Pool franchise has rolling five year plan

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John O'Brien, CEO of Poolwerx, regards his market as a lucky one right now. Taking care of the pool is not something that can be deferred, he says; consumers need equipment and chemicals, so people need to keep spending on pools. It has also helped the business that people aren't travelling so much but taking holidays in their backyard.

However, the new equipment purchases were very late to pick up last year, he reports, with the traditional September lift delayed until December. Better purchasing has also been fuelled by better weather.

Looking ahead

While this trend has more to do with consumer sentiment and cautious spending, the fact that PoolWerx has a rolling five year plan has undoubtedly helped the franchisees themselves, says O'Brien.

"We were conscious five years ago of the need to future proof our business. Since then we've introduced the retail side with 60 stores in five years, and three years ago introduced the business to business side. PoolWerx is now a major provider to commercial pools and spas.

"This year our mobile side is up 12 per cent, retail has increased 18 per cent and the business to business has grown 28 per cent to the end of February on last year's comparable figures. And we've seen an 18 per cent increase overall. "We see this as an opportunity to grab market share off individual stores," he explains. "Franchise groups survive better in this climate.

"About 12 months ago we introduced a guarantee facility with NAB for franchisees who haven't quite got the lending ability to purchase a competing store, so we will provide the security to the bank. This summer they've been jumping out of the woodwork."

PoolWerx has addressed leasing issues with landlords, renegotiating leases mid-term if necessary. It has gone down the track of providing a step-in deed for franchisees that allows the franchisor to step in and run the site in the case of franchise failure. This in turn gives the company the ability to negotiate better terms, says O'Brien.

Over the last two years franchisees have been encouraged to be not just multi-store owners but to buy into the fourth generation model. Franchisees can open an anchor store and hub, opening up to four 40 square metre satellite stores within half an hour's drive of the main outlet. Admin is handled at the 200 square metre store and suppliers can deliver to one outlet which reduces their distribution costs and that has benefits for the franchisees. This model allows the brand to reach into much higher traffic areas and it can service both regional and city areas.

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