WESLEY CHAPEL — The Shops at Wiregrass soon will have some discount competition.
Plato's Closet, a secondhand franchise that specializes in trendy teen clothing, is set to open this summer in the nearby Shoppes at New Tampa, just across State Road 56.
"Back to school is like our Christmas," said René Tirado, co-owner of the new store and several others in the Tampa Bay area.
The new store will have about 5,000 square feet, making it twice the size of a typical Plato's Closet of 2,500 to 3,600 square feet.
According to the company's Web site, the core customer group is girls and women ages 12 to 24, with women ages 25 to 45 — including moms — as the second-largest group. Next come teenage boys and young men.
The stores typically are located in areas with middle- and upper-income demographics (Wesley Chapel has the highest average household income in the county) and near shopping malls with a solid teen draw.
Most of the items are junior sizes 0 to 16 for girls or men's waist sizes 28 to 40. All but about 2 percent of the merchandise is "gently used." Prices are about 60 to 75 percent less than those at a mall.
The store also buys clothing in styles that are 18 months old or less. That never-worn shirt that has been in the closet for three years probably won't get bought, even though the store tags might still be attached.
"We're a cycle behind" the malls, Tirado said.
Popular brands include Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale, Pink by Victoria, Guess, Wet Seal and Forever 21.
Crews soon will install cash registers and fitting rooms. Hiring will start about the first of June. Tirado expects to have about 20 people on the payroll for the back-to-school shopping season.
It will take time to get the store stocked, so it won't sell items for about a month or so after it opens.
"It takes about 22,000 items to fill up a store," Tirado said. "Our buyers go through about 200,000 items."
So, for the benefit of those in mom jeans, what's hot right now?
Jeans, skinny-cut ones with dark finishes, said Tirado, a 41-year-old father of four and a former buyer for Belk stores. And to parents' delight, T-shirts and tank tops long enough to cover midriffs and boys jeans tight enough to actually stay up.
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4604.