Franchisees get new look for the future

As the refurbishment of the Apollo Blinds network of showrooms draws to a close, the franchisees of the showroom that was used as a showcase for the new design talk about their hopes for the future with the new look Apollo Blinds

'Our franchise business has been completely transformed,' says Christine Firth, who operates her Apollo Blinds franchise showroom in Leeds with husband Gerard. 'At a stroke we effectively have a new franchise business because the new Apollo Blinds looks so far removed from the old image.

'It looks and feels very different. People are already looking at the business in a new light. We are already seeing more people stopping and looking at our showroom and more new customers are coming inside to take a closer look.'

The couple's business is typical of Apollo Blinds franchise stores across the UK which are also undergoing changes. The company has been on a strict deadline to have all the stores refurbished with the new branding by the end of this summer.

But for Christine and Gerard the impending completion of the store refurbishment programme marks the end of a period where all their fellow Apollo Blinds franchisees looked to them to see the future of the company.

Their store was used as the template which enabled the designers of Apollo Blinds' new branding to define and develop the new look, and when that new look was first revealed to franchisees, everyone had a benchmark of what their business was going to look like. 'It was an honour that our showroom was used as the template to show how Apollo Blinds was going to look,' says Gerard.

'The designers came in and took pictures from all angles both inside and out. They used the pictures to mock up how the signage was going to be used to create the best impact for the brand.

'We tried to get a sneaky peak in advance but they didn't want to spoil our surprise so we only saw it for the first time with the rest of our fellow franchisees. When it was first revealed we were gobsmacked. It was fantastic. Even now, it is still very flattering to know that it was our showroom which was used to help our fellow franchisees envisage exactly how their own businesses would look when their stores were refurbished. But now our store has been completed we can get on with the reason we are in business - generating more sales.'

The couple from Cookridge can already see the difference the new look of Apollo Blinds is making to their franchise. 'We finally have an image that fits with the service we offer and the quality of window blinds that people can expect from Apollo Blinds,' adds Christine. 'The new look is stylish, modern and minimalist. It is very simple but says so much about the quality of the Apollo Blinds brand and the products.

'It also conveys what our customers can expect from Apollo Blinds when they walk through the door of our franchise. We offer a consultative service giving advice about the best ways to dress a window to give it the most impact in a room. While the brand looks contemporary and sophisticated, blinds cost less than people think. This is because Apollo Blinds is part of the Hunter Douglas Group which is the world's largest manufacturer of window blinds.

'We have access to the widest range of window blinds and because Apollo Blinds is able to offer such great margins, we can generate a healthy profit on the sale of each blind. We are in a very lucky position because we can offer great products at a great price and make great profits.'

Apollo Blinds General Manager Patrick Harrison is pleased with the reaction the new brand is generating. 'When I first saw how the new branding would look on the mock ups of the Cookridge franchise showroom, I knew that we had created something special,' he says. 'And when we first showed the franchisees I think they were a bit shocked because the new image was so far removed from the old one. I think they found it hard to believe how much their businesses were about to change for the better.

'But on the evidence of Christine and Gerard, along with other franchisees who have had their showrooms refurbished already, they can definitely see a prosperous future ahead of them.'