With 200 locations in 40 states - and intent to reach 310 units in nearly all major markets by the end of the year - Lids appears ready to wear its success with pride. The Westwood, Mass.-based hat retailer has a new prototype design and also has begun a kiosk initiative (both concepts were designed by Montreal-based Michel Dubuc Concepts), which is likely to expand Lids' growth opportunity with smaller, customizable RMUs.

Nancy Babine-Kucinski, president and chief operating officer for Lids, explains that, while Lids' original, in-line stores are still fresh and appealing, the new prototype uses lighter colors to better accent merchandise. "Our stores always have been very contemporary, and it's the merchandising of the hats that has really driven the customers in," she says, adding that dark wall colors such as black and navy blue end up absorbing the products' common colorations.

"So we really wanted a design that would be clean and contemporary but also allow us to better highlight the product. Now, we're able to put the hats against a very open fixture design, so it allows the merchandise to jump out visually."

Kucinski notes that the emphasis for Lids' new kiosk, at approximately 200 sq. ft., was to make the product more accessible to customers. "For most kiosks, merchandise is set under glass," she says. "That really doesn't work for us because our customer likes to try on the hats, bend the brim, look in the mirror and feel free with the product. The new kiosk is a very interactive design, and at the end of the day, we can push the fixtures back together and close it up.

"We have a couple of kiosks currently, but we've been very reluctant to roll it out because we did not think we had a design that was to our customers' liking," she continues. "So this new design presents a whole new opportunity for Lids. The kiosk has very much the same contemporary feel as the new stores."

Kucinski says one of the company's greatest strengths is its mass appeal to many different market segments. Because of that, she says, Lids would be a natural fit with many different types of shopping centers.

"Where there's traffic we can do business," she says. "Because our product is an impulsive product, we feel we can entice customers in our stores through strong assortments, and we can do business in a lot of places. Where most concepts are either high-end or low-end, we really aim at the masses.

"Over the next seven years, Kucinski says, Lids is looking to notch a store base of approximately 1,000 units. To accomplish that goal, the retailer will look to in-fill locations in existing and/or neighboring markets. "We're [already] across the entire country," she says. "Whether we hit the Dakotas this year, I don't know. But we're a national retailer, and our focus now is to go back in and to penetrate and cluster our existing markets.