Apollo Blinds: 'It's not just us saying it'

Apollo Blinds' General Manager Patrick Harrison has not stopped smiling since the publication of a heavyweight independent report which showed the huge growth of the window blinds sector over the last five years. Paul Kirby reports

There it was in black and white. Window blinds sales up by 62 per cent over the last five years. The results of the new Mintel report were splashed in the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph to name but a few.

It was brilliant because it felt like somebody else had finally cottoned on to what we had been saying for years. The window blinds market has been growing at a dramatic rate and our company has been prospering as a result. This is why we can rightfully claim to be Britain's biggest blinds store chain because we are building a network of showrooms right across the UK where franchisees are running their own prosperous business as part of Apollo Blinds.

Our own marketing activity has been designed to reflect our growth and how well our company is performing, but the Window Furnishings and Accessories report is finally concrete independent proof of that. Its bottom line figure says that our industry's sales hit an all-time high of £445 million in 2006.

It put the growth in demand down to blinds being easy to maintain and the trend for simple and casual decor in the home. We call it the 'Changing Rooms effect' because the raft of TV home-makeover shows has given homeowners the confidence to transform their homes.

Yet the rising popularity of blinds is not just indicative of fashion but also of the fact that people are increasingly maximising the usable space in existing properties. Blinds clearly take up a lot less space than voluminous curtains, which is a real benefit where space is tight. The report has been a godsend and we are going to use the findings as part of our marketing activity because we can point to independent research which highlights just what an excellent investment opportunity Apollo Blinds is for anyone who wants to start their own business.

It strengthens our position as the UK's most attractive franchise proposition and creates an even stronger case for anyone who wants to start their own franchise business with us because they will be joining the UK's market-leading retail chain and can generate a substantial return on their investment.

A new franchising challenge for Victor and Tilly

Victor and Tilly Okenyi are a rare breed in franchising circles. They ran a successful franchise courier business in Hull for many years employing 17 people, but got to the point where they wanted a fresh franchising challenge. So they have swapped parcels for measuring tapes and have just opened Apollo Blinds' new flagship store in Sheffield.

'I love franchising,' says Victor. 'When I sold my last business I knew I wanted another franchise and Apollo Blinds fitted the bill perfectly. They have a real drive and ambition to cement their position as Britain's biggest blinds store chain and I want to be part of that and build another business under their brand.

'Although the window blinds industry is completely different from what I've done before, the Apollo Blinds franchise framework has already made it very easy for me to start sowing the seeds of another prosperous and successful franchise.' The couple were so keen to join Apollo Blinds that they were not put off by the fact that there is already a franchisee in their home town. Apollo Blinds identified a gaping opportunity in Sheffield and the couple saw the potential of the area which is a short hop west on the M18.

They have spent the last 12 months working with Apollo Blinds to identify just the right location and found a site on the main route between the Meadowhall shopping centre and the city centre.

The couple's new showroom is the largest Apollo Blinds store in the UK and will be used as the benchmark as the company continues with its aggressive expansion plans. Apollo Blinds' General Manager Patrick Harrison believes Victor has joined just at the right time as the company recently re-branded and is about to roll out a consumer advertising campaign nationwide. 'Victor is a very experienced businessman and could have had his pick of any franchise company but I think it speaks volumes about our brand and ambitions that he chose to become a part of our network,' says Patrick. 'The location of his new showroom in Sheffield is perfect as there is plenty of passing traffic, which should give him ample opportunity to get his business off the ground.

'Victor is typical of the kind of investors that the new Apollo Blinds is attracting because they recognise a genuine opportunity to be part of a company which is extending its market share in the industry and can deliver a good return on investment.'