Franchise operator Mrs. Fields has acquired its former rival Cookie Man in an unexpected deal, saving the Cookie Man brand from liquidation.
The deal won’t see franchisees axed from the Cookie Man network, according to Mrs. Fields. Cookie Man was formerly owned by collapsed franchise brand manager Allied Brands, but was placed into liquidation in October.
Despite the liquidation, there was strong interest in the business, including offers from an Indian company, the Franchised Food Company, and Cookie Corporation, the Australian master franchise of Mrs. Fields.
Cookie Corporation was not the highest bidder, but was successful in acquiring the Cookie Man brand after the Indian bid fell through.
The company has announced it will operate the two businesses separately, although the Cookie Man business will be operated through a newly formed subsidiary called Cookie Man Australia.
The Cookie Man chain has 43 stores, providing supplied cookies from a manufacturing plant and warehouse in Sydney.
Mrs. Fields, which has 27 stores, will continue to import its trademark cookies from the United States, although it will have access to the Cookie Man manufacturing facilities, allowing it to develop new products for the Australian market.
Andrew Benefield, managing director of Cookie Corporation, says there are no plans to amalgamate the brands because they can co-exist in the marketplace as separate entities.
“Both Cookie Man and Mrs. Fields have been present in the market for many years, and have quite different positioning and customer followings,” Benefield says.
“Mrs. Fields is a premium brand with a very specific, soft-baked cookie where Cookie Man has always been popular with kids and senior citizens – it’s a very different market.”
“Owning both brands will enable us to choose the most appropriate brand for any particular area to maximise customer satisfaction and franchisee sales.”
Cookie Corporation also announced the appointment of its Cookie Man general manager – former Cookie man owner and director Peter Elligett.
Benefield says this move will prove “very popular with Cookie Man franchisees”, particularly as it combines Elligett’s experience with his own.
“This is good news for Cookie Man franchisees. After a period of insecurity during the liquidation, we look forward to being able to offer the Cookie Man franchisees a bright and secure future,” Benefield says.
Benefield will allow Cookie Man franchisees to get through Christmas before talking to them about possible changes.
“The thing that sticks out the most, not to be critical here, is just getting them refocused on operational standards,” he says.
“I think if we can lay out a plan… and re-energise them and tidy up the stores, then that passion and energy will naturally return.”