Apollo Blinds is embarking on a large-scale franchise network expansion plan that will see it double its number of franchisees over the next five years. General Manager Patrick Harrison speaks to Paul Kirby about the company's new impetus
Already market leader in its sector, Apollo Blinds has big ambitions to strengthen its position and increase its network of franchisees' stores and showrooms right across the UK. The company wants to capitalise on its 30-year heritage and the continued positive consumer response to the brand by attracting even more investors who want to buy into the future prosperity of Apollo Blinds. In order to achieve this, recently appointed General Manager Patrick Harrison has been developing a five year plan in conjunction with Apollo Blinds' parent company Hunter Douglas.
The first building blocks have been put into place internally. Patrick has begun to implement a strategy to expand the infrastructure which will support the growth of the company. 'We had to make sure we're geared up for growth,' he says. 'As more franchisees come on board, we have to guarantee that we can deliver the service and support they require to make their franchise a success from day one. Our manufacturing capability is second to none and we can easily process many more orders for window blinds, but it is the support we offer franchisees that is crucial.'
The appointment of two new faces to the management team will boost the company's ability to help support franchisees. Craig Atherton and Andy Wynter will work alongside Ian Thornton as the Regional Management Team, charged with offering more direct support to individual franchisees.
Ian Thornton is responsible for Scotland and Ireland, Craig Atherton's area of England will stretch from the Scottish border to the North Midlands and North Wales, and Andy Wynter will cover the South Midlands to the south coast and South Wales.
'Our strategy is to have the Regional Managers in place to provide much more structured support for the franchisees,' adds Patrick. 'Both Andy and Craig have proven track records expanding the network of retail units and are expert at opening and supporting new stores. They have worked with Floors 2 Go and McDonald's respectively and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience with them that our franchisees can tap into to maximise every opportunity in their business.'
With the plan in place and the management team structured to deliver on its commitment, Apollo Blinds is now actively recruiting to find people who want to turn the dream of owning their own business into a reality.
What does this mean for franchisees?
Getting the 'behind the scenes' infrastructure right is key, but what does this mean for people considering taking a franchise with Apollo Blinds?
'We know improving our structure is a prerequisite for any company in anticipation of expansion,' reflects Patrick. 'But it also means we help franchisees to generate a better return on their investment.
'That is the issue at the core of everything we have addressed in the five year plan because that is the primary motivator for anyone wanting to make an investment in a business which will be their livelihood.'
Key factors in generating return on investment include the fact that the window blinds sector is well known for the high gross margins and high net returns that can generate healthy profits. Added to which, the window furnishings and accessories industry is now worth an estimated £1.24 billion in the UK and growing steadily at a rate of approximately seven per cent per year. If that wasn't reason enough, being part of Hunter Douglas - the world's biggest manufacturer of blinds for windows and conservatories - is the icing on the cake. This gives Apollo Blinds franchisees access to the widest possible range of window blinds and they can take advantage of the extremely competitive wholesale prices which can be obtained because of the sheer scale of the Hunter Douglas manufacturing operation.
With the franchisee support infrastructure in place and a strong economic argument, Apollo Blinds is confident it will deliver its objective and double its franchisee network in the next five years.
The company will build on its stronghold in the Scotland and North of England and has already identified key target territories in the Midlands, the South of England, Wales and Ireland. Concludes Patrick: 'We hope we have built a compelling case on every level to make the Apollo Blinds proposition one of the first options for people looking to franchising as the route to building their own business.'