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‘Franchising, it’s our flexible friend’

Written by Nigel Toplis on Thursday, 06 May 2021. Posted in Analysis

This is the opinion of business guru Nigel Toplis who believes the UK economy would benefit greatly if franchising enjoyed greater recognition from the Government.

‘Franchising, it’s our flexible friend’

This is the opinion of business guru Nigel Toplis who believes the UK economy would benefit greatly if franchising enjoyed greater recognition from the Government.

Society has probably witnessed more changes in the last dozen years, than during the previous 40. These changes have been economic and cultural, as globalisation has taken hold and migration reached new levels. And the pandemic has only served to quicken these changes even more.

With regards to business, this change has driven investment in new products and services, while creating more energy in the marketplace. We’ve also observed a growing ‘sophistication’ of the customer. Customers no longer defer to the supplier.  They are more knowledgeable, more demanding and seek a greater level of professionalism from businesses than ever before. They insist on being offered greater value for money – otherwise they’ll take their custom elsewhere.

And in most sectors, there are an ever-growing number of companies all attempting to attract this finite group of customers towards their own doors. These are customers who won’t hesitate in voting with their feet, as competition hots up for business owners around the world.

The pandemic has heightened the need for companies and individuals to be more adaptable and more flexible. And this is where franchising comes in. Fortunately, franchising offers the ideal vehicle for large numbers of people who may have been made redundant or suffered employment setbacks during the past year. These people may also feel that their own future is under threat, depending on which profession they belong to.

Franchising is the perfect home for those wanting to work for themselves, and therefore control their own destiny and future chances. By becoming a business owner in the world of franchising, these people can tap into the expertise and support of an already established brand. The groundwork has already been done, so make the most of it.

Looking ahead, change is likely to occur at a rate even faster than today. There will be even more displacement and redundancy, as manufacturing finds a cheaper cost base, with technology continuing to develop at a pace most of us will struggle to keep up with.

Franchising offers people the opportunity to be in control of their life and rewarded for their own efforts. It will create a level of security not available when working for others. The theory of franchising is rooted in the belief that by joining a ‘partnership,’ it offers substantial benefits for all involved.

Franchising is a marriage between the skills, work ethic and ambition of the franchisee, in conjunction with a tried and tested system, tools and ongoing support provided by the franchisor. 

At present, the industry is worth more than £17bn per annum to the economy. It also employs more people in the UK than the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force combined. Franchising currently accounts for approximately 9%-10% of retail sales in the UK – so there’s still plenty of scope for expansion. Yet, compare this to the United States where it is almost 50%.

I remain disappointed that franchising does not receive the recognition it deserves from universities, local councils and the UK Government. We lecture students about starting their own businesses, and they are shown how to research markets and plan marketing campaigns. But these educational institutions largely stop short of explaining how franchisor-led systems already provide all of these benefits for the budding entrepreneur. 

I am continually frustrated by a lack of Government acknowledgement with regards to the value of franchising to the world of business. At local level, you would think that authorities would promote franchising as a matter of course. I am also critical of franchising itself, which should be doing more to self-promote its strengths to those thinking of becoming business owners. At this point I must mention Lancaster University, which does give franchising significant ‘air time’ during its courses, and therefore has to be applauded for doing so.

Franchising should be viewed by Government as a great opportunity for regenerating towns and city centres. And as online giants continue to snatch a larger and larger share of the retail market – even more so during lockdown – surely there’s no better time to promote this largely forgotten industry. It would offer one solution for local councils who are watching with dismay as their high streets are slowly turning into ghost towns. 

I’m hoping that one day we elect a Government that will create a Minister of State for Franchising. Ultimately, of course, it is down to the franchising community to better promote itself. They must make a stronger case for franchising, when dealing with all of the organisations and institutions I have mentioned above. For me, the key message they need to make is that franchising is a proven model designed to assist ‘ordinary people’ to start and build their own businesses.

About the Author

Nigel Toplis

Nigel Toplis

About Nigel Toplis: Is managing director of four franchise businesses: Recognition Express (badges, signs and promotional gifts); ComputerXplorers (provides ICT educational classes for three-to-13 year olds); Techclean (a leading provider of system hygiene services to businesses in the UK); and Kall Kwik (a licenced operation and premier business print and design company in the UK). Nigel is a past chairman of the BFA, has written three books on franchising and, in 2007, became a Fellow of Lancaster University.

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