Becoming a Franchise Player



Congratulations! You invested quite a bit of blood, sweat and tears—not to mention dollars—and have managed to build a successful retail pet business. Your registers are ringing from open to close, and customers cannot stop complementing your product selection, service offerings and customer service. Simply put, pet owners love your brand. 

Now it is time to consider options for expansion.

For storeowners who find themselves in this enviable position, turning a great retail business model into a franchise operation can be an attractive proposition. After all, what could be better than using someone else’s time, effort and money to build your brand while you sit back and collect royalties on their sales?

Not so fast, say the experts. 

As you will read in this month’s cover story, franchises have done particularly well in the pet specialty retail channel. From Pet Supplies Plus to Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming, these sizeable (and growing) chains have greatly benefited from pairing passionate owner/operators with well-developed, consistent business models that can be effective in just about any market. However, creating the perfect combination of business model and franchisees is no easy feat.

Even if you have a highly profitable pet store with a fiercely loyal customer base, there is no guarantee that this will translate to success for someone else in another market. That is why one franchise consultant I spoke with recommends that any retailer she works with has at least two profitable locations in operation for at least a year or longer before even considering the franchising option. This will go a long way in proving that your winning recipe can be reproduced.

Still, prospective business owners who meet these criteria will probably want to contract a franchise consultant to investigate whether or not expanding their concept this way is feasible. What’s more, these experts will help make sure that you have jumped through all the right legal hoops and have all of the necessary resources in place to support franchisees. All of this can get quite expensive, with some experts estimating that it can cost anywhere from $50,000 to upwards of $250,000 to get a franchise off the ground. 

The next challenge is choosing the right people to bring into the franchise. This can be a big leap of faith, as you will be entrusting your baby to someone else—again, something that is much easier said than done. In fact, over the years, I have asked more than a few owners of pet store chains why they opted not to go the franchise route, and almost every one said it was because they did not want to give up control of the brand they worked so hard to build. 

At the end of the day, franchising can be an excellent way to grow a retail brand well beyond what even the most ambitious storeowner could expect to achieve in their lifetime—just ask the owners who participated in this month’s cover story. However, it is simply not the right path for everyone. So, before you take the plunge, do yourself a favor and make sure you have what it takes to be a franchise player.


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