Ableworld offers a growing franchise in a growing market
Why do successful companies decide to offer their business model as a franchise? For the country’s largest mobility retailer, Ableworld, it was to expand its trusted brand and capitalise on the growth of the mobility sector.
The mobility industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in today’s retail space. UK demographic and economic forces are very positive. There are currently almost 15 million people aged 60 and above in the UK and this is predicted to rise to 20 million by 2030.
People are living longer and the millions of baby boomers born in the 1950s and 1960s, now reaching their third age, frequently need the products and services Ableworld offers. And since many people in this age group often have final salary pensions and sizeable property equity, they have the resources to purchase equipment like mobility scooters, specialist furniture and stairlifts.
Ableworld opened 10 of its own stores before offering its model up for franchising. The company now has 32 stores across the country from Scotland to Southampton and Colchester to Cardiff. 15 of these stores are company owned and 17 have been opened under the franchise umbrella.
Having its own stores as well as franchises means Ableworld has skin in the game, giving franchisees the security of knowing that if the franchisor says something will work, it probably will. It also means a process of continuous improvement exists, as company stores and franchise stores find ever better ways of doing business and sharing best practice.
One of the areas that has improved from the early days is the procedure for opening new stores and bringing new franchisees on board. The need to make sure everything is fully documented and having a dedicated store opening project team means several recent openings have been record breakers, giving franchisees a jump start in their new businesses.
Approximately a third of the initial franchise fee is allocated to marketing activity around the time of the store opening, with substantial coverage in the local press and online. Franchise support managers also visit stores on a regular basis to help with ongoing training, brand adherence, coaching and marketing support. This, together with the sort of head office support you would expect from a national retail chain, means help is never far away.
Ableworld’s strategy is to build a trustworthy brand, so that it can capitalise on the market forces referred to above. The company has grown significantly both organically and by acquisition and will always consider these options going forward.
However, Ableworld is convinced the main engine of growth as far as the store network is concerned will be via the franchise model. It’s targeting a national coverage of 60-70 stores in four years’ time, with at least 60 per cent of the total being franchised owned outlets. New stores already planned for 2016 include locations in the south west, Scotland, the north east and the Midlands, with other potential locations being added every month. An Ableworld franchise is ideally suited to two or more people pooling their skills and several franchises are owned by husband and wife teams. Franchisees come from a wide variety of backgrounds such as sales, retail, construction, the armed forces, teaching and health.
No previous experience of the mobility industry is needed, as the company has a comprehensive training programme. Successful franchisees combine a desire to help others with their personal skills and the proven Ableworld franchise system to create a business that makes a difference in their community.
Ableworld also encourages multiple franchise ownership when franchisees have mastered the franchise model. In fact, at least three of this year’s new store openings are likely to be by existing franchise owners.
With more than 30 stores nationwide, Ableworld is growing. Thanks to its successful and proven franchise model, it will continue to grow as it strives to maintain its position as the number one mobility retailer in the UK