When it’s time to select a site for your new franchise location, the journey to owning a business suddenly becomes very real! Picking a great spot for your business has always been touted as one of the most important decisions franchisees make. That is more true now than ever before, as the retail environment remains uncertain and customer behaviours continue to evolve.
For established franchise businesses with hundreds to thousands of existing locations, you can expect to receive ample support from the franchisor when it comes to site selection. You should take advantage of the resources, as these businesses have years of experience in spotting the right locations. They likely have a calculated, proven formula for success to put in the context of your unique concept and what kind of market it might thrive in.
Regardless of the level of support you anticipate, there are several tried-and-true tenets to follow and intimately understand.
Real estate site criteria
Looking at a brick-and-mortar site can offer a lot of clear tells as to whether or not it will be right for your concept. For most brands, considering what kind of visibility the space has, the frontage, the accessibility, parking spaces, and signage will all be important. There are also secondary criteria depending on your industry, such as if you need a loading dock, a drive-thru, and so on.
A creative approach to leasing
Beyond what’s visibly evident about the real estate, you should understand what kind of creative leasing solutions you might be able to collaborate on with the landlord. Throughout 2020 and into 2021, countless retailers have had to shift the delivery mode of their products from purely in-store to alternative means such as curbside pickup or taking over sidewalks. For example, if you’re a restaurant, would there be an opportunity to extend your outdoor seating area into the parking lot?
Long-term growth dynamics
A new franchisee’s goal is to have a sustainably viable business for years to come. That means when you consider a location, you need to think about what the location might look like in the present day, as well as three, five, or 10 years from now. Are there nearby developments that will be put into place that can boost potential market size? What is the schedule of those developments and will construction impact sales once you’ve begun operating?
Trade area shopper behaviour and profiles
Other “invisible” characteristics to understand when picking a location are the behaviours, personality, and demographics of a market. Are the people residing nearby a more mature population, students, or young families, etc.? What do they talk about? How do they spend their time? What are their interests? What kinds of products and experiences might they be seeking? By coming to understand these patterns, you must then assess whether your brand, product, and overall value is well-suited to meet the demands of the community.
Visitors and your digital trade area potential
Keep in mind that your future customers will not just be the people who live in the neighbouring suburb. Depending on the market, you may see a fluctuation in daytime population, or a regular increase in evening trips being made to your location. If you’re offering local delivery for online transactions, consider how much larger your trade area has become and if your location is centrally accessible to your online customer base as well.
Traffic and road access
The road networks that connect to your location are important to understand because they ensure that it’s convenient for shoppers to come to your site. Do most of your customers drive in from a neighbouring suburb, but have their access cut off to your centre by a median or boulevard? If you expect a major condo development across a major roadway, can pedestrians easily cross the street to interact with you? Are there significant volumes of people travelling in this area to support your business?
Retail and experience landscape
Pre-COVID-19 shopping undoubtedly had consumers looking to pursue one-stop shops and convenience-oriented trips. Now, that has become more and more important to consumers who are looking to reduce time spent in stores during the pandemic. Can your business be conveniently interacted with alongside another important trip?
Beyond the impacts of COVID-19, understand who the co-tenants are to your proposed property, and what kinds of customers they attract with their brand, product, and value. For example, if you’re a fitness centre, are there health-oriented concepts nearby that will fuel your customers after their workout? This articulation of what anchoring concepts are good for your franchise is an extension of your customer profile and adds a new dimension to understanding who you serve.
The retail landscape also includes your competition. Be sure to understand what competing concepts are within a similar distance to your customers. With the rise in e-commerce and digital brands, keep in mind that based on who your customers are, your competition might be capturing your market digitally as well, without a physical presence.
Chief Product Officer