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Franchise retailing - the Case Study: Card Connection


Card Connection is the market leader in supplying greeting cards on consignment. The franchisees supply over 15,000 retailers with cards, wrap and gift products, many on an exclusive basis. Each franchisee requires a small storage unit, liveried vans and staff to cover the key functions of packing and merchandising.


Viewpoint: The franchisees


him and his wife Shirley are still going strong, now on their second Card Connection franchise covering Oxford and Banbury having sold their fi rst franchise business for a profi table £27,000. “I was looking to be self-employed.” said Ron. “I’d always fancied retailing greetings cards. It’s a nice clean business with high margins. We looked into getting a greeting card shop, but to be honest the rents frightened us away.” That’s when he considered franchised option.


R


The benefi ts of running a franchise to Ron include the fl exibility it affords. “We can earn or own living our way – and really and truly we can”, he said. “We do it when we need it.” “You do have to have self-motivation and


drive. We were already experienced at being self- employed and I think that’s half the battle. Book- keeping is a skill you pick up on the job. It can be a barrier to some people but these days you get a lot of help with it – especially on the internet. These days Ron says he takes the challenges of running a franchise business all in his stride, but it wasn’t always the case. “In the early days I didn’t know if you were going to make a living. But even though you don’t know what is going to happen, it has always worked out.” “It’s important to take rejections on the chin and keep trying in sales. Much of our business is repeat business and we’ve got to know our customers over 15 years. They include indie and major retailers. We supply WHSmith travel, motoring and forecourt businesses like Total and BP, Shell and grocers, Budgens and Londis.” Said Ron.


“We compete with other consignment companies. We leave the cards with new customers on ‘free loan’ without invoicing. We


on Maynard bought his fi rst franchise from greetings card distributor, Card Connection back in November 1995 for £8,000 to cover the Reading area. Sixteen years later and both


also supply point of sale display units free on loan. We then come back in a few weeks and see what they‘ve sold. The retailer only pays for that they have sold and they only after they have already sold the stock. This makes it entirely risk free for the retailer.


“The stock belongs to the franchisee, but cash moves very quickly and we don’t hang on to debts for long.” Card Connection franchisees also have support from a head offi ce sales team who


The Franchise Manager Viewpoint:


Simon Hanna is the new National Franchaise Manager at Card


Connection. His role is to find growth


opportunities for the franchises to expand. GT spoke to him about managing a franchise business in a tough trading climate.


“The market may be challenging, but there are still opportunities for growth with the right retail offer”, says Simon.


“The franchisee needs well designed product, and to


be able offer the retailer the highest service level, which our franchisees do every day,” continues Simon. “At Card Connection we have a dedicated in house design team, who create amazing greeting cards and whom can call upon the design and production resources of the UKG group.


“Historically we supplied one code size of card on Ron and Shirley Maynard


manage the group accounts nationwide. “The sales team effectively fi nd us accounts and we service them.” Says Ron. “There are 75 franchisees so everyone benefi ts. And the benefi t to the larger retailers is that we can give them nationwide coverage.”


“For the past 4-5 years we have been using handheld terminals. It is a good system and it saves time in the shop. The terminals collates all our sales and service information and it saves time processing invoices, working out VAT taking delivery notes. The days of fi lling out triplicate forms are long gone.” “It does look easy,” says Ron “But I’m a bit like a swan, calm on top, with legs paddling madly underneath.”


spinners. Today our franchisees offer a full merchandising service and can supply fi xturing to meet the space needs of the retailer, all our greeting card displays are merchandised to our standard display plans which are planned to maximise the sell through from the fi xture. We now have a huge range of products now from hand made to humour cards and boutique-style product. “As well as creating fabulous product we are also a market leader in the consignment sector with our point of sale offer to our customers, so our franchisees can create great theatre to a display for all our product areas.” “We differ from other consignment companies as


we don’t just supply one product area. We also have Gift Connection ranges which enables us to supply the retailer with party product, sentiment wallet cards, fl ashing badges which added to our gift wrap, gift bag and bottle bag ranges enables us to offer the retailer additional incremental sales opportunities.”


22 www.greetingstoday.co.uk


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