Interview with Michael Johnson, Managing Director of Card Connection

Date

March 4, 2016

Tell us about Card Connection?

Card Connection is a leading greeting card publisher and franchisor and has been established in the industry for more than 20 years. We have helped hundreds of franchisees become self-employed and run successful businesses over the past two decades.   Last year Card Connection was named as a finalist for the BFA Franchisor of the year award.

How long have you worked for Card Connection?

">More than fifteen years! I joined the company in 2000 and moved from finance and operations director to become managing director in 2009.

How does the franchise work?

Franchisees place our ranges of quality greetings cards and accessories in retail outlets on a ‘consignment’ basis. This is one step beyond sale or return as the equipment and stock is provided on free loan to retailers and they only pay for what they sell. This creates a win-win situation for retailers and franchisees alike and the award winning concept has proved popular with more than 12,000 stores throughout the UK.

What are Card Connection’s main USPs?

Card Connection has a number of unique selling points including marketing licenced product such as Boofle and Disney, plus the Company’s own in-house designed cards and accessories such as bags and wrap. We also have a national account network where the franchisees supply around 100 Regional and National retail accounts such as Costcutter, WH Smiths Motorway Services, NISA, BP and Spar. Dedicated head office staff manage the central relationship with national accounts on behalf of our franchisees, while franchisees manage the local relationships. 

The company is all about longevity. Our staff have an average tenure of eight years and we have worked with some of our national account customers for 15 years! Similarly, our franchisees stay with us for an average of ten years with some having run successful Card Connection franchises for almost 20 years! Unusually, as all of our territories are full, only re-sale franchises ever become available, offering new franchisees the opportunity to step into a working business and earn money from day one.  

What Challenges do you face?

If potential franchisees are worried about cash flow we encourage them to examine the accounts of other franchisees so they can get a realistic idea of likely income.  If the purchase price of a franchise is a sticking point, creating a business plan and discussing it with financial institutions that offer funding to new franchisees can be a way forward.

What people often forget is that any employed role can suddenly end in redundancy. However, by becoming self-employed, franchisees have far more visibility of the financial outlook of their business, are in more control of their own destiny and therefore, are often more ‘job secure’


What else can hold potential franchisees back?

We sometimes meet with potential franchisees who like the idea of running a Card Connection business but because they have never seen it done, find it hard to visualise how it would work on a day-to-day basis. For this reason, many of our franchises tend to be sold through word–of-mouth and recommendation. If you know someone who has run a successful franchise, it is easier to see how you may be able to do the same thing

To help overcome this challenge, we encourage people to talk to our franchisees, spend a day or two on the road with them to understand what the business actually entails. Some are worried it will mean ‘hard sell’ and when they have been out to meet our retail customers, are always surprised how keen the store managers are to see our franchisees, to take new stock and have their displays of greetings cards merchandised professionally.

Do franchisees need to be creative to merchandise greeting card displays?

Our franchisees come from all walks of life.  Successful individuals have ranged from an ex-coal miner to a race-horse trainer to a deep-sea fisherman plus plenty of other professions in between!   Merchandising displays of greetings cards to make them look fresh and attractive to customers is a big part of the role.  However, franchisees are fully trained and work to a specially designed and researched ‘planogram’ which is based on the way consumers search and buy greetings cards.  Although franchisees can be creative they don’t need to be!

Who makes an ideal Card Connection franchisee?

Enthusiastic individuals or couples who are not afraid of hard work but who want to be rewarded for the effort they put in to running their own business.

What advice do you offer new franchisees?

You can do this! We provide a comprehensive manual so as well as the intensive, head-office training, the manual offers a chance to refer back at any time. We are here to help and our staff are all experienced, friendly and approachable and will provide all the support and training necessary to help get new franchisees off to a good start. Whatever challenge encountered, it is guaranteed we’ve probably come across it before, so can help!

Card Connection is part of UK Greetings, which is a subsidiary of American Greetings Inc., one of the largest greeting card publishers in the world and has limited vacancies for franchisees that are keen to run an expanding business. Since the franchise network in the UK is complete, the available opportunities now consist of acquiring an already-established territory from an existing franchisee. These vary in price according to their level of development but start at £7k + Stock + Card Connection fee with earnings potential in excess of £50k per annum. 

Territories currently available include: Bath, Coventry, Reading/Windsor, Northampton, Plymouth, Oxford, Leicester, Liverpool, Ayr, Edinburgh and Ireland South.






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