Getting Clean Away from the Spivs; Exhibition Guest Gives Franchising More Credibility
Cleaning up:Mr Nigel White set up The HandWash after his luxury vehicle was badly damaged in an automatic car wash. His first customer was a Porsche owner and by the end of the year the group will operate a dozen sites.
Steps to success:Pupils at the Drusilla Duffill Theatre School use dancewear and shoes from Dancia International, which was founded more than 50 years ago, but now plans a nationwide network of shops.
By IAN HALSTEAD
Franchising still has something of a reputation for being the "spiv" end of industry.
It has had its success stories and its fair share of cowboys.
But there is no arguing with its growing popularity.
Now its annual showcase is back in town with media commentator, and one-time Tory grandee, Sir Bernard Ingham giving it added credibility.
Last year's National Franchise Exhibition pulled in a record-breaking 200 exhibitors and more than 13,500 visitors.
Sir Bernard opened it then and today he is back at the NEC to launch the three-day event, which organisers say is even bigger and better.
Among the best-known exhibitors are McDonald's, Bang & Olufsen, Dyno-Rod, Burger King, Greenalls Inns and Prontaprint, plus the Franchiser of the Year, Wimpy.
Others range from a business which provides computer literacy education for youngsters and a car wash which uses humans rather than machinery to cosset expensive vehicles, to a US company which specialises in mobile shredders.
Among newcomers at the 1998 show are French fashion house Rodier, Art 4 Fun, Beloir Property Management and Thrifty Car Rental.
The British Franchise Association is celebrating its 21st anniversary and director-general Mr Brian Smart reels off some impressive statistics about the industry.
Much of corporate UK has struggled during the last year, under the burden of high interest rates and an overpriced pound.
However, the franchise sector has grown in spectacular style with its total turnover up almost ten per cent to a whopping pounds 7 billion.
Mr Smart calculates that the figure would be far higher if the range was widened outside what the industry recognises as business format franchises. "If we took in car dealerships, soft drinks' franchises, petrol retailing and the tenanted licensed trad e, annual sales would be more than pounds 36 billion."
Mr Smart points out that a fifth of all retail trade in the UK is delivered through franchises, and the level of profitability is rising sharply.
In 1991, the BFA reckons that just 70 per cent of its UK members were operating in the black. Now that figure is running at just over 90 per cent.
Mr Smart also points out that 99 per cent of franchises are still in profit after five years. …