Growth Markets: Where to find franchise fortunes

Written by Eleanor Beaton

The hottest opportunities in franchising are new and old. Services that cater to children or seniors will be among the most significant opportunities in franchising over the next five years, says Rob Bond, president of the World Franchising Network, a San Francisco-based provider of franchising advice and research.

The proof is in the demographics. Statistics Canada forecasts that Canada will be home to 5.8 million seniors by 2016 — up by 35% from 4.3 million in 2006. Senior-focused franchises are already the country’s fastest-growing franchise category, says Lorraine McLachlan, president and CEO of the Canadian Franchise Association. Their number has climbed from 14 to 18 in the past year alone — even before the oldest boomers turn 65 in 2011. “This is a demographic reality, and we haven’t even hit the bulge yet,” says McLachlan.

Almost all these senior-oriented franchises are home-care services. But franchising consultants say there are plenty of underexplored concepts, notably in retrofit and renovation services to make homes more liveable for seniors, and in stores specializing in products to improve mobility.

Mark Siebert, CEO of iFranchise Group Inc., a Chicago-based franchise consultancy, says senior-oriented franchises offering low-cost retrofits will be especially popular among newly cost-conscious consumers. One of the most successful franchises he has seen lately is one that retrofits shelving units to roll out so people can easily access shelf contents without having to bend or squat for long.

Other demographic realities point to good franchise opportunities that, like the above, require limited capital, are easy to systematize and can find a footing in local markets. Consider the ongoing rise in dual-income families: 69% of couples with kids under 16 are dual-income, reports Statistics Canada, up from 61% in 1996. These couples tend to be better educated and worried about their children’s ability to compete in an ever-more demanding work world. And these couples are short on time to spend trying to give their kids an edge, but can afford to pay for outside help.

These same realities are fuelling growth in the U.S. in franchises that offer child-development fare such as art, music, tutoring or after-school programs. “Parents want to make sure that when they’re at work, their kids are getting good experiences,” says Bond. “So, they’re throwing some of that largesse at kid-development companies.”

Not all hot opportunities skew young or old. Siebert says there are still great prospects for bringing organic foods to the mainstream. The United Nations recently forecast that global sales of certified organic products will total US$67 billion in 2012, a 46% jump from US$46 billion in 2007. Siebert says organic health-food franchises and chains specializing in organic macrobiotic pizza are starting to crop up and seem poised for major growth.

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