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Team work at Card Connection franchise works!

Card Connection is one of the UK’s largest card publishers and is the market leader in the franchised distribution of greeting cards. A British Franchise Association member, it now has more than 100 franchisees across the UK and a year ago Cath Dorran and Margaret Roberts worked together with the Card Connection franchisee owner of the Glasgow & Argyll territory.

Cath was responsible for much of the merchandising for the franchise. This involved visiting retail outlets, post offices, petrol station forecourts as well as large Card Connection group accounts - including Sainsbury’s Local, Somerfield, Londis and Spar - on a regular basis to deliver and refresh the supply of greeting cards. “By ensuring the displays always looked up-to-date with new stock customers are encouraged to buy the products,” explains Cath.

Margaret on the other hand, worked back at base, managing the essential paperwork and picking and packing stock so it was ready for delivery to the appropriate stores the following day, while the franchise owner oversaw the smooth running of the operation. Between them they made a great team and for three years they worked together and ran the franchise very successfully.

However, when the owner decided to realise the return on his investment and sell the territory, Cath and Margaret immediately recognised they were ready for the next step up the business ladder and resolved to buy the franchise themselves.

After hours immersed in the day-to-day running the Scottish franchise Cath and Margaret already knew how successful a Card Connection franchise could be. “We believe this is partly due to the company’s consignment approach,” confirms Cath. “One step beyond ‘sale or return’, by placing greeting cards and display equipment in stores on free loan to the retailer, Card Connection’s customers never have to buy the stock up-front. They only pay for what they sell.

“The other aspect of the business where Card Connection is strong is its great selection of quality greeting cards,” continues Cath. “With designs regularly being updated from an in-house studio as well as supplied by hundreds of freelancers the range is always fresh and is well received by retailers and consumers alike.”

In addition, Cath had previously owned a carpet sale and fitting franchise so it allowed her to recognise not only the potential profitability but the simplicity of the Card Connection franchise in comparison with her old business. “At Card Connection you only need to depend on one organisation as your supplier for example,” she explains. “As Card Connection is 100% reliable, this takes many of the headaches out of product distribution which had always been an issue in my previous franchise.

“It was the combination of the proven consignment approach, the quality of product and the knowledge that the Card Connection business development team was fully committed to its franchisees that gave us the confidence we could go it alone,” she continues.

Once Cath and Margaret had decided to buy the franchise they needed to raise the funding to cover the cost of the territory, stock and goodwill of the business. “With any franchise, the purchase price is usually found through savings, borrowing from friends or family or a bank loan,” explains Cath. “For us a large proportion of the funding came from three separate five year loans; from Natwest Bank, Strathclyde Bank and one from a business development loan from Glasgow City Council. The remainder was made up of savings which also ensured we had enough for working capital at the outset.”

Over the following year Cath and Margaret put in many hours of hard work to ensure their business continued as successfully as it had with the previous owner. “However, we didn’t feel like we were totally on our own as we received lots of support from Card Connection,” confirms Cath. “This was helpful from day one. Our business development manager is in close contact if we need him, but that said, the support is never intrusive and this means we can stay focused on running our own business ourselves, with help when we need it.”

Now having owned two different franchises, Cath is in a good position to offer advice to potential franchisees and suggests: “talking to existing franchisees or, if possible, spending a day with them is really helpful. Watch how they work as this will give an invaluable insight into what running that particular franchise will be like.

“Margaret and I were lucky as we had worked within the franchise for a few years and knew exactly what it entailed – especially the hard work!” she continues. “However, this didn’t put us off as we knew that we would always be rewarded for our effort. One year on, the support and encouragement we have received from Card Connection, combined with our own persistence has paid off. Our monthly income now enables us to cover the cost of our business loans comfortably and have cash in the bank for wages. In the future we are hoping to expand and take on staff – making our own team a little bigger - the best reward we could have hoped for”.

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