Belfast Telegraph

Franchising doesn't need to be totally doom and gloom

Fashion franchising can be fraught, as the experience of Mexx in Ireland demonstrates. The bankruptcy of the Dutch parent company has resulted in a lack of stock in Mexx shops around the province. According to franchise holder John Houston, this has left him with no option but to close stores and concessions around Ireland.

It is a similar trajectory to the unfortunate fate of fashion label French Connection. When French Connection embarked on store closures two years ago, franchise holder Julian Jordan also closed shops in here. Now the many fans of the label are shopping online for an FCUK fix.

Other fashion franchise attempts have also had mixed results. A Mango franchise operated in Belfast's Donegall Place for a couple of years, but was abandoned, though the label now enjoys renewed success with a fully-owned store in Belfast's Victoria Square.

But of course, there are forms of what appear to be relatively risk-free franchising, such as McDonald's, KFC and Subway.

Last week Subway said it had over 87 stores in Northern Ireland, and development agent Adam Heyes said it was keen to find more.

There are 43,000 Subway stores in over 105 countries, and an average of 260 stores have opened in the last 12 months. Compared with the relative fallibility of fashion franchising, could a Subway, KFC or Domino's be the way to go?

Subway is also seeking franchisees for untypical locations, such as hospitals, universities and garage forecourts.

Last year Joggy Dhillon, a Domino's Pizza franchisee in Coleraine, won the HSBC Franchisee of the Year Award for Customer Service while Diane Maxwell, of Driver Hire in Belfast, was shortlisted.

Unfortunately, fashion franchises appear to be an overlooked category in the Franchisee of the Year Awards.

But it's not all doom and gloom for the rag trade and franchising. The Zip Yard, a word play on 'shipyard,' is a clothing alteration franchise with its roots in Belfast.

Don Wallace acquired the licence to the Zip Yard franchise in the Republic, growing the business to 25 stores, while the original owners have around 10 shops in Northern Ireland and another 20 in the UK.

While franchising can be fraught, if you get it right, you'll do well out of it.

Belfast Telegraph