This UK summer has been nothing short of historical. But just how much impact can the weather have on a franchise and how are they adapting to the changing seasons that vary so drastically on this little island we call home?
The British summer is usually cause for despair and disappointment. Even when clear blue skies have been promised, umbrellas are commonly packed by many as a precaution. But 2018 has been a game-changer as we’ve witnessed a seemingly endless summer of red-hot temperatures, the longest and most consistent since 1976. It’s not been without it’s problems though – London firefighters have been called to six times as many grass fires this summer so far versus the entirety of 2017.
With business in mind, it’s safe to assume an ice-cream shop will do a roaring trade in such toasty conditions while an underfloor heating specialist is unlikely to be as in demand. But one way or another, as we’ve seen with the fire brigade, it’s clear the weather will certainly have a great impact on operations for better or worse. So how much of a role do the seasons play when it comes to franchising?
Il Gusto, the personalised gifting franchise, isn’t directly impacted by the weather as its stalls are found inside shopping centres and department stores but grey or rainy conditions are preferable to blazing sunshine in order to improve footfall. “We find people are more likely to go shopping when the weather is not as sunny as they’d prefer to be outside,” reasons Alexis Quivet, general manager at Il Gusto.
Quivet argues the burning heat holds little sway over the franchise’s versatility. “We have a niche business with high quality products, so we don’t get very affected by the heat,” he says. However, weather aside, the summer season itself traditionally brings on spending opportunities as the period is generally filled with weddings, children leaving school and parties, all of which gifts are required for. Helpfully though, the company’s design means winter brings a spike in business too. “With nearly 50% of business undertaken during Christmas annually, Richard Mosconi, the founder of Il Gusto, decided to create a seasonal approach to his franchise model – the ‘a la carte’ concept,” he continues. “This concept offers franchisees the flexibility to work for a period of three to seven months per annum, mainly during the highly profitable summer and pre-Christmas periods.” Said model comprises a pop-up shop approach, which allows franchisees to minimise costs while maximising profits, according to Quivet.
It’s a different story for Greensleeves, the lawn care franchise, which thrives in the great outdoors. And while the scorching summer sun may be undoing the hard work of franchisees by transforming lush greens into extra crispy shades of yellowy-brown, it’s providing opportunity at the same time. “Prime weather conditions for anybody operating in the lawn care business are what you would describe as typical British weather ie changeable with no extremes,” says David Truby, managing director at Greensleeves. “So, nice warm weather without much wind and a good dose of rain during the week. Having said that, whatever weather we have generates opportunities for us, so if we have a long dry period and lawns go brown, there is a lot of renovation required.” Likewise, excessive amounts of rain resulting in mossy lawns can also generate additional business.
Given Greensleeves’ gardening work is done outdoors, it’s easy to see why its most hectic periods are actually different from Il Gusto’s. “Spring is definitely the busiest season for us,” Truby reveals. “The first nice weekend we have after winter tends to stimulate a lot of calls from potential new customers and suddenly everybody gets interested in their garden again. Autumn is also a very busy period with lawns usually requiring repair or renovation work after summer.” Seemingly this autumn will be a very busy period for Greensleeves indeed, following the state of lawns up and down the country.
And the gardening franchise ensures its franchisees don’t rest on their laurels during quieter spells and go into hibernation, with ongoing dialogue being crucial to achieve this. “We try hard to communicate with our customers throughout the year on the condition of their lawns, to help them understand the need for additional works at various periods through the year,” says Truby. “When demand is very high, we’ll use temporary staff to ensure we can meet customer demand. Generally they’ll be paired with a regular member of the team to ensure our high-quality is maintained.” Meanwhile, winter, the quietest of all the seasons, is used as a time for strategising and planning.
Elsewhere, ClassForKids, the online booking platform for children’s activities, is well aware of the extreme variations of British weather thanks to its Glasgow headquarters. “In Scotland we often joke we can experience four seasons in one day but the past six months in particular have been an incredible contrast, from deep snow to scorching sun of late,” laughs Duncan Ross, operations manager at ClassForKids. The nature of the business means the team knows how to have fun. So when The Beast From the East struck and caused commuting carnage, there was an internal contest to see who had the best working from home photos, such as sledge-based emailing or selling to snowmen. And with franchises and other organisers supported by ClassForKids, the blizzard also presented a manic week for sales and customer services due to increased numbers of clients cancelling activities. “There was a spike in people looking for a system that could help them send targeted communications to their customers,” says Ross, detailing the benefit of the bad weather for generating new business. Comparatively, the heatwave has also generated an uptick in bookings. “With such great weather this summer we’ve also noticed an increase in outdoor camp bookings,” says Ross, adding that football, tennis and cricket, all outdoorsy activities, have grown in demand too.
Given the boundless energy that courses through the bodies of children, there’s rarely a quiet moment for ClassForKids as parents continually seek entertainment for their little ones. Having said that, Ross notes summer can provide a chance to refocus as some classes are reduced or paused over the season. “This is the ideal time to take a closer look at our innovation pipeline and to work on the next new features that will help clubs build a better business,” he says. With organisers running fewer classes, ClassForKids generally seeks feedback from clients as it tests fresh designs and features over the period ahead of the new term.
The calm before the storm doesn’t last long, usually ending when a new term starts as classes reopen following school breaks, so the coming autumn is a perfect example of when ClassForKids will need to be prepared for its clients. Spikes can be 100% above normal levels during these times, so the business ensures the team members are available with evening and weekend hours assigned.“March in the spring and September in the autumn are when our system is tested and our technical team are on high-alert for any potential issues relating to bookings and payments,” says Ross.
Concluding on how a robust, forward-thinking approach is needed for a company that revolves around seasons, Ross shares the ClassForKids approach. “For franchises with large numbers of kids across clubs and classes, last minute changes to classes because of rain, sun or snow can often cause a large amount of disruption,” he says. “We also know when things get a bit quieter and we’re actively working on new features for clubs to increase their own revenue streams and to avoid any dips in cashflow.”
So there you have it. In order to battle the British weather as a franchise, your model should have you ready to make hay when the sun is shining – or the snow is falling.