2015 bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year Awards: Emerging Franchisor of the Year
Each year many companies take the decision to franchise their business, extend their brand and take on the responsibility of supporting others in becoming self-employed franchisees.
Good franchisors take that responsibility extremely seriously: preparing properly before launching their franchise, putting the right infrastructure in place to provide support to a burgeoning network, growing franchisees’ revenues and business performance…and much, much more.
Those were just a few of the factors that judges were looking for in their finalists for this award, which recognises businesses that have been franchising for less than five years. Having demonstrated their results and standards since their launch, two retail businesses stood out from the crowd; here’s how they’ve approached their early years in franchising.
One Stop Franchise
In a crowded convenience store market dominated by symbol groups, One Stop pioneered something completely different when they trialled, piloted and then launched their franchise model to independent store owners. Featuring a wide-ranging model of systems, support, branding and tangible benefits to truly impact on the trading performance of retailers, One Stop Franchise has made a major impact on its sector less than 18 months since full launch.
Particularly impressive has been the adoption of very strong franchising ethics from the outset. Five pilot operations included very different stores to test the model before full launch in January 2014, and rapid expansion since has been matched by significant investment in infrastructure and support staff to ensure sustainable, long-term growth. Launch support managers spend dedicated time with each new franchisee following conversion to the One Stop brand, and a BDM visits monthly.
A rigorous recruitment selection process is in place, including computerised market and competitor analysis, VIP store visits, access to existing franchisees and a governance sign-off process – this is about quality, not quantity. If a retailer isn’t right for the brand, or vice versa, then they’re not afraid to say so. In a sector traditionally dominated by somewhat hard sell techniques, One Stop’s performance shows that the refreshingly honest approach has been welcomed.
After a retailer joins the network, the brand’s substantial investment in each new franchise store gives it the look and feel of a One Stop and access to a multitude of technologies and systems that they could only otherwise dream of – from automatic stock control to operational software, benchmarking tools to a computerised dashboard that gives them an at-a-glance overview of every aspect of their business. “It’s about making retailing simpler,” says Andrew King, One Stop’s franchise director.
A very strong focus on PR within the c-store media, including concerted efforts to explain what franchising is and carefully position the brand to stand out in a crowded marketplace, has driven enquiries and awareness. With widespread and frequent coverage of the launch and growth of the franchise across all major media outlets in the sector, ‘franchising’ has become something of a buzzword.
Results of all that work have been impressive: just 15 months after launching, One Stop announced it had signed up its 100th franchise store. After six months, the first 20 rebranded stores were averaging an almost 40% increase in turnover across the board. One of the pilot stores has more than doubled its weekly sales. And the strength of those results has been repeated even as the number of stores has risen. The first Scottish stores will open shortly to complete the brand’s franchise march across mainland Britain.
Perhaps best confirming what has been achieved by the business, the CEO and chairman of Tesco have both taken time to personally visit franchisees. One Stop Franchise is being noticed.
Regular finalists in both the Franchisor and Franchisee of the Year awards in the last few years, The ZipYard has used highly distinctive branding, strong media relations, perfect timing and the significant franchising experience and expertise of its owners to become a multimillion-pound brand that dominates its sector, just four years since its UK inception.
A specialist garment repair and alterations service, The ZipYard was launched into a fragmented marketplace at a time when sewing skills are no longer commonplace. Taking bright yellow and black fascias to high streets across the country, at a time when other brands have been leaving such locations, has seen strong brand awareness and personal pride at a franchisee and franchisor level at the part they’re playing in the ongoing regeneration of the UK’s town centres.
That community involvement extends into the importance placed on corporate social responsibility by the franchisor, and imparted to franchisees. Local and national campaigns organised by the brand and its business owners last year included a help the homeless drive, encouraging people to hand in old clothes which were fixed free of charge – 238 sacks of clothing were given to seven charities; numerous sports team sponsorships; and the development of an innovative UK seamstress apprentice scheme.
This is also a business that takes its franchisee support seriously, from premises-finding to seamstress recruitment, and with a 12-month marketing strategy put in place for franchisees. That combines well with a keen focus on PR to help drive up levels of business for the network. Each new store launch includes invitations to local dignitaries, MPs and mayors, with even chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne officially opening a new ZipYard last year!
This activity has created exceptional local media awareness from the off for a new franchisee, which is backed up by professional social media support. New franchisees work alongside the network’s top performers as part of their training package to see first-hand how to maximise the business, followed up with two weeks of on-site support from a head office mentor and regular site visits thereafter.
The focus on branding and support has had a big impact on the network, which has shown very strong year-on-year growth for both franchisees and franchisor. In mid-May, head office had its best week ever recorded, as did five of its franchisees, which followed an increase in annual network turnover growth of nearly 30% to March 2015.
Now in discussions with a major supermarket chain and a large shopping centre to incorporate outlets, The ZipYard plans to have 50 stores in the network by 2018 and to become the go-to brand for UK garment care. It’s well on the way to achieving both.
Winners of the bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year awards, supported by Express Newspapers, will be announced at a black-tie gala dinner on 25 June at the ICC, Birmingham, in front of a record audience.
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