A year to remember for Apollo Blinds

A year to remember has seen Apollo Blinds strengthen its position in the marketplace as Britain's biggest blind store chain. Paul Kirby explains

'If there was a single defining moment which encapsulates this year for Apollo Blinds, it had to be the opening morning of the National Franchise Exhibition at the NEC in October,' says General Manager Patrick Harrison. 'We barely had a chance to get our coats off when we arrived at our stand because there were people queuing to talk to us.

'They said they had made a beeline to us and they wanted to know more about becoming a franchisee with Apollo Blinds because they liked the brand and wanted to find out more about being part of our network. For me this showed just how much of an impact the new Apollo Blinds is having. When we launched the brand a year ago we were very confident that it would be well received, but we didn't expect a reception on this scale.'

Patrick is proud of all the hard work by everyone at Apollo Blinds. The company has repositioned itself in the marketplace and, 12 months on, Britain's biggest blind store chain is in a very strong position. Sales are well above those originally forecasted, franchisee recruitment targets have been exceeded, but more importantly, franchisees are seeing the benefit of the change where it matters most - on their bottom line profitability. 'The figures are very pleasing because we have very clear indicators that Apollo Blinds is achieving significant growth,' says Patrick. 'But it was the anecdotal evidence from franchisees at the recent roadshows we held across the UK that I am delighted with. Some franchisees said the new branding had given them a new found confidence to go out and show just how good Apollo Blinds and its products are.

'The strength of the brand has given customers different expectations of Apollo Blinds and they are now expecting product ranges which are much more akin to the likes of Marks & Spencer, Next and Habitat. This made our franchisees' sales process easier because we could always deliver on the quality of the products, but our prices are much more competitive. Therefore securing orders has become easier as customers are happy to place orders with us because they are happy with both the quality and price of our products.'

The early results fully justify Apollo Blinds' decision to take the company in a new direction. The new branding was the culmination of 18 months of planning by Patrick and the team and was the defining act of his tenure at the helm of the company.

At the heart of his vision to redefine the company was consultation with franchisees about what they wanted from the new Apollo Blinds. A great deal of what has been suggested has already been delivered as a result.

'We took a long hard look at Apollo Blinds and left no stone unturned in terms of establishing exactly where the company was at that time, where it wanted to be and what we needed to do to make that happen,' he says. 'We engaged the services of one of the UK's leading brand specialists to create our new image which incorporated a completely new ethos.

'As part of the development of the new brand we reviewed every aspect of how we communicated the new brand from our suite of advertisements, to exterior signage, to business cards. This has created a consistent brand which reflects how Apollo Blinds provides inspiring ideas that are expertly delivered.

'We were equally meticulous when it came to compiling our new collections. We have just launched our new ranges of Roller, Vertical and Venetian blinds with Pleated and Romans due early in the new year. The new collections contain Apollo Blinds' signature ranges as well as other core lines, but we have also introduced a whole host of new lines further extending our ability to provide the widest choice of window blinds in the UK.'

Patrick thinks that Apollo Blinds will look back on 2006 as a seminal year for the company. 'The change in Apollo Blinds has been nothing short of radical and it has taken a lot of hard work by a lot of people to get us to this position. Our franchisees haven't experienced change on this scale before but they have all bought into where we are going and they can see the benefits both for the network as a whole and their individual businesses.

'I am extremely optimistic for the future prosperity of this company because of the way the public and potential franchisees have reacted to Apollo Blinds this year. It is a new phenomenon for us to have people queuing up on the first day of a franchise exhibition to talk to us and long may it continue.'