During the 10 years I’ve been working on Pet Business magazine, I’ve met many successful pet store owners who express a desire to expand on that success by franchising their businesses. This type of expansion makes a lot of sense on a couple of levels. In addition to being a source of income, in the form of start-up and ongoing fees, following a franchise model allows a retailer to aggressively grow its brand while minimizing the risk to its established business.
But probably the best case I’ve heard for franchising came from an interview I recently did with Julie Johnston, vice president of merchandising and marketing for Pet Valu, a Canada-based pet store chain with 454 stores across Canada and the mid-Atlantic United States. “Franchising is really where we want to grow,” she says. “When you have an owner in the store, it’s their livelihood, their passion; they put everything they have into it, and that makes a big difference.”
While Pet Valu plans to concentrate on franchising—a strategy it uses prolifically in Canada—in the U.S. market in the near future, its 94 U.S. stores are currently all corporately owned. There is a valuable lesson in Pet Valu’s cautious approach to extending its franchise model into the U.S. market.
“We do have an interest in franchising [in the U.S.], but we want to make sure that when we put together a model, it’s a really attractive, profitable one,” says Johnston, noting that the creation of such a franchise model for the U.S. market will be a focus for the company in 2013.