Retail Franchising: It’s About the Experience

As anyone who has studied or been in business for any length of time knows, it is impossible not to look at concepts like Kodak or Blockbuster.  Brands that not only dominated their market as a percentage of market share, but also defined the entire category they did business within.

Blockbuster in 2004 had almost 9,100 stores worldwide and was bankrupt by 2010.  Kodak in 1976 owned 90% of the entire film sales market globally and by 2012 was bankrupt.  The concept is hard to fathom and certainly anyone in retail today stands with the hard reality of e-commerce staring them in the face and forcing people in the retail category to find ways to evolve and change the way they do business.  Blockbuster missed buying Netflix for $50 million in 2000, supposedly laughing the offer out of the room and Kodak just couldn’t get the idea of digital photography.  Retail businesses today are in a similar position, evolve and see how the future should drive change in your business or become irrelevant.

So how is it that commercial real estate rates are still at all time highs in many markets and there still seems to be bustling, ever healthy retail businesses both in and outside of franchising?  The key today is about experience.  What makes a person want to get out of their home and change an increasingly busy schedule to visit a retail location is the experience that happens in that retail business.  If people can get the same experience anywhere, you’ve lost your draw to bring people in.  If your only value add is price and availability….I’m sorry, but the internet beats you in every way shape and form.

So what does experience mean?  I hate when people do this, but here is the definition, I thought it was fitting for this discussion.  Experience; “practical contact with and observation of facts or events.”  So essentially, instead of just selling a product or service to someone and collecting payment, it’s creating an event that allows the customer to have practical contact and observation.

The obvious winners in this new age of retail are service providers.  Restaurants, fitness and other fixed location retail businesses still have a strong and evident value proposition to get the customer into the location for the transaction to take place.  But you can look at models like Apple, who boasts one of the worlds most successful retail businesses.  How can this be…the definition of technology product purchasing can still have so much success in traditional retail??

It all can be tied back to that experience at the store level, where Apple as of 2017, was again the global leader in revenue per square foot ($5,546) which is just hard to comprehend.  That means an average sized store (8,400 square feet), generates annual sales of $46,586,400 in annual revenues from a SINGLE retail location.  Yes, Apple seems to have unfair advantages in every way shape and form, but the point is that even a technology giant where traditional retail seems to be out of synch leverages a retail model so effectively.  Apple has incredible interaction between their associates and the customer, they are informative, helpful and extremely upbeat.  The location design is appealing, fun and draws you in to interact with the technology and touch things throughout the store.  You can’t help but feel cooler when you walk into and out of a store holding a bag of something you paid too much for.

So if it works for Apple, why can’t it work for retail franchises?  It can, and it does.  The successful and relevant retail franchises are ones that have embraced the web; they’ve embraced today’s experience-centric customer base and they enjoy finding ways to evolve and innovate.  Today, our firm, Franchise Marketing Systems, works with several brands such as BARAMI and BonWorth, both of whom are clothing manufacturers/retailers with decades of experience in the retail business and between them have almost 150 stores in operation throughout the United States.  Many, if not most of the brands in this clothing manufacturing and retail market have gone extinct and disappeared into the business history books as casualties of globalization and e-commerce.  What has allowed BARAMI and BonWorth to succeed and even excel in this difficult and competitive market segment is finding ways to create incredibly customer-centric business models and innovative product lines that continue to drive customer traffic to the locations.  Both brands prove that even in today’s markets, there are great retail franchises on the market, but it comes down to the experience at the store level.

Christopher Conner is the President of Franchise Marketing Systems and has spent the last decade in the franchise industry working with several hundred different franchise systems in management, franchise sales and franchise development work. His experience ranges across all fields of franchise expertise with a focus in franchise marketing and franchise sales but includes work in franchise strategic planning, franchise research and franchise operations consulting. For more information on how to choose the right food service franchise, contact Chris Conner at

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