Shopping: Britain’s patriotic duty

Napoleon once said: “Britain is a nation of shopkeepers.” This is still true today with retail remaining strong and new brands filling the sector. Jenna Leeds reports on why retail is staying so appealing

Owning a retail franchise does not come easy, with high-level investment costs due to commercial property, equipment and staff why do so many people still see retail franchising as a route to success? With retail it’s often the case, the more you put in, the more you get out. Retailing is extremely rewarding and compared to other markets, it has an almost unbeatable return on investment. It is also very resilient as we’ve seen over the past few years throughout the recession, we’ve seen new brands waving in and out of the market and its only been the great and the good that are with us today. However no matter how many retailers go out of business, there are still new businesses springing up in the marketplace.

Nigel Toplis, Managing Director of The Bardon Group, which includes retail franchise brands – The ZipYard, Recognition Express and Computer Xplorers, has seen tremendous growth with The ZipYard particularly in just 18 months it has gone from having zero outlets to now 11 and by the end of 2013 it aims to have 30 centres in total, with a further 100 within the next three to four years. Nigel says: “Like every other sector, the key to business success is identifying your core audience, winning them and keeping them. A customer’s contribution over time should turn from them being simply customers into clients into friends.”

The Bardon Group are not the only franchise brand seeing growth; Auntie Anne’s , retail food franchise opened ten new outlets in 2012 plus two new mobile retail outlets. Robert Burton of Auntie Anne’s said: “Our business plan sets out further growth, taking us from 30 stores to, we hope, 45 locations. We are looking at continuing to grow in the major UK shopping centres in the UK; busy high streets, and also to move into university campuses, railway stations, airports and also busy motorway service stations.”

So, why retail?

Other than the challenge and excitement of going into retail franchising, here at The Franchise Magazine we see franchise owners being attracted to the powerful location on the high street being offered as nearly all retail franchises are located in busy shopping centres, in visible, prime locations where the product can be powerfully seen. A location like this is guaranteed to attract shoppers passing by and to help raise the franchise brand’s profile. It would be very difficult, without paying a high price, to have such a strong platform with a general start up business.

A man who knows the importance of the look and feel of a store is Troy Tappenden, Managing Director of the kitchen facelift franchise, Dream Doors. Troy believes with some product there is nothing more powerful than seeing it in the flesh. He says: “Online retailers might give us the opportunity to shop from the comfort of the couch, but there are some purchases – such as kitchens and bathrooms – where a retail outlet is still very important.

“Customers want to see and touch the product, and they want to know where to go if anything were to go wrong. A showroom is tangible, it gives the business credibility.

"Dream Doors appeals to retirees, who value trust and reliability over price – and they also like to shop local and support their own community. When our franchisees open a showroom it quadruples their turnover.”

For the prospective franchise owner it is the possibility of owning their own retail empire that they find most appealing. Even though it is not theirs so to speak, they still feel both a sense of control and comfort in the confinement of running a franchise. However it is important to remember when running this ‘empire’ that outgoings tend to be more than any other type of franchise. Franchise owners will normally have to pay rent, bills, staff wages and stock.

Franchisors in this market are also very open to people from all sorts of backgrounds as the training and support programmes from a retail franchise are so thorough that they make it hard for you to go wrong. However it is the case that retailing tends to attract those who have experience in retail and business and more importantly love working with people and face to face selling. So the desire to provide excellent customer is a must in retail. Read more here to understand its importance. A franchise retail brand that uses customer service as a powerful tool in its product is Suit the City.

Suit the City offers an exclusive personal service providing high quality made-to-measure suits and separates for men and women. Suit the City franchisor, Sallie Belton has realised with the growth of online and to compete with these retail giants, smaller businesses must look for niche products, offer expert superior service that you would otherwise not get from an online business, and meet demand by offering something unique. Suit the City have proved they are extremely innovative in their thinking as within their franchise, there are no standard retail outlets. The franchise owner goes out to the customer, instead of the customer going to a central location or store. This way of working has proven to work for both parties – the franchise owner has very low overheads, while the customer gets great value for money, convenience and receives excellent service.

The retail marketplace is changing constantly and it is important to find ways of adapting and keeping up with the demands of your customer and also spotting trends early.

As we have explained, running a well established, branded store in a busy and high-pressured environment is hard work. When considering a retail franchise, ask yourself what is important to you, as working in this sector often doesn’t appeal to those looking for a smaller, hands-on business. With high reward comes responsibility and there is a requirement of not only managing customers but managing staff and you would be required to hire and manage staff as well as working long hours and often weekends. But remember in this game, hard work equals profit and many franchise owners have built a very successful working/life balance owning and operating a retail franchise and have even expanded into multi-unit franchise owners.

According to a report produced for the BRC by Oxford Economics and the Oxford Institute of Retail Management, shows that the retail sector makes major contributions to:

  • Employment and training: 10.5% of all jobs, including 40% of all under 20s in employment, are in retail; and the sector is responsible for 12% of total UK investment in training.
  • The economy and the public purse: retailers support £47 billion of output from other sectors; and the sector pays £17.5 billion of the four largest taxes (9% of the UK total).
  • Delivering value for customers: goods are 5% cheaper overall than the Eurozone; and households now spend 10% of their income on food compared with a third in the 1950s.
  • Driving innovation: UK retail accounts for 11% of global internet retail sales; mobile commerce is the fastest growing channel with 27% of UK adults smartphone users in 2011.