Advertisement
  1. Business

Rent-A-Center is new to franchising — and this Tampa company is benefiting

A new division of Impact, Impact RTO Holdings, has amassed the single-largest chunk of franchised Rent-A-Centers: 76 stores. Shirin Kanji, inset, is its president. [Photos courtesy Rent-A-Center, Shirin Kanji]
Published Jun. 8, 2018

TAMPA — Shirin Kanji's family business history was in hotels.

But in 2008, amid a lag in hotel stays because of the recession, Kanji decided his family's portfolio at Impact Properties needed to diversify beyond hospitality.

He landed on retail — but not in the traditional sense.

He wanted to be a franchise owner of Rent-A-Center. But for decades, the rent-to-own furniture, appliance and electronic stores had only been corporately held. That's changing now.

A new division of Impact, Impact RTO Holdings, has amassed the single-largest chunk of franchised Rent-A-Centers: 76 stores. Kanji is its president.

"At first, I entertained a lot of different opportunities," Kanji, 38, said in an interview Thursday. "Early 2015, as discussions got underway with Rent-A-Center, they were just starting the idea of refranchising. … What they were looking to do was pretty sustainable in terms of scope and scale."

Texas-based Rent-A-Center is still just tiptoeing into franchising.

Out of 2,400 Rent-A-Center stores nationwide, only 180 are under franchisee ownership. That number is expected to grow — though to how many is unclear.

"There's not a set amount," said Rent-A-Center's executive vice president of franchises, Cathy Skula. "It's pretty much with what you see with franchises at large. It evolves to the balance that makes sense."

Kanji owns stores in eight states. He recently acquired 31 of them after the success of his first 45. The bulk are in Florida, 26, and Georgia, 18.

Customers at Rent-A-Center are able to make monthly payments on the items and return them or pay them off and keep them. Its core customers are typically working with tight budgets — a different customer than the hotel reach Kanji's family already had.

Kanji's Rent-A-Center locations had all been company owned until he bought them outright starting in 2015. Skula said franchisers also have opportunities to open their own stores, not just take over existing ones.

Skula said the company found that for certain markets, individual owners have been able to better cater merchandise to their clientele rather than rely on the standard corporate catalogue.

"We operate in cities, suburbs, rural areas and small and big towns," Kanji said. "If there's a prominent school or business and there's that local pride, we might tie into that."

So, for his Gainesville-area stores that could mean orange-and-blue options for Gators fans.

Kanji aims to control 100 stores within a few years.

"It's a big undertaking but for us, it's been more than worthwhile," he said. "It's not all doom and gloom in retail. There are segments that are performing really well. It's not just Amazon."

So far, Kanji said, he hasn't acquired any stores in Tampa Bay, where Rent-A-Center has a strong corporate presence. He'd love to someday — but he said there is still more refranchising to go.

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.

More retail news: Lucky's Market opens in St. Petersburg, lures shoppers with low-priced organic produce

More business news here.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. A citrus grove in eastern Hillsborough County. [Times (2017)]
    The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is predicting a 3.3 percent increase for the struggling industry.
  2. Gas prices may go up as much as 5 cents this week, AAA, The Auto Club Group, said. Pictured is a man filling up at a gas station in St. Petersburg in 2017. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times  (2017)] SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Gas dropped 10 cents on average in Tampa Bay last week and 6 cents on average in Florida.
  3. Artist Danny Acosta completes re-lettering  of the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A. marker in Key West after much of the paint was stripped off in Hurricane Irma in 2017. [Florida Keys News Bureau via the Associated Press]
    Less than 10 percent of U.S. counties are "vacation home'' counties.
  4. The Maple Street Biscuit Company opened in April on the 600 block of Central Avenue. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
    The popular Jacksonville biscuit shop has recently opened a handful of Tampa Bay locations.
  5. [Getty Images] PHOTOGRAPHER: RASMUS JURKATAM; RASMUS JURKATAM  |  Getty Images
    A frustrated business card user learns that his on-time payments don’t boost his personal credit score.
  6. Regina Temple is the new president and CEO at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. HCA West Florida
    Read this and more Pasco County business news.
  7. The City Council has called for consultants to design an outdoor concert pavilion with a fixed covering over 4,000 seats in the middle of its proposed overhaul of the downtown waterfront. That decision is causing some friction in the city as officials prepare to present preliminary design drawings to the public. City of Clearwater
    Some in the city are divided over Clearwater’s $64.5 million plan.
  8. Tampa Bay workers are more likely than employees in other metros to quit because of a boss they don’t like, according to a recent survey. Pictured are job seekers at a Tampa job fair in June. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times] JONES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tampa Bay and Miami tied for the percentage of employees who quit because of a boss.
  9. Recent sunny day flooding in Shore Acres, a St. Petersburg neighborhood vulnerable to rising sea levels. [Times] Susan Taylor Martin
    The organizations will explore the impact of climate change on Florida.
  10. The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences - Pasco Extension opened an incubator kitchen on Sept. 23. It's  at 15029 14th Street in Dade City. The goal of the kitchen is to create educational opportunities for food entrepreneurs and help them to start new businesses. Whitney Eleamor (center left) developed the idea for the kitchen. PAIGE FRY  |  Paige Fry
    The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last week for the Pasco County Extension Service community kitchen.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement