As OPC Support Office looks forward to welcoming our franchisees to the Annual Regional Meetings to be held across the UK in May, we take a moment to introduce you to our MD, Mark Thompson and share his thoughts on franchising and his time with OPC.
Mark entered the greeting card industry in 1989 joining Carte Blanche Greetings. After seven years display planning, merchandising and managing a sales team, he left to join Britannia Products who were later bought by Hallmark Cards. Mark continued in sales team management eventually moving into National Accounts within the merged group.
In 2004, he joined OPC as our National Accounts Manager and soon involved himself in many aspects of the business, whilst learning about the franchising industry. In 2007 Mark was promoted to Sales and Marketing Director, becoming Managing Director in 2008.
In your opinion, why do you think that The Original Poster Company (OPC) franchise would be a great opportunity for someone?
“Everybody considering buying a franchise will want to be successful so the business model and franchisor support must be proven. Products or services of the franchise must still be in high demand so the franchisee has the ability to develop their franchise.
The sending and receiving of cards is an important part of our culture, with 85% of all cards in the UK bought by women. Despite continual changes on the high street, greeting cards remain very much a part of everyday retailing in both the high street and in local stores in an industry worth over £1.6 billion per annum in the UK alone. (GCA 2014)
Through our network of franchisees, we supply retailers with all products on a consignment basis, so retailers only pay for the products after they have sold them –therefore there is no investment and no risk - a very attractive proposition for all retailers.
With so many retailers selling greeting cards, each OPC franchisee has the opportunity to expand on the number of stores that they supply in their own exclusive area, with an excellent product range and backed by a support team dedicated to helping them succeed.
When franchisees are ready to sell their existing OPC due to retirement or to move on to a new business opportunity, this creates a huge potential for new owners to step in. They take on an existing business complete with a customer base, stock and an immediate income – all the incoming franchisee needs to do is cultivate what is already there, it couldn’t be easier!”
What are the qualities you look for in your ideal franchisee?
“Enthusiasm, good communication skills and hard work are key elements that contribute to making an OPC franchise a success. Providing excellent customer service to retailers ensures a long lasting relationship and the opportunity to increase sales for both parties.
An OPC franchise is suitable for those with strong management and customer service skills and for those who have the drive to succeed in managing their own business.”
What have some of the challenges been in growing your franchise and how have you overcome them?
“Meeting the needs of consumers, retailers and our franchisees both in the UK and overseas have remained as our initial and ongoing objectives, which of course bring their own challenges.
From our initial range of ‘Animal Magic’ cards launched in 1991, the demand from retailers has always been for more high quality designs, ranges and additional products. Over the years, our creative team has created many new and innovative ranges in what is a very competitive design led industry. Producing new products to add to our existing portfolio has been essential for improving both our total range offer and our franchisees sales to retailers both large and small.
The retail sector is ever changing but our focus has always been on local stores such as independently owned card shops, post offices and newsagents rather than the high street or supermarket multiples. In recent years, the convenience store sector has improved enormously in terms of higher store numbers, increased customer footfall and much improved store formats with an increasing majority now seeking to offer a comprehensive range of quality greeting cards.
Our product and service offer mean that our franchisees can provide the complete greeting card solution to these convenience stores, so we have developed head office trading relationships with all of the major national convenience store groups such as Costcutter, SPAR, Londis, Nisa etc.
We have a huge responsibility to our franchisees who have invested in the business, the format and the brand. Due to the changes in retailing and products required over the years, we have to recruit and maintain the best internal team to meet the demands of the business. Our initial and ongoing training to our franchisees together with our field and support office team, must provide the best possible service to our franchisees to enable them to succeed.”
Do you feel that franchising is a great way for individuals who wish to start their own business?
“Franchising is a more secure way to start your own business, providing a proven business format with initial and ongoing training and support.
Being part of a national or global business provides many advantages in terms of their history, branding, marketing and business planning. A well-established franchisor will provide all of the necessary products, services, tools, training and back up to enable a franchisee to be successful.
The franchisee must dedicate the required time and commitment by following the system and working with the franchisor to succeed in their mutual objectives.”
Do you belong to any associations or networking groups?
“We are a full member of the British Franchise Association (BFA), and the UK Greeting Card Association (GCA).”
What do you do in your spare time?
“Having a fairly young family means that being ‘Daddy’ is a big priority at the weekends, which includes managing my son’s football team - despite that I always played rugby! Catching up with family and friends and with what is happening in the world tends to take care of the remainder of my time.”