The aim is to expand beyond the typical kiosks inside shopping malls, which have limited possibilities for white space. In August 2020, Coresight Research estimated that a quarter of the 1,000 shopping centers in the United States will close in the next three to five years. Additionally, Millionacres, a website producing content on real estate and financing, reported that malls have lost an average of 60 percent of real estate value in 2020.
Despite the gloomy predictions, Schuler still believes there are good, solid malls where Wetzel’s can open locations and perform significantly better than its AUV. She knows it because the brand has done it several times this year. For example, the concept debuted at two locations in New Jersey’s 3 million square foot American Dream Mall, and those stores are doubling their average sales.
“There are a lot of amenities online, and I wouldn’t say that’s going to go away,” says Shuler. “I think there will be even more. But I think there is a place for both. Finding the right malls that are experiential destinations and places of entertainment – Wetzel’s will certainly adapt to this.
Co-branding is another form of growth typically implemented by snacking brands – think Great American Cookies / Marble Slab Creamery and Auntie Anne’s / Jamba – but Wetzel hasn’t delved too deeply into this strategy. That’s not to say it’s completely non-existent, however. The brand recently partnered with Utah-based Thirst Drinks to open a food truck, a business that is expected to provide plenty of learning opportunities for other Wetzel food trucks, especially with social media outreach, Schuler said.
This kind of joint effort is worth it on some occasions, but the CEO doesn’t see it as a critical part of the brand’s national expansion program.
“I think we’ve really cultivated a very clear brand voice that’s all about our Californian roots – hip and playful and fun and sometimes irreverent,” said Schuler. “So trying to be matched with something that is complementary products and the right voice is really important to us. So it can be a challenge.
Wetzel’s growth strategy will be guided in part by Marketing Director Kim Freer, who joined the company in July. The industry veteran spent six years at Blaze Pizza, where she led brand marketing for a concept once referred to as “the fastest growing restaurant chain ever.” Schuler says that much of the work Freer has done with brand development and local store marketing has yielded strong performance, and those strategies will be directly transferable to Wetzel’s as he plans to expand into street units. , which require different marketing tools than mall stores or food trucks. .
Schuler also sees Freer’s appointment as an opportunity to improve Wetzel’s digital presence. In her day, Marketing Manager Yoshinoya America helped launch a mobile app, loyalty program, online orders, and curbside pickup.
Wetzel’s is positioned as a place where employees like Freer can bring their passion and expertise and make an impact, says Shuler. Business growth begins with the individual and then extends outward.
This is finally how the brand reached a point where it was ready to offer pretzels to people again.
“The more we focus on the success of our franchisees, the success of our employees, the more results tend to follow and I expect that to happen again in 22,” says Schuler.