high school teacher in New Orleans, Robinson was looking for a fresh challenge. When she began looking into potential franchise partnerships, Apricot Lane seemed like the obvious choice, offering a balance of support and freedom. The boutique caters their product offering to each location, which allows owners to be agile and not be strapped down with seasonal selects that don’t align with their clientele. For Robinson that looks completely unique with her mix of locals, snowbirds and tourists. She feels inventory is the most challenging and integral part to get right. For Lanning, the right data is their secret weapon.

“Understanding the performance of your inventory is critical. We teach our owners how to really dive into the performance of their product through a disciplined, open to buy process. The reporting that Lightspeed provides us, they're able to see by category what's working, what's not working. This helps them unlock the potential that exists within their inventory.”

Connect with the community

Lanning sees a fundamental aspect of Apricot Lane’s success: each individual is empowered to lead and create a space that speaks to their market. As he explains, “Owners need to care about being engaged in the community in a way that delivers the brand in a more relevant way to the consumer and not just through transactions.” Robinson and her location in Winter Garden are a perfect example. When you arrive, you can’t help but notice that front and centre in the street facing window is a calendar that outlines up-coming events for patrons to join in. Having the flexibility to create special experiences and even join forces with other local businesses to drive traffic is not what you think of when you consider the traditional “one-size-fits all” franchise marketing model. But these are the details that set Apricot Lane apart and in Lanning’s own words, “give them a reason to return.”

The reporting that Lightspeed provides us, they're able to see by category what's working, what's not working, what's turning too fast, too slow. We can unlock the potential that exists within their inventory.

“Your customer determines how you bring your vision and your mission to life.”

Trust builds transactions

For all the outward differences present from location to location, providing an overall consistent experience to the client is what Lanning sees as the foundation for growing the business. For bigger brands, a certain level of inconsistency when it comes to experience and customer service can be expected but for the “boutique-minded” consumer, there’s a bond of trust that drives transactions. As Lanning describes it,

“If you have a tendency to be more financially inclined, it's hard to get your head, your arms and your heart around this idea of relationships first. But if you build trust, your customer will think about you first, visit more often and spend more money.”

See you again soon

Robinson’s favourite moments as an owner are those that demonstrate the bonds she’s built in Winter Garden. Many of her customers have been coming in for years and she’s watched their children grow. People frequently return after purchasing dresses for proms and weddings to pull out their phones and showcase their look in action. There’s even a few furry regulars—a local celebrity, a fluffy sheepdog Winston and a precocious puppy named Blessing who pops in once a week. There’s a dog bowl placed directly by the front door to quench their thirst. Robinson understands that beyond product it's those small gestures that make a lasting impression.

“I'll get people coming in and they'll just say, “It's so peaceful here.” That’s the feedback we want. Personally, when I’m shopping, I just want to feel like this is a nice place to hang out.”

“It's the simple things. It goes beyond ensuring you have a product that’s relevant. It’s in the way you treat your customers."

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