Boosting the profile and prospects of the British franchise industry

Franchising offers myriad benefits for both franchisees and the wider economy. But is there more that can be done to help cement its success?

Boosting the profile and prospects of the British franchise industry

The last ten years has been a period characterised by huge change – whether that be economic, migrational or cultural. In business terms, this has meant a great deal of new products, services and energy in the marketplace. On the other side of the coin, however, we’ve seen the constant displacement and redundancy of employees as manufacturing finds a cheaper cost base and technology develops at a pace most of us can’t keep up with.

Fortunately, franchising offers the ideal vehicle for individuals that might have been made redundant from disrupted industries. These people will want to work for themselves and create a personal wealth while still having the support of an established brand. This is why franchising is an ideal business partnership. It’s also why the industry is worth over £15bn and employs more people than the combined UK armed forces. And yet franchising could be even more successful, employ even more people and help establish even more businesses.

My frustration with franchising is not that it only accounts for around 9% – 10% of retail sales in the UK compared to 45% – 50% in the US. It’s not that we still see some failures in UK franchising. Nor is it that the word ‘franchising’ is used to describe everything from a rail network to a football club. My main frustration is that franchising is not the first port of call for universities and colleges teaching business courses.

We lecture students on how to start their own business – on taking responsibility for researching their market, investing in their brand and planning their marketing campaigns – and yet we see most educational establishments effectively ignoring a system that does all these things for the entrepreneur.

So while there is little recognition in academia for franchising – with the notable exception of Lancaster University I might add – what about in government?

You would think that the government would promote franchising as a genuine means of regenerating towns and cities. Surely it can see the logic? Well, some MPs certainly can but frankly it will take a sustained effort by both MPs and, more importantly, by influential members of the franchise community to get the business secretary to become significantly interested. For now, I continue to look forward to the day when a government reshuffle creates a new post: minister of state for franchising.

Franchising has come a long way in the UK – we have many well established franchise brands on the high street regularly and competently servicing millions of satisfied customers. And it is my fervent belief that nothing matches good franchising when it comes to creating businesses, creating jobs and, ultimately, creating wealth. Just because academia, local councils and government can’t seem to grasp it, that doesn’t mean that it is wrong. But it is ultimately down to the franchising community to better promote itself and to champion the case for franchising.”

Nigel Toplis
Nigel Toplis