Sandra Boyle is the head of Wild Retail Group, which operates a franchise network of stores selling gifts and cards. Even though the retail marketing environment has been tough, Boyle has still managed to secure her business growth over the past year with revenue of $33 million.
We spoke to Boyle about running a business for 12 years, how tough the retail market has become, and why it’s harder now to find new franchisees.
The business goes back 12 years now. I had been in retail, mainly fashion, prior to that. I realised there was more potential out there than what I was actually working within, so I got involved in franchising.
I loved franchising and understand it quite well. I just felt there was an opportunity among speciality retailers within the card and gift industry at that time, because we were charging quite a bit for fees.
The first thing in franchising that creates arguments is a marketing fund. The stores which turn over more, the argument they point out is that they pay more but the little guy gets the same amount of money. I decided I could do it better.
I wanted to take a different direction away from licensed products. When I first started there was so much in the novelty area and the licensed products. I just felt that had a lifespan.
Starting any business means you need to network. You need the contacts.
Word of mouth means more than anything these days. If you develop a good relationship with people, have a relationship with your franchisees, it can work.
Finance was a huge area I had to overcome. I went to a supplier and said, ‘I can’t afford to import some products’, but he just held them for me and let me buy as I needed. Having that relationship allowed me to do that.
The banks are certainly lightening up right now. In private enterprise it is now easier to get funding.
Wages, particularly for weekends, have been a big problem. That’s certainly been a big one for the past three to four years, but the other is just the lack of appetite for risk in private enterprise.
Normally what would happen after redundancies is we’d pick up a few new franchisees, but that’s not the case now. They’re banking their money and they’ll just go and work for someone.
I think that’s because of the negativity towards retail and business. The bullish attitude has receded, so that’s affected the market.
We’ve worked extremely hard to keep the business doing well. I think we come in every day and think about what to do to make the business more successful.
We created our online presence last September. We launched our website, and it’s been slow, but the reasoning there is to drive people back into the stores. We knew it wasn’t going to make us millions, but we needed that presence.
We actually rebate the stores for every purchase made online: 10% of the sale goes back and we identify their location through Google Maps. We felt that was fair.
They’re also purchasing at weird hours. From 10 at night to three in the morning, and the stores are happy with that. It’s not much, but we’re not going to do much online in total. It’s just a matter of contacting people constantly and they seem to love it.
I love what I’m doing. I couldn’t think of doing anything else, I love doing what I do and helping the stores do well.