The convenience sector has been a whirlwind these past few months and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. For me, the surprising thing is the speed and perhaps the players now involved in it.
It is clearly emotive for many retailers that their symbol group may be in business with, or owned by, a multiple that has been the enemy to independent retail.
What has been most surprising to me with everything that that has been happening is the re-emergence of the ‘F’ word. The word ‘franchising’ still sends a small shiver down my spine. Many Budgens retailers may feel the same.
While I may feel optimistic about the new dawn approaching, I would be very wary about franchising. The problem in our sector is that a retailer, if they are sensible, will tailor their store to their customers and area. The franchising model doesn’t really work well to achieve this. The point of franchising is to deliver consistency, not diversity.
Our sector is not like food service, which lends itself to that model more readily. Many of us want to be independent and have control over our destinies. When the franchising model does not work for you or your location and you need to change what you are doing, you might find it difficult to do so.
We experienced this with Musgrave and it was very damaging for the business for that period. I have always said I would never return to franchising for my stores because of the fundamental loss of control. But really I should never say never; the thought of an Amazon Go franchise might just make me rethink!