John Linehan - Managing Director of Foot Solutions - Over the last 25 years I have gained extensive experience in sales, marketing and business development. Prior to running my own marketing consultancy, I held various functions for companies such as Musgrave, Esat Digifone / O2, Bridgestone Firestone, and Digicel Jamaica, and worked across industries such as telecoms, FMCG, tyres, transport and construction.
I have also built specific experience in the retail sector by working with individuals, franchisees and retail chains.
FranchiseExpo: What is the Foot Solutions franchise opportunity all about?
John Linehan: Foot Solutions is a speciality retail franchise focusing on comfort shoes, custom arch supports and foot care products. We carry some of the world’s finest comfort shoes with extra depth and width. Foot Solutions was founded in Atlanta Georgia in 2000 and has fast become the world’s leading health and wellness franchise.
I spent about three years researching different franchise models so when I finally came across Foot Solutions, it simply ticked all the boxes and made absolute sense to me. Key factors for my decision to become the Master Franchisor for the UK and Ireland were as follows:
- Core customer 40+
- Needs-based business
- Little or no competition
- Aging population
- Growth of diabetes and obesity
- High margins vs low overheads
- The fact that people are becoming more and more health conscious
- Lack of information / solutions available for people with foot pathologies and biomechanical issues.
FE: Who is your ideal candidate for a Foot Solutions franchise?
John Linehan: Our franchisees come from a range of backgrounds. They may already have skills in managing people, knowledge of the health and wellness industry or have a specific interest in retail.
FE: What type of training and support do you offer Foot Solutions?
John Linehan: Foot Solutions provides a comprehensive training programme for its franchisees, managers, and technicians. Our own Foot Solutions Pedorthic Training Centre, based in Atlanta, Georgia in the US, is a fully certified facility and you will receive 2 weeks of training in the US as part of your induction programme.
The remainder of your initial training will be conducted in the UK where you will learn more about our 120-day kick-start plan.
We have a well-established support services system which includes:
- Technical support phone line
- Store visits
- Web-based support
- Monthly conference calls
- Factory technical support
- Field sales representatives
- Regional training seminars
- DVD & video training systems
We have developed targeted advertising and promotional programmes at both the consumer and regional levels. These programmes enable our franchisees to focus on and establish their customer base quickly. Our approach includes direct mail campaigns concentrating on the area surrounding your retail location. Additionally, we have developed specific marketing materials dependant upon market dynamics. All stores are given a local website upon opening that helps expose their store online, including a new e-commerce system.
FE: What are some of the advantages in being a Foot Solutions franchisee?
John Linehan: We are the world’s largest health and wellness franchise focussing on foot care and proper fit and have a proven business model operating in over 200 locations worldwide. Our customer service combined with the latest technology makes it impossible for companies to compete with us in an online shopping environment, making our niche franchise opportunity a great investment and an exciting proposition for anyone looking to start their own retail empire.
- Health and wellness industry sales are in the billions and rising.
- Doctors are increasingly referring their patients with diabetes, obesity and heart disease for comfort and fitness shoes and orthotics. You’ll connect with the community medical and health and wellness community, as well as diabetic educators, to enhance and establish your credibility and increase medical referrals.
- The younger, active, athletic consumer is educated about orthotics and inserts for better balance, better performance and injury prevention.
- More than 11 million UK workers, half the UK workforce, could be facing health risks caused by prolonged standing and need proper footwear and support to perform their job effectively.
FE: Are you a member of any Associations?
John Linehan: We are a member of several pedorthic associations and the International Franchise Association
FE: Tell us a little about the Health & Wellness Market?
John Linehan: There are now 14 million people in the UK aged over 60 and this is projected to increase by 50% over the next 25 years. Over half the new cases of foot care come from people over 65 with 58% choosing to receive care through a private provider rather than the NHS. This is just one of six areas where the Foot Solutions market growth is set to boom.
Doctors are increasingly referring patients with diabetes, obesity and heart disease for comfort and fitness shoes and orthotics. As a Foot Solutions franchisee, you’ll connect with the medical, health and wellness community, as well as diabetic educators, to enhance and establish your credibility and increase medical referrals.
In June 2012, a BBC feature stated that Britain's obesity epidemic will cost the NHS and the economy £60bn annually by 2050. With these and other medicals figures on the rise, it is clear to see that demand for Foot Solutions products can be generated from many avenues.
FE: How successful is your company today and what are your future growth plans?
John Linehan: Foot Solutions began franchising in Ireland in 2008 and in the UK in 2009. We currently have 10 stores with a number of new stores planned later in 2012.
In June 2012, we celebrated our 5th birthday in our pilot store in Cork. The month of June saw Cork’s biggest week’s sales figure and our biggest daily sales figure to date. We are also on track for our biggest month’s sales since we launched. The Year-to-Date system sales are up by in excess of 10%.
Franchisee David Dwyer opened his second store in Blanchardstown Shopping Centre (Ireland's second largest shopping centre) in July 2012. Despite a gloomy economic forecast by the media, this brings Ireland’s total to 7 Foot Solutions stores and our franchise network in the UK to a total of 10 stores.
FE: What are your franchisees saying about the business?
John Linehan:John Hankin, Glasgow & Edinburgh franchisee says: “I had personal experience of the Foot Solutions concept, product and service in North America, so when I chose to start my own business in Scotland, it was Foot Solutions who came out on top of all the franchises I researched. I’ll soon be opening my second store.”
And our franchisee from Plymouth, Andrew Scowcroft said “I undertook a course of training which started in the USA and rounded off by a session in Ireland. I also visited a few existing Foot Solutions stores, which allowed me to get a clearer idea of the business and how things worked.”
I can quote David Dwyer of Dublin South saying: “I first found Foot Solutions at the Dublin franchise show in 2007 and their great products and niche market really appealed to me. Combining the franchise’s good potential margins and good market growth opportunities with my interest in first aid and helping others meant it was the best franchise for me.”
FE: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
John Linehan: Do your research and due diligence. Our franchise opportunity gives you the option of managing and working in your own retail stores or investing in a portfolio of stores and recruiting an operations manager; you will know what suits your skills best.
FE: In your opinion, why do you think that Foot Solutions would be a great opportunity for someone?
John Linehan: Against the backdrop of recession and negativity associated with retail in particular, we have still managed to establish the Foot Solutions brand and develop the franchise network. All stores have performed well under these circumstances and some of our franchisees are seeing EBITDA returns of in excess of 15%.
We only appoint franchisees that we feel will add value to our network. We have gone way beyond our obligations in supporting our franchisees both from a training and support perspective, treating each new franchise opening as if it were our own. The result of this professional support team is that we can confidently move forward to roll out our network knowing that we have the best possible advice and support available to both our franchisees and to ourselves as Master Franchisors. This will ensure that our network can be successful and efficient in its roll out.