Apollo Blinds: A service that customers trust

Buoyed by an overwhelmingly positive reaction to its network re-branding exercise, Apollo Blinds is seeking new franchisees to build its national presence. General Manager Patrick Harrison reports

Deciding upon a franchise is right up there at the top of the list of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. It requires a big investment, both financially and emotionally. It also has serious implications that will affect you, your family and your worklife.

But if you're reading this, you've no doubt given these issues a lot of thought already. So the next, and biggest step, is finding the right franchisor. This is where companies set out their stall telling you why you should join their franchise network.

This is where I can confidently rattle off a whole host of reasons why you should consider Apollo Blinds. We are Britain's biggest blind store chain. We are market leaders in retail sales of window blinds. We are part of Hunter Douglas, the world's largest manufacturer of window blinds. Because of this we have access to the widest choice of window blinds in the UK and the scale of production means our wholesale prices are extremely competitive. Healthy profits and a substantial return on investment can be generated because the window blinds industry has high gross margins and high net returns.

We operate in a sector that has demonstrated steady and above inflation growth for the last decade. We supply into a market which services the 'Changing Rooms culture', where people have become more confident about changing their living environment. This market has also seen a steady increase in the growth of cash-rich, time-poor consumers who don't do DIY - they want an expert to come in and do it for them.

If this is starting to sound appealing then what I'm about to say may tip the scales even further in our favour. Our five-year programme to double the size of the network has seen unparalleled investment by Hunter Douglas in our company.

The most significant investment has been in our new brand identity. We have completely reinvented ourselves to reposition the company on the high street. Apollo Blinds' new logo is modern, clean and inspiring. It sits perfectly alongside brands like Next, Marks & Spencer and Habitat.

The new brand has been very well received. Since its launch we have been widely applauded for the new look of Apollo Blinds. Now we have the new brand in place it feels like it was an easy transition, but we had to go through a long process which involved taking a 'warts and all' review of our old brand. We needed to know what existing and potential customers and our franchisees thought of it, as this would play an integral part in shaping the new brand. We weren't too surprised when the feedback came back that the old brand was tired and dated.

But what did surprise us was the sheer strength and volume of comments about the service we deliver and the core values of the business. We were awash with comments such as: 'they gave us a lot of attention', 'they are lovely people', 'it's the service - the lady spent a lot of time with me' and 'the man knew what he was talking about'.

The distillation of these comments provided conclusive proof that Apollo Blinds is perceived as service led, locally rooted, family run, part of a national brand and provides high quality products that are value for money. Above all else though, the service we provide inspires consumer confidence.

Like every company, we strive to deliver the best customer service we possibly can but it still came as a bit of shock to realise the extent to which we have created a culture of providing a helpful and knowledgeable service that consumers trust. This information finally provided a link that we were always aware of anecdotally, but had never dared to quantify.

For many of our more established franchisees, as much as half of their custom comes from repeat business. Consumers have never been more discerning and fickle so for repeat business to be such a significant proportion of sales, it represents an important validation of what we do and the way we do it.

So, we have the right brand in place and are building on our core values to consolidate our position as Britain's biggest blind store chain. We also have a service led proposition which resonated with our target customer base, and that keeps them coming back. But rather than simply taking our word for it, isn't your next step to take a look at Apollo Blinds in more detail?