Irish Franchise Association:
Ireland's franchise sector exhibits growth

As one of Ireland's first franchisors and current Chairman of the Irish Franchise Association, John Green is witness to the growth of franchising in Ireland.
Rachel Spaul interviews

When John Green took up the mantle of Irish Franchise Association (IFA) Chairman in 1998, having been involved with ChemDry for 10 years, franchising in Ireland was still in its infancy. Only a handful of franchise systems were operational and the IFA had lost direction following the death of its Founder John Neenan. Green recalls McDonald's, The Body Shop, and Tie Rack as being among the international brands making inroads into Ireland. Abrakababra, a takeaway restaurant concept, was one of the few indigenous franchises.

Having invested in the ChemDry Master Franchise for Ireland in 1989, Green entered franchising on the brink of an exciting growth curve. The 1990s marked a new developmental phase for Ireland and its franchise sector, peaking in early 2000. As the economy dipped following a global economic slowdown, the growth of franchising also slowed but didn't stop.

When the first survey of franchising in Ireland was conducted in 1995 the turnover of franchise systems in Ireland was €0.256 billion. In 2001 turnover was €1.02 billion, a record 79 per cent growth on the previous year. The last survey conducted in 2004 by Franchise Direct recorded 201 business format franchise systems generating a group turnover of €1.272 billion*. The 2006 Franchising in Ireland Survey, due to be published later this year, is expected to reveal further growth with an estimated 250 business format systems.

Green attributes this growth to key factors. 'The economy in Ireland is good and people are waking up to the fact that franchising is proven as the safer way into business ownership,' he explains. 'Ireland offers stability and a well-educated population.'

The IFA has also contributed to the growth of franchising in Ireland by promoting ethical and effective franchising through its membership and educational events. 'The Association was founded as the professional body representing franchising in Ireland, to promote franchising and to put in place a code of ethics to regulate the industry,' Green explains. 'Our mission is still to develop and promote best practice franchising in Ireland and to create an environment within which franchised businesses can grow.'

Green upholds the values of the association in his ChemDry franchise by ensuring franchisees receive periodic training updates and are always kept up to date on what's new and are aware of the group's ethical practices. 'Our 42 ChemDry franchisees are a great group of people who always go the extra mile for customers,' Green adds.

With franchising now demonstrating consistent growth in Ireland, the IFA Directors - Green, Michael Bradley, Bill Holohan, Fiacre Nagle, Andy Hennessey, and Dave Killeen - are formulating the association's strategic plan for 2006 to 2010. Green outlines: 'We are currently outlining the objectives of the association to improve its structure, standards and effectiveness. We will be identifying the realistic value franchising contributes to the economy and tracking its growth through an annual sponsored survey. We are planning new ways of adding value for members and improving networking opportunities between franchisor members and affiliates.'

Within the next two years, the association is aiming to double its membership base of 73 and to introduce categories of membership similar to its UK counterpart the British Franchise Association.

The new membership structure will make it easier for prospective franchisees to evaluate the viability of their chosen franchises. 'Full members for instance will need to have been running successfully for two years and have a minimum of three franchisees to qualify,' Green clarifies. 'Members benefit from the use of the IFA logo, can access a wealth of expertise, and we lobby key government decision makers on their behalf.'

Each year the IFA runs a series of events to educate and promote franchising. Events remaining for 2006 include the Irish Franchise Exhibition being held in Dublin on November 17th and 18th organised by Venture Marketing Group. Coinciding with the exhibition is a franchisor training programme focusing on recruiting and motivating franchisees, and the annual awards dinner. The final 'Franchise Your Business' seminar is scheduled for October 3rd and is sponsored by the Bank of Ireland. Also running in October is the 'Franchising all you need to know' seminar, sponsored by Ulster Bank on the 4th and in Carlow on the 12th October.

'We've run very successful seminars throughout 2005 and into 2006 in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick giving prospective franchisees the opportunity to speak with experts and existing franchisors,' Green furthers. 'We've re-launched the association's website making it more user friendly and containing more franchise information. We have also run programmes for educational institutes, such as universities, to educate students about franchising.' Green concludes that the future of the association and franchising in Ireland look fruitful: 'I fully expect more new franchise systems from all over the world to enter Ireland over the next five to 10 years. We may also see an increase in indigenous businesses establishing franchise systems in Ireland and also internationally. The people of Ireland are adaptable and willing to accept new ideas and systems for doing business.'