Meet our Franchisees
After 27 years working in the same place, James Bird was ready to make the step up to running his own business. Investing in a Card Connection franchise gave him the instant advantage of having a ready-made customer base all set up, meaning he could earn an income from day one.
“I started as a cashier in a petrol station and worked my way up through supervisor, then to Store manager,” explains James, “So when I took on the franchise for Gloucester in February 2019 I had a great understanding of how retail works in the convenience sector and was I able to transfer all that knowledge and experience to the benefit of the franchise.”
With the full support of his partner Sandy, James has been able to improve his work/life balance to spend more time with his family. Gone is his previous the stress of dealing with staffing issues, as being his own boss means he can be flexible with how he plans his days. He prefers to start early: “I have my van loaded the night before with everything I need for the next day, and often hit the road before 7am,” smiles James.
Supplying greeting cards and other related product to over 150 stores across his territory, he has a great mix of outlets from nationally branded names like Costcutter, Premier and Londis to smaller independent shops.
The territory includes the cathedral city of Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud and Chippenham, which involves driving thought the picturesque Cotswolds area of outstanding beauty. “Yes, there are worse places to work!” jokes James.
Finding out exactly what each outlet needs and how its customers vary is a crucial part of him delivering a personalised service and in doing so driving up his sales.
“Retail is detail,” quotes James. “Spending time talking to customers is important and after merchandising stores I always check they are happy with their displays before I leave.”
Munawar Mohammed took over Card Connection’s Aberdeen territory in 2016, attacking his new challenge was great enthusiasm. He was the network’s Franchisee of the year in 2018 and Northern & Scotland regional top performer in 2019. After three successful years, he has no intention of slowing down!
Tell us something about your franchise
It’s been a lot of hard work, but I’ve grown the business by nearly 30% in three years. Gaining the trust of all my customers was key, and you must be seen to be a highly dependable supplier to them. Cultivating good relationships with area managers hasn’t dome me any harm, either. It’s helped me cement my position as sole greeting card supplier to the bulk of the stores that I’m in.
What’s the secret of your success?
I’m always looking for ways to offer a better service, so I keep detailed records for each of my stores and use their sales data to drive better future performances by really understanding what customers want and what they might be missing out on. I install the widest possible product range and invested heavily in new display fixtures wherever I think they would benefit me in the long run. I also decided to trade up to higher priced product across all my stores. It’s proved a hit with both store owners and their customers!
What are your plans?
Continue to find ways to get more out of the business. One area I’ve paid attention to recently is with my Seasonal ranges. I started with Christmas 2018, when I copied the high street by getting my cards into stores early. “In our convenience sector stores, we’ll always capture those last-minute distress purchases, so my extra sales have come from those organised people who are prepared to shop for their cards early. With that in mind, I’ve followed the same pattern with Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and even Easter. Sales have shown already that it’s a strategy worth sticking with.