I didn’t think about franchising until a friend of mine brought up the concept. Think about it. If you have a trade system, an acquisitions system, an employee requirement system, a pricing system, a fixture system, a sorting system, an advertising system, a bathroom cleaning schedule system (OK… this one’s a stretch), etc., why should you NOT open the doors for franchising?
My wife and I have been preparing our newest store (you can see our labor at www.gottwalsbooks.com), and I must say that it is far easier the second time around. We know where things should go, how they should be arranged, etc. We also know WHAT WORKS for our area, and I promise that that’s the biggest thing. We, of course, have concerns about the future success of a new store in a new town. However, being prepared eases so much of the concern so that none of the concern has turned into worry (and, yes, I think they are two different things).
I do not plan on ever franchising. I simply do not want to give the branded name of my store to someone else. We have prayed pretty hard for the success that we’ve had, and the labor has not been light. However, I do think that owning a used bookstore is a fine art. There are secrets to honing the craft, and a business owner has every right to be rewarded for the things he has learned and employed.
I never realized how hard it must be to mimic another store’s success. We have tried using the practices of other stores, yet there is a certain mix of functions, advertising, pricing, etc. that will work together. Knowing a company’s trade policy, pricing, and sorting system (things you can figure out just by studying a store for its face value) does not guarantee that you can make it work nearly as well or nearly as quickly. This is where the sense in franchising comes. I know that someone cannot offer Gottwals Books’s value until they have our business model. They cannot understand completely what we do. Hence, why not franchise?
I’ve written many times before about the spirit of the used bookseller. I think that franchising doesn’t fit the goal of the average bookshop owner. That’s not our vibe. I do like the idea of chain ownership, but I don’t like the idea of conceding control. Even as we are opening our second store, my wife and I will not be the distant “managers.” We will be the owners that you can see and smell (but not touch).
I would like to know what everyone thinks about this idea. Is it a good idea? Do you know of anyone who has franchised their store? I know that there are some 4, 5, 6-store chains out there, but I don’t think I’ve seen any franchises.
I am always thinking about bigger and better things. Some may say I’m a dreamer…
Speaking of John Lennon, England has some fantastic shops, huh? Has anyone read 84, Charing Cross Road?