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The ZipYard Altrincham - England's first clothing alterations franchiseRichard McConnell, 33, opened his clothing alterations, repairs and tailoring franchise, The ZipYard, in Altrincham in September 2011. Although well established in Ireland, Richard's business is the first ZipYard centre in England, bringing on-site repairs and alterations to the high street in purpose-designed premises with fully trained staff.
Originally from Derry in Northern Ireland, Richard moved to the UK in 1997 to study for a Management & Accountancy degree at the University of Huddersfield. Richard is married to Marie and their first child, Darcey, was born in October 2011.
Education and early careerAfter University, Richard travelled and worked across Australia, Asia and Europe, often taking up jobs involving either door-to-door or telephone sales.
"It takes real inner strength to do those kind of jobs," says Richard, "because you are constantly being turned down. You have to put up with a lot of rejection and negativity but it does build character!"
In 2003, Richard moved back to Huddersfield to work in recruitment for four years until deciding to branch out and become a driving instructor.
"I was 24 years old and I wasn't enjoying the groundhog-day feeling of working in an office. I craved a new environment and wanted to get out and meet people. I was looking for work when an advert for becoming a driving instructor in the local newspaper grabbed my attention.
"I liked the flexibility that the job offered along with working my own hours and being my own boss."
Richard joined a franchise operation for three years before setting up his own independent driving instruction business for five years.
What led you to switch from being a driving instructor to running a ZipYard centre?"My wife and I wanted to start a family, but my hours as a driving instructor were really unsociable, mainly during evenings and weekends. We didn't think this would fit in well with family life so I started looking around at different opportunities. We had saved up a bit of money and thought that investing in a franchise was a less risky option.
"We did lots of research in the franchise press and online, and looked into a wide variety of franchises."
Why did you choose The ZipYard?"My wife noticed The ZipYard advert and she thought it was a fantastic idea. We did some research and quickly realised that there was no real competition in our area. Most of the time clothing repairs are done as a bolt-on service at dry cleaners. The turn-around time isn't very good and they don't offer a very wide range of services.
"We went to meet Nigel Toplis, the franchisor, and we visited a centre in Wales. We were impressed by the professionalism of the franchise. The brand is very strong and the shop fit is amazing, from the fitting rooms to the equipment and layout. They really know what they are doing and can cater for every kind of alteration and repair on site."
What kind of support have you had setting up your franchise?"Both myself and my wife, Marie, have received comprehensive training, at The ZipYard training centre in Belfast and more 'hands-on' experience in a working centre. The training covered everything from administration and office processes to employment contracts, employment law, pricing, tills, equipment maintenance and the general day-to-day running of the centre.
"Nigel and his team helped us to source the right premises and even helped us to negotiate the lease. There are so many areas that I knew nothing about, such as break clauses and other contractual technicalities where Nigel's team have been invaluable. I'm so glad we weren't on our own."
How is it going?"It's going brilliantly and we are getting busier every week. In the first six weeks we saw our sales rise by 600 per cent!
"The reaction from customers is amazing," continues Richard. "They seem genuinely ecstatic that we are here and their faces light up when they come in to the centre. They are delighted that we can breathe new life into clothes that they can't wear or that are damaged in some way."
What are your future plans for the business?"Once we've got this centre up and running to full capacity we would love to open up a second one. Marie would also like to get more involved with the business once Darcey has grown up a bit."
Would you recommend a ZipYard franchise to potential franchise owners?"Absolutely, no doubt about it. It is one of the most unique franchises available, with a professionalism and quality that just shines through."
Franchisee testimonials"I like the concept of reviving clothing you've already got. My motto is: Don't buy new, the one you've got will do!"
Kevin Old, The ZipYard Bournemouth
"In the first six weeks we saw our sales rise by 600 per cent! We're delighted that so many people have discovered our new shop in such a short time."
Richard McConnell, The ZipYard Altrincham
"Most people don't have the time or skills to repair or alter their own clothes and perfectly good clothes are left hanging in the closet."
Jill Phillips, The ZipYard Basingstoke
Total Cost: Approx. £33,000 + VAT plus shop fit
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