Homecare & Property Maintenance, High Street Retail
Show me the money
Home improvements franchise Granite Transformations says retail showrooms are the key to revenue growth.
In common with many retail franchise networks, each Granite Transformations franchise operates within its own exclusive sales territory. These have been mapped into specific postcode zones and supported with detailed demographic breakdowns, such as age profiles and residential property values, to help franchise owners target the local market with complete precision.
Territories are allocated by Granite Transformations on a ‘building block’ basis, each block comprising 100,000 households, with sales-only franchise owners starting with one block, while sales and fabrication franchises, who also invest in a production workshop, are allocated two. Later, franchise owners have the opportunity to grow their businesses by adding extra postcode building blocks, increasing the number of households and potential sales opportunities within their catchment area.
At the heart of the exclusive territory scheme is the retail showroom, which acts as a focal point for one or more postcode territories and a branded location for passers-by and those customers who have searched for their nearest stockist on the internet. Although most Granite Transformations kitchen worktop sales are actually concluded in the customer’s home, the showroom usually provides the trigger for the initial interest and a well-presented retail frontage acts as a powerful credentials builder. In fact, a recent data mapping exercise revealed that most Granite Transformations customers live within 30 miles of a showroom and are likely to visit at least once, indicating that a strong high street presence is a powerful key to business growth.
So, while multiple brands are increasingly closing down branches in the high street, a recent industry survey reveals that many franchisees are planning to increase the number of units they operate in the future, in the case of retail franchises adding at least one other showroom. That is indeed the case for Granite Transformations, with four new franchised showrooms opening already this year, as franchise owners took advantage of an innovative shared investment scheme for funding new retail premises and building their respective businesses.
Three of these new showrooms are in what might be termed traditional high street locations, in decidedly upscale market towns, Bath, Stamford and St Ives. The other, known as a concession site, is found in the less conventional environment of a busy garden centre, surrounded by potted plants and shrubs, but this points towards a future retail direction for new franchise recruits and existing franchise owners looking to expand their sales territory on a more affordable scale.
Each showroom opening has its own back story and represents the wholehearted commitment of the respective franchise owner to business growth. The Whitwood family, father Malcolm and sons Oliver and Tom, are spanning their East Anglian sales territory with a new showroom in the bustling market town of St Ives, Cambridgeshire, complementing their existing retail outlet and fabrication workshop in Norwich.
By establishing showrooms on each edge of their sizeable catchment area, they are looking to pull custom from right across the region and negotiate strategic local marketing deals. With all three Whitwoods experienced joiners and able to turn their hands to installing kitchen worktops and replacement doors, they are already geared for growth and will recruit additional staff as they approach their target of doubling turnover in the next few years.
In contrast, entrepreneur and franchise owner Tim Hegarty is targeting a far more densely populated sales territory from his new showroom in historic Bath and another two sites in nearby Bristol. Although already within easy reach of the upmarket Bath postcodes, he felt that a showroom in the town itself, particularly on a busy access route, would convert a trickle of customer enquiries into a comparative flood, and that has proved to be the case. Not just content with that, he is also upgrading the on-site showroom at his Bristol workshop into a design studio for architects and specifiers, with a view to tapping into the lucrative commercial market.
Finally, East Midlands franchisee, Ian Floyde, has added not one but two showrooms to his operation. In the beautifully preserved stone built town of Stamford, he has opened one of the most talked-about new retail premises in the central conservation area, with Granite Transformations’ interior designer Stuart Clarkson creating both an elegantly restrained shop frontage and a stylish interior that appeals strongly to the brand’s 45-plus customer demographic. With showroom host Rosemary Krezwell in day-to-day command, it has already been acclaimed the best showroom in town and early business reflects that.
Bricks-and-mortar showrooms of this calibre will always be central to Granite Transformations’ retail marketing strategy, even if, according to franchisee Tim Hegarty, they merely prompt passing motorists to reconsider the brand and take it seriously as a prospective supplier. That’s why a prominent location, good visibility from street level and high traffic flow are prime considerations on the site selection checklist provided for would-be franchisees. Conscious, however, that high street retailing is nowadays perceived as something of a risk strategy, especially for start-up businesses, the franchisor’s Chief Operating Officer, Danny Hanlon, is seeking to reduce any barriers to entry by proposing a new business model centred on a garden centre concession.
Garden centre concession
Which is why Ian Floyde’s second new showroom, located inside the main building at a busy garden centre near Nottingham, is of especial interest. Again styled and fitted out by interior designer Stuart Clarkson, it is a substantial on-site concession, furnished with kitchen and bathroom displays to inspire potential customers and relaxing ‘chillout’ zones for discussing décor ideas. Close to the main checkouts, it benefits from the high customer traffic and agreeable surroundings of the host garden centre, yet unlike Granite Transformations’ ‘silent salesman’ display stand normally used in such locations, it is permanently staffed and has essentially all the ambience of a ‘proper’ showroom.
Ian Floyde reports that this format is almost as effective as bricks-and-mortar premises, without the associated overheads, and this has encouraged Danny Hanlon to adopt this as a ‘low risk, reduced cost’ business model for new franchise recruits. Opting for a concession showroom of this kind, in a garden centre or other appropriate host setting, will mean fitting-out and signage costs are substantially reduced; there will also be no shop lease to negotiate and sign, with consequent savings on the rent deposit and legal fees, and lower rates, service charges and insurance premiums.
Thus, the concession showroom model reduces the total initial investment to around £31,000 for a fully-fledged Granite Transformations franchise, from closer to £65k for a high street location. As an added incentive for serious enquirers, Danny Hanlon is also prepared to waive the £10k licence fee for the first full year and, even then, allow it to be paid off in monthly instalments.
Factor in further financial ‘tweaks’ like a fully loaded, signwritten vehicle complete with tools for absolutely no cash deposit, and this becomes a seriously interesting commercial proposition. Especially when you bear in mind that existing franchise owners have enough confidence in the Granite Transformations brand proposition and their own entrepreneurial skills to invest in extending their postcode territories and opening new showrooms.
Camera, lights, interaction
Granite Transformations unveils its TV , press and online marketing plans
Marketing support and lead generation are key functions for any franchise operation, yet a lack of adequate investment and creativity in this area is often a source of considerable dissatisfaction amongst franchisees.
National advertising, PR and marketing activity serve to build brand awareness and generate customer leads that can be allocated to franchisees on a postcode basis, while local publicity and direct marketing help drive business to the individual franchise businesses. Without that support, achieving sales and commercial success is always going to be far more difficult for the franchise owner. That’s why marketing is regarded as such an important element of the Granite Transformations franchise package.
A relative newcomer to the UK franchising scene, having set up in this country in 2003, Granite Transformations places particular store by its comprehensive marketing support package, using it to help build a solid base of profitable franchised showrooms. Having at first resorted to US and Australian literature inherited from the global franchise, it has since replaced these with a raft of promotional material, sales aids and point-of-sale items tailored to a UK audience. It paid off this year for the franchisor, Rocksolid Granit, when it won the industry award for Best Franchisee Marketing Support, beating off stiff competition from a number of respected franchise brands.
Now Rocksolid Granit is gearing up for a tough trading period ahead with a whole raft of fresh marketing initiatives for 2011 and beyond. These range from viral marketing on Facebook and a first British-made TV commercial, to a totally reengineered franchise-friendly website, a complementary gift pack for encouraging customer referrals and a novel ‘lenticular’ street promotion. They will be backed by a strong programme of national and local PR , which generates extensive press and TV coverage, a press advertising campaign that takes in Sunday newspaper supplements like ‘You’ and regional titles funded by franchisees, and an evolving stable of sales aids.
This year the focus of Granite Transformations’ marketing has shifted slightly, from the core ‘worktop that fits on top’ product offering to a total kitchen refacing service that now includes made-to-measure replacement doors and drawer fronts. The central proposition is that refacing with solid worktops and wooden doors is cheaper, ‘greener’ and far less disruptive than installing a new fitted kitchen, a message that will be put across to consumers in all forms of offline, online and print media.
Since a visual demonstration of the refacing process is the most convincing approach, Granite Transformations has used time-lapse filming to record an entire kitchen transformation - replacement worktops, splashbacks, doors, drawers, sink units, fitters and all - in a single day, running from 8.00am to 10.30pm. Filmed at precise intervals from a fixed camera position at a much slower rate than normal playback, the time-lapse sequence when replayed takes just 3½ minutes, condensing the whole makeover project into a cool, fast-moving film clip. Uploaded to Facebook and other social network sites, as well as the new GT website, it provides an amusing, arresting ‘product demo’ that should be seen by millions.
Even so, 3½ minutes, or an even faster 90-second version, is still too long for network TV , where commercial length is typically 30 seconds, so different movie-style motion control technology has been used for filming the TV commercial, produced at a fraction of the normal budget. It was recorded at a purpose-built studio close to GT headquarters and featured a complex kitchen set, built naturally enough by Granite Transformations installers, with a complete change of worktop surfaces and door finishes to showcase the makeover effect.
Employing motion control techniques that have gained ‘best visual effects’ awards in the motion picture industry, the busy fitters were first filmed carrying out the installation, then a ‘relaxed housewife’ is seen pottering around in her newly completed dream kitchen. With the multiple film sequences composited together into a single tv visual, both fitters and housewife share the screen in overlapping images, creating a composite ‘before, during and after’ effect that really has to be seen to be appreciated.
Adhering to a policy of production efficiency and minimum wastage that’s adopted in granite transformations’ workshops and home installations, the same film set and professional model were then used for taking stills photography for press advertising, so there is a brand recognition overlap between tv and the print media. the resulting full and half-page adverts will run in national newspaper supplements and be tailored for use by individual franchisees in regional titles and county magazines.
Building franchisees’ local requirements into the marketing programme has also been extended to the new corporate website, which has a modular architecture to allow a high degree of customising by franchise owners. the last domain had grown to five times the content for which it had been originally designed, so the new site has been futureproofed with a flexible, modular structure, video tiling for movie clips, intranet facilities and, in time, an e-business section that will allow franchisees to call off product online.
It also gives GT franchisees password-controlled access to back office functions, so that local content like installation photography, customer references and special offers can be integrated into their own sites and specific modules of content selected according to their particular showroom offerings. the showroom locator also takes visitors straight to a google map, then the landing page of the nearest franchised showroom, once a postcode is entered.
An equally tailored approach is applied to the brand’s pr programme, where stories feature notable franchisee contract successes and product releases are customised to include local showroom details and distributed to relevant press in franchise areas. nationally, there is also substantial tv exposure on makeover programmes, including a recent installation of its eco-friendly recycled glass surfaces, which will be showcased in an upcoming tv project by Channel 4 star sarah Beeny. this screen time, combined with extensive press coverage, contributes toward increased brand awareness and lead generation for granite transformations showrooms.
On a more down to earth note, rocksolid granit is also introducing an appealing customer referral pack that will enable franchise owners to reward satisfied clients for world-of-mouth recommendations, with a view to doubling the rate of new business referrals. Comprising branded goodies like a cook book, apron, hessian shopping bag and trivet, as well as a microfibre e-cloth for cleaning surfaces without chemicals, the pack includes a ‘cheque book’ with vouchers for customers to hand out to friends, promising discounts on new installations and cash rewards for themselves. the idea has been inherited from the other side of the world in australia, where it was trialled with conspicuous success, underlining the value of intelligence sharing in a global franchise. it’s also likely that the time-lapse and motion control tv ideas may make a return journey.
One novel promotional tool that might also be shared across the gt global network is a lenticular magnet, for placing on cars, vans and fridge doors. also known as 3d holograms, these inexpensive print items incorporate three different images, illustrating the different stages of worktop transformation, which appear to move and change to passers-by. placed on gt vans and random vehicles in showroom car parks, they are designed to catch the eye and, hopefully, be grabbed from the bodywork, generating a unique form of ‘viral distribution’.
With these and other imaginative promotional ideas in the pipeline, franchisor rocksolid granit hopes to pick up more industry awards, but more importantly raise the granite transformations brand profile, bring extra custom through the showroom doors and attract potential franchise owners looking for maximum marketing support.
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