One of the first questions franchisors are asked when promoting their service franchise to prospects relates to the existence of a storefront or a retail component.
Two schools of thought on storefronts immediately come to mind. Some franchisors adhere to the "Seeing is believing" philosophy--that only "If you build it, customers will come." In other words, they believe that storefronts not only add credibility, they are actually necessary to drive customer traffic. Still others subscribe to the notion that storefronts are often an unnecessary expense for franchisees; that a solid sales pitch is all that's needed to sell their franchise's product or service. These franchisors believe this selling can be accomplished from just about anywhere, including over the phone or in a customer's home using a catalogue or small product samples.
As the home-service franchise market continues to grow and new concepts consistently pop up, franchisors in this segment are in a constant state of evolution, trying to leverage their brands to the forefront of a fiercely competitive category. Franchisors should consider whether storefronts are a viable means to help their home-service concepts stand out among the pack. Whether the concept focuses on carpet, flooring, doors, windows, closet or garage organization, window treatments, painting, interior design, kitchen and bathroom remodeling or even customized paving stone design for sidewalks and driveways, your customers want and need to get "up close and personal" with the final product before making an investment in your services.
The home-services and home-improvement industries have traditionally been retail-sterile, with little to no merchandising or sales programs. Traditionally, the franchisee or the sales representative will go to a potential customer's home, pitch the sale, take measurements and send an estimate a few days later. Often, the customer does not have any products to reference, other than photographs from a brochure or Web site or miniature samples that the contractor may show them.
As a result, the end product frequently does not meet the customer's expectation for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they are not presented with the right options or they're bombarded with options and they just become confused.
This is where the prospect of a retail storefront enters the picture as an appealing benefit to franchisors and franchisees alike. Retail storefronts give franchise owners the tangible...