As some high street brands continue to struggle, retail’s loss is increasingly looking like being franchising’s gain
Every week seems to bring news of yet another retail giant struggling to keep afloat.
From Toys R Us to Poundland, almost 150,000 retail jobs were lost in 2018, according to the Centre for Retail Research. Asda, Debenhams and House of Fraser have all said they may need to scale back their stores and staff numbers this year too, with more than 10,000 shops predicted to close this year.
That’s hundreds of thousands of individuals and families who are having to rethink their jobs, security and spending. From those looking for reliable and fair contracts to more senior figures in the industry looking for a new challenge, what is retail’s loss is increasingly looking like being franchising’s gain.
Service led society
Everyone has their own theory about why we’re shopping less - from business rates to new technology. But one trend is clear - the switch from spending on ‘stuff’ to buying more services and experiences.
This has led to an increased value on our leisure time, a shift in what we choose to spend that time doing and what we prefer to pay someone else to do for us.
As a direct result, the number of people using some form of help in the home has risen steadily, with recent research by insurer Esure finding that demand for home cleaners has grown by over 25 per cent.
Our Bright & Beautiful housekeeping franchisees are reporting consistent growth in their new clients, a trend that is reflected across the Neighborly group of service franchise businesses.
New career path
While the focus within the declining retail sector has primarily been on shop floor job losses, there has obviously been a similar impact on more senior figures within each business, from marketing and HR to buyers. The opportunities for anyone at a senior level to move across within the sector have similarly dwindled, so many are looking outside retail and to a fresh start in franchising.
The most successful franchisees, in our experience, are those who have had some management experience and we already have a number with a senior retail background.
Caroline Campbell joined Bright & Beautiful in 2015, leaving behind a 30-year career working for and heading up operations for major national retailers such as Mothercare, Woolworths to Jessops.
Her most recent role was head of operations for Clintons, managing a budget of £34 million and providing operational direction and support to 400 shops and over 3,500 staff. She has continued to grow her Bright & Beautiful business year on year and now employs 13 professional housekeepers and services over 78 clients.
In the past year we have seen a significant upturn in enquiries from professionals working within the retail sector and are about to confirm four new franchisees from the retail sector launching new territories across the UK.
One of these is David Harrison, who having left school at 16 has spent his entire career in retail. David held a number of senior positions in the industry, including retail director at Dunelm, retail director at TJ Hughes, district manager at TK Maxx and most recently as senior manager at Marks & Spencer.
He says: “After working my way up to achieve some very senior positions, my last position at M&S has given me a real insight into what high standards can be achieved by recruiting the right people and giving them the right training, motivation and inspiration to do things well.”
Now David is looking forward to delivering a first class housekeeping service to his clients and running his own business with the added support, guidance and expertise an established franchisor offers.
Recession and future proof sector The effects of Brexit are as yet unknown, but British retail sales fell by their most in 17 months in March 2019, reflecting an understandable concern among shoppers about Britain’s Brexit impasse. Online retail is facing tough trading conditions too, with ASOS, the UK’s biggest online only fashion retailer, issuing a profit warning in December.
So while online shopping and technology in general has revolutionised the way we live our lives, there are some jobs that need the human touch. And while there are a few robotic cleaning devices now on the market, we’ve yet to see one that can mop floors, clean windows, iron and put away clothes.
This survival instinct is certainly proving key to the world’s most successful franchise brands, which continue to evolve and adapt to make themselves ever more relevant.
Key transferable skills
We know what makes a great franchisee and there are many parallels between those essential skills and the abilities senior roles in retail demand, such as:
- People management. From training and growing a team to relating to customers and clients, there are many crucial parallels between the two sectors, regardless of franchise type. Being a ‘people person’ is key to building relationships and making a success of a business.
- Commercial nous. Being accountable for the success and cost of your business and always looking for ways to create efficiencies and seize opportunities to grow.
- Marketing skills. While a good franchisor will give you a lot of help in marketing your new business, it’s vital to be always on the lookout for new opportunities to promote what you do in your area or in the media in a scaled down version of a big retail operation.
- New business. Always being on the lookout for ways to build your business, from developing a loyalty programme to word of mouth.
- Reliability. Any customer facing business needs to offer a dependable and conscientious service. A great franchisee will work with the franchisor to deliver that and help protect and enhance their brand in the minds of clients.
- Community nurturing. Successful retail businesses, like franchises, take their role in the community seriously and commit to it at whatever level they are able. That might mean supporting a charity with your service or joining local networking groups.
Sue Moore is president of eco friendly professional housekeeping franchise Bright & Beautiful