Entrepreneurs agree that building a new brand in the retail sector takes guts, ingenuity and a sound strategy, including an array of business principles. Above all, finding a unique point of difference is one of the most important entrepreneurial goals.
Selecting a franchise partner Candi & Co is a relatively young brand, established in 2014 to provide the first chain of ethnic hair salons in the South African retail space. Founder Candice Thurston identified this niche service after experiencing the pamper promise of Sorbet.
Thurston says she wanted a Sorbet hair and beauty salon for women of colour because professional hair salons for this segment were limited. She approached the founder of Sorbet, Ian Fuhr, and a collaboration led to the establishment of Candi & Co as part of the Sorbet group.
However, the Candi & Co franchise model was created to align with the particular service niche.
From the first salon in Randburg the franchise has grown to eight stores around Gauteng. At the core of the growth is a sound business strategy in reaching and growing a loyal audience.
According to Thurston it had been a rewarding learning experience. The most valuable lesson she has learnt, is to secure the right franchise partner to grow your brand. “This is the number one contribution to success.”
Location Selecting a suitable spot for franchises is done with the target market in mind - locations that would fit the profile of their clientele. “We set up in locations that we believe will have the foot traffic from our target markets,” says Thurston.
Before deciding on a new location, they would look at whether the mall has many empty spaces and a fair number of stores closing down. If this is the case, Thurston would investigate the reasons.
They are very particular about the setting to ensure audience appeal and they don’t consider any space on offer. It has to tick the boxes.
Looking at the current store spread, popular malls have fit this bill: Chilli-lane (Sunninghill), Carlswald and Blue Hills (Midrand), The Dome (Northgate), Campus Square (Auckland Park), Randburg, Menlyn Park and Centurion Mall (Pretoria).
In addition to foot traffic, the search is also for an environment that is inviting, modern and bright. So far stores in strip malls have proven to be successful because they provide easy access for beauty and hair services.
Innovation and design The stores also reflect that inviting, modern and bright look and feel. To achieve this Candi & Co works with Shopfitting Concepts and The Design Partnership.
Thurston also does her homework on targeted retail spaces to ensure a good match for the profile of the Candi & Co audience. On top of this, consistent investment over the years has been part of the strategy in growing the brand.
Marketing is driven by local pop-ups, billboards and aggressive utilisation of social media. This is supported by a promise of appropriate services and innovation, dictated and loved by the target market.
At the core of the Candi & Co service offer is a clear understanding of the target market. This corresponds with one of the modern marketing trends, according to branding blogger Peter Grossman. He says brands should take note of the culture around them - in entertainment, fashion, news, and on social media.
This awareness should then be used to align the brand offer with the needs of their audience. Something the Candi & Co franchise seems to be getting right.
With the intimate knowledge of their audience the service has evolved to become a social happy place for more than a healthy hair fix. Along the way indulgences have been added in nail care, makeup, beauty, massage, Candi-kids and men menus, along with beauty products on offer.
To counter slow days during mid-month and Mondays to Wednesdays, week-day promotions are offered. Meanwhile everyday treats on top of the beauty service include Wi-Fi connection and drinks for clients.
Trends in leasable retail space Over the past five years Thurston has noticed increasing numbers of un-leased store space in malls. She suspects this could be attributed to managements electing to have empty space, rather than decreasing rental - something she says might warrant further investigation.
She maintains that landlords need to relook how they manage their tenants by offering more guidance, marketing, innovation and assistance to help grow tenants’ stores. “Arrogant landlords will not be able to sustain their malls if they do not collaborate with their tenants.”