Franchising in 2023 plus insights and expectations for 2024
Whilst no one would say the last 12 months have been easy, the UK franchising sector has remained buoyant in 2023. Whilst some brands have had to work harder for their leads others have recruited record breaking numbers of new franchisees and are expecting particularly strong Q4 results, reports Pip Wilkins, Chief Executive Officer, British Franchise Association (BFA).
When the franchise industry met recently at the BFA Annual Conference, WorkBuzz revealed that although they saw a 2% drop in franchisee satisfaction in 2022, overall franchisee satisfaction surged by 4% in 2023 to a record high of 78%.
Steven Frost, managing director of WorkBuzz attributes the rise to ‘profitability expectations rebounding to pre cost of living crisis times, improvements across every element of the franchisee experience and three quarters of franchisees rating their long-term prospects positively.’
One notable finding from this year was that generally, franchisee satisfaction and confidence declines by tenure, the longer a franchisee has been with a brand, the less satisfied they are. Last year however, the biggest improvement across the board was the satisfaction from the most mature franchisees. Was that due to franchisors re-engaging with the entire network as a result of Covid, not just the newer franchisees? Whatever it was, it worked.
2023 at the BFA
At the BFA this year, we have been completing our foundation work on the association which began in 2016 with my appointment as our new chief executive officer. Between 2021 and 2022 we were working hard internally, to create a robust and professional association that was fit for purpose. In 2022 and 2023 it was time to make the ‘outside’ of the BFA look as polished as the inside.
This year we undertook the first rebrand of the association in 20 years and followed this up with the launch of a new website and our new tagline, ‘Discover your Tomorrow’ which we are weaving into our digital marketing and PR campaigns.
Whilst much has changed at the BFA, one thing remains the same, we are 100% committed to ethical, professional franchising and supporting everyone who falls under our membership umbrella, both franchisors and franchisees (of who we would like to see a lot more).
We are the hub of franchising and franchise education in the UK and are proud to record that 188 people have now achieved their QFP (Qualified Franchise Professional) accreditation through the BFA Academy. The academy and the educational events we offer are renowned for offering standards-based learning with tangible results that franchisors and franchisees can take back to their businesses and start implementing immediately.
One big change we have noticed this year is the increase in franchisors adopting a multi-unit strategy with both existing and new franchisees. Gone are the days of franchisors thinking that ‘all you get when you sell a territory to an existing franchisee is one and a half franchisees.’
Franchisors have now rapidly realised the benefit of the multi-unit ownership model. Potentially born of a need during Covid and with funding harder for new franchisees to obtain, many franchise brands have now started actively looking for franchisees who wish to build large management franchises rather than one man in a van operations and are selling more territories internally to existing franchisees.
But what issues have our members faced over the past 12 months and what are their hopes and plans for 2024? Three franchisors share their views.
We Love Pets Owned by husband and wife team, Ryan and Jo White, We Love Pets, founded in 2008, has 112 franchisees.
We Love Pets has been all about growth this year, capitalising on changes in the market and planning our expansion into international markets. Sadly in 2023 we continue to face discrimination for being a franchise.
The B-Corp process requires every single franchisee to register and pay for the B-Corp process separately, despite every branch following the same model, values, and ethical approach. Local authority licensing officers view our franchisees unfavourably because they are a franchise, which has led to us forming the Pet Care Franchise Association, to give us a voice in the industry.
In 2024 we plan to re-focus on franchisee support – as we roll out a new system to cut their admin in half, and a programme of engagement, support, and events for them, plus we’ll be doubling down on our support team to re-engage and reignite the network.
Agency Express Winner of the Franchisor of the Year – Gold award 2023, Agency Express, founded in 1998, has 113 franchisees. Ben Brookes, managing director, comments:
In 2023 we’ve seen a resurgence in the public’s interest in franchising as belts tighten people look for ways to improve their earning potential which has led to an increase in leads. On the flip side, the cost-of-living crisis has removed as many ‘good’ prospective candidates as it has brought us, as the 20% increase in basic living costs mean it’s harder for someone to take the leap into self-employment.
A lack of vehicles is also a ‘sore point’ for us with some brands giving a six-to-24-month lead time. With APR rates on finance loans double what they were just two years ago, we’d love the government to think laterally and support those leaders like us who are brave enough to create jobs and earning potential.
However, we have ploughed on, launching multiple tech developments to our business management system and of course, we won Franchisor of the Year!
In 2024 we expect to see the housing market improve steadily and we also expect house prices to hold steady or rise gently, but most likely behind the rate of inflation so effectively still falling. With many of our competitors closing their doors or being bought out, we expect to see our market share grow and in turn, our franchisees to become busier and more profitable. We will continue our tech development and have an exciting new partnership in the works to further improve our franchisee’s profitability.
Sylvian Care Owned by brother and sister team, Cristina Grancea and Sylviu Pop, Sylvian Care, founded in 2014, has 32 franchisees.
2023 was a transformative year for us; we rebranded the company which enhanced our brand visibility and as a result, we took on 15 new franchisees and strengthened our support team.
The year also presented its share of challenges. Operating in a sector that serves the elderly, we were acutely aware of the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. To sustain our operations, we had to reluctantly increase our prices which meant our services became less accessible to some who needed them the most.
We would very much like to see improved economic support from the government for social care in 2024. We need to see comprehensive reform and adequate funding to ensure not only the well-being of the elderly but also the growth and stability of businesses like ours.
As we look forwards to 2024 our focus will remain on continually growing and improving our network.
The BFA in 2024
National Franchise Survey
We are very much looking forward to the results of our National Franchise Survey being released in January 2024; these results, the first we have had since 2018, and with a pandemic and a major cost of living crisis during that time, will give us a snapshot of the health of the franchising sector. Our thanks go to NIC Services for their generous sponsorship of the survey.
Roehampton University – Franchise Module
We are also delighted to announce that we are in talks with Roehampton University, to pilot a franchise module for their business and entrepreneurship programme.
Our aim is to pilot a BFA and franchisor supported advisory board, working closely with the university Dean, to bring franchising to life and provide opportunities for students to become franchise leaders of the future, either working in franchise networks or becoming a franchisee.
Shouting even louder about franchising
It’s a well-known fact that not enough people know about franchising and the genuinely great opportunities it can offer people. This isn’t news to any of us. The challenge has always been, and remains, educating people about what franchising is, before they delete our press releases or ignore our marketing or advertising campaigns.
The challenge remains significant, but we are now building genuine PR relationships with new media outlets educating them about our sector, meaning our news is being seen by more people than ever before, a path we will continue to tread as we head into 2024.
We are also mindful of the need to win over the government and are also working towards that goal. Suffice to say, one of our main focuses for 2024 is telling more people than ever about the industry that we work in and the fantastic opportunities for self-employment it can offer.