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Industry Analysis: The UK children’s services franchise sector in 2024

Industry Analysis: The UK children’s services franchise sector in 2024

Playtime profits: can the children’s services market keep the fun and finances balanced? We look at what the figures and news stories at saying

The children’s services industry is incredibly diverse, but broadly speaking we can divide brands into two categories: essential and non-essential. Parents are likely to see childcare nurseries (which often require the highest investment level) as the most indispensable among franchise brands on offer. The benefit here for franchisees is that the chances of creating a sustainable revenue stream are promising if you’re able to abide by government requirements and reassure parents.

However, that’s not to say that other brands are unimportant – some parents will view services catered to developing children’s social skills, swimming abilities, and general wellbeing just as crucial. Plus, fees for these services are often more affordable than nurseries. From a franchisee perspective, these non-essential franchise brands can be ideal for anyone looking to enter the child services space because they usually require a lower investment level and can offer a more flexible working life in comparison to day care facilities.

Franchises that operate a child-friendly environment can be particularly appealing to prospect franchisees who are working parents as they may need to incorporate their own childcare into their working day. For instance, if a franchisee runs an evening children’s club, they may be able to bring their own children to sessions, enabling them to earn while parenting.

Another draw to investing in a children’s services franchise is the opportunity for a much bigger salary than what can be offered as a staff member. The average salary for childcare workers in the UK is £27,000, while for nursery jobs it is £21,000, according to a survey by recruitment company Total Jobs. The number of childcare workers has dropped over the past few years – now estimated to be around 623,500 according to Statista – which suggests that some contracted staff may be leaving the industry due to poor pay.

Franchising in a children’s services business could provide a solution here by giving low-paid workers the opportunity to become their own boss and take away the salary cap they currently face. However, despite investment, they may still face challenges if they’re looking to hire employees from the dwindling talent pool they once came from.

Yet, there’s also some massive opportunities here, especially when it comes to lucrative public sector contracts, which guarantee a much steadier and more substantial income than what fees from parents can provide alone.

Childcare

Nurseries and day care centres took a big hit in during the pandemic due to national lockdowns. Remote working and fears around infection rates within nurseries have led to some parents reconsidering their need for external childcare.

However, despite an abrupt pause on the industry and a change in consumer behaviour, revenue and demands for nursery and daycare services are beginning to clamber upwards, according to IBIS. This trajectory is unlikely to change, especially if we consider that the cost-of-living crisis is prompting parents to go back to work, and in turn, pay for childcare services.

Furthermore, the UK government has bolstered the use of day care facilities, having recently doubled its investment in early years education to £8 billion annually by 2025 (as at time of writing - February 2024). Some of this money will contribute to funding an increased number of hours for childcare across England.

For franchisees, investing in a nursery could prove lucrative and rewarding. However, success will ultimately hinge on their ability to create a comforting and stimulating environment for the children under their care.

Most parents are well aware of horror stories relating to malpractice within the industry – so much so, that’s there’s a growing rise in home schooling. In response, franchisees need to be reassuring parents and providing visibility over their child’s care (in addition to satisfying Ofsted).

For example, digital updates sent to a parent’s phone throughout the day are becoming increasingly common. This segue into a larger development across the industry: the introduction of technology. We’re now seeing an increasing amount of franchise brands use digital tools to encourage learning and interaction among children, alongside the implementation of a branded curriculum.

These developments help solidify trust and craft a memorable brand that can complement modern day parenting needs. Currently, there are several franchise brands recruiting across the UK, including Canopy Children’s Nurseries (total investment £249,999+), Moonstone Day Care (total investment £120,000), and Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries (minimum investment £300,000).

Sport

There’s a real opportunity for franchise brands to capitalise in the youth sports space. Children overwhelmingly enjoy being active; 61% say they love playing sports and 29% say they like it, according to a study by Statista.

However, there is not necessarily enough opportunity for children to participate in their crucial one hour a day of exercise, seeing as child obesity has risen by 300% over the past 30 years. Franchise brands can lean into this space to create a relied-upon and fulfilling service as well as a sustainable revenue stream.

Overall, competitive sports are the most popular among children, with football at the top of the list for children aged between 11-15. Here, brands include Premier Education which requires a £24,950 minimum investment and regularly partners with schools. The Little Foxes Club similarly offers sports coaching, with a minimum investment of £14,950. While BabyBallers instils a love of football in children as young as 16 months, with a total investment of £9,995 + VAT.

Swimming is also highly popular, especially among younger children who are learning to take to the water for the first time. As a result, there are numerous franchised swimming schools
operating across the UK who are actively recruiting franchisees. This includes Angela’s Swim School (£22,000 minimum investment), Aquababies, (£5,000 minimum investment), Turtle Tots (£13,000 minimum investment), and Water Babies (£5,000 minimum investment).

Aside from these sports, alternative physical activities like skateboarding, dancing, and fishing have piqued the interest of children up and down the country. Brands like Diddi Dance (£4,995 minimum investment) and Children Inspired by Yoga (£10,000 total investment) are leaning into this interest.

Artistic ventures

There’s substantial scientific evidence to show that creativity is an important factor in nurturing imagination, problem solving, self-expression, confidence, and good mental wellbeing in children. As a result, parents are generally keen to pay for extra-curricular enrichment activities.

However, considering the cost of living crisis, luxuries such as extra-curricular activities may be the first thing to go from people’s budgets. Yet, this won’t necessarily be the case
considering that fees for these services are often lower than other businesses operating in the industry.

Franchise brands in the creative space often offer one-hour classes and clubs, which means franchisees are usually able to take on flexible working patterns that enable them to adapt their schedules around other life commitments. This has made artistic franchises a particularly popular investment with working parents and others with caring responsibilities.

Artistic franchise investment opportunities currently include ARTventurers (£5,000 minimum investment), Bricks 4 Kids (£25,000-£50,000 minimum investment), Crayola Imagine Arts Academy (£76,000-£205,000 total investment), Cook Stars (£6,995 minimum investment) and Engino (£20,000 minimum investment).

Meanwhile, performing arts franchises are also keen to expand across the UK, and this includes Footlight Theatre School Academy (£3,995-£13,250 minimum investment), Monkey Music (£12,975 minimum investment), and Stagecoach (£9,000 minimum investment).

Academic

Big emphasis has been placed on tutoring businesses over the past few years. In 2022, the UK government announced the education recovery plan which aimed to bring children back up to speed following the pandemic. This included an almost £5 billion investment, which comprised £1.5 billion specifically for tutoring. If anything, focus here emphasised the importance franchise brands could have in this space, particularly as children’s services businesses often thrive off securing public contracts.

For franchisees, tutoring is an ideal option for those who perhaps enjoy elements of teaching but need the flexibility that working in a school, or even as a supply teacher, just can’t offer. Some franchise options enable franchisees to work with individual children on a home-based basis, such as Choice Home Tutoring (£21,000 + VAT).

Meanwhile others like Kumon UK (£3,000 minimum investment), Mathnasium (£40,000 minimum investment), and Eye Level (£8,000 minimum investment) have a big high street presence whereby groups of children attend educational centres with a uniformed team of tutors on hand.

There’s also growing ground for educational brands that operate beyond the confines of basic school curriculum. For instance, language learning schools such as Kidslingo (£3,000 minimum investment) and Lingotot (£8,200 total investment) are appealing to a new generation of parents who have ambitions to raise their children bi-lingually. No doubt, as this trend grows, we’re likely to see more languages on offer.

Meanwhile, those franchises with a STEM focus may also prove popular because they provide a much more in-depth exploration of science and technology than what can ever be offered in schools. Brands currently looking for franchisees include E2 Young Engineers (£31,000 minimum investment) and Junior Einsteins Science Club (£30,000 minimum investment).

Party services

Children’s parties really hit the headlines ten years ago when a survey first revealed that parents were averagely spending £191 on their child’s birthday celebrations, according to investment management service Nutmeg.

Since then, a whole host of roles have emerged in the industry from venue renters, children’s entertainers, and catering companies to specialist party planners, party stylists, gourmet cake makers, and giant balloon manufacturers. It goes without saying a lot of these services are more likely to be popular in areas where families have higher disposable incomes.

A big pull for franchisees is that the market is currently severely fragmented with a lot of small and micro businesses. Investing in an established brand could provide them with the same independence but with the advantage of additional support, as well as brand reputation.

Some current franchise investment opportunities include Go-Kart Party (minimum investment £14,000), Gamewagon (minimum investment £15,995), and The Detective Project (minimum investment £9995).

Practical

Children’s services always elicit strong images of colourful play areas, lots of toys, and age-appropriate activities. However, beyond nurseries and fun afterschool clubs, there’s a market for those offering more practical services that help parents care for their offspring, even before birth.

A prime example of this is specialist cleaning brands such as Pram Parlour, which aims to get expensive prams looking brand new after being sullied by leftover snack crumbs and all manner of liquids. For those interested in going down this path, investment is £30,000 in total.

We’re particularly seeing a market for services that also centre around capturing childhood memories. A great example of this prenatal scans, which have been launching in highstreets to provide additional photos and videos of babies in the womb in 3D. (Numi Scan has a total investment of £55,000, while Hey Baby 4D similarly has a total investment of £35,000-£55,000.)

Photography studios for family shoots are also another investment opportunity – and one that has recently been given another lease of life by a TikTok trend, which has prompted adults to visit studios to recreate their family photos from their childhood. One such investment opportunity is Venture Studios, which currently has a £70,000-£100,000 minimum investment.

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