Are you thinking about franchising your bridal shop, store or boutique? Then this is the article for you. However, the points raised here are applicable for other types of wedding businesses.
Meet our client Karen Whyboro, founder and managing director of Rock the Frock Bridal, a franchise of alternative boutiques headquartered in Essex. Karen started the business after struggling to find alternative suppliers in the South East for her wedding.
As a result of the digital age, couples are searching for various styles to accommodate different tastes, which are moving away from the traditional.
Many people are looking for representations of themselves, especially with wedding dresses. This is the clientele of Rock the Frock who tends to be older and is looking for a relaxing aesthetic.
In 2014, after establishing her boutique in Essex, Karen experienced an influx of clients from around the UK and abroad as a result of her digital presence and online efforts.
Karen said, “The power of the internet offers more choice resulting in couples travelling further for venues and bridal wear. However, not all brides want to travel and that’s how I started to think about expanding.”
Becoming a franchise
With the birth of her daughter in 2016, travelling long distances between stores was no longer a viable option. Therefore, Karen decided to expand via franchise.
After hiring a management team for her Essex store, the search began for suitable franchisees in targeted areas also lacking in suppliers of alternative bridal wear.
According to Karen, this is a lot harder than it sounds. She advertised her franchise opportunities solely using social media and word-of-mouth, however, finding the right people is the biggest challenge.
Be prepared to say no a lot. Always give yourself time, never rush or dismiss the possibility of a better candidate being given the chance to apply.
Karen’s franchisees range from people who already were in the wedding retail business to professionals who went through a career change from an occupation associated with the wedding industry.
Personality and a strong working ethic is key to finding the right person.
Preparing a franchisee
Upon a successful appointment, the franchisee attends a training course with Karen and her team at the flagship store. The franchisee sources the business premises within the allocated 40-mile radius and sets up the shop according to the franchise manual.
The manual and training cover every aspect of the business from running the booking system and dealing with suppliers to customer service and social media.
Karen recalls how she had to meticulously write down every single process whilst preparing the manual. Leave no stone unturned and ensure every eventuality is accommodated.
Each store has their own social media accounts supported by the national brand accounts. The website lets visitors easily find a dress before selecting which location they would like to visit.
Overall control of the website still remains with Karen and her team to ensure developments and optimisations are streamlined. Periodic performance and quality control reviews are carried out as standard.
Karen strongly emphasises to her prospective franchisees that taking on a Rock the Frock store does not guarantee success. There’s a lot of hard work and commitment involved, especially considering the franchise is still in the early stages of growth.
She now dedicates her time running the franchise whilst her management team take care of her Essex store.
The team are currently looking to cover more of the UK where there is a demand for alternative bridal wear using additional franchises.
The brand has also designed their first collection with a view to displaying in existing traditional boutiques as a concession. This gives brides an alternative option to consider alongside any traditional preferences.
Using the same insurance provider
If you are planning to start a franchise, you may also wish to consider using the same provider of specialist bridal shop insurance across your locations. This may not be the most suitable option, however, leaving this up to your franchisees runs the risk of them selecting an inferior provider.
This may damage your brand if an incident was to occur such as unwanted attention in the press. There’s plenty more info online about what you should consider before becoming a franchise owner.
Adam is the brand evangelist for the Wedding Insurance Group. He continuously researches how the wedding industry is changing by liaising with our clients. Connect with Adam via our social media channels where he publishes informative videos on a regular basis.