Some brands just need to remember their roots in order to fulfill their destiny. In the mid- to late-nineties, Play It Again Sports was a major growth story in franchising. Selling hundreds of franchises a year, the concept of new and used sporting goods quickly caught fire and franchise candidates and consumers loved the idea of quality used goods for far less than what you would pay in the big box stores.
But like many franchises find, fast growth and lack of discipline can come back to haunt you. Common problems faced with franchisors that have experienced this first-hand include under-capitalized franchisees, under-performers, under-developed franchise infrastructure, and poor franchise validation. And it gets worse. The more that franchisees struggle, the more they will stray from the brand standards and the brand promise to the consumer. In the case of Play It Again Sports, that meant an abandonment of what differentiated them from their competition, their used products. Suddenly, franchisees were competing head-to-head with the big box retailers on new product and did not have the dollars and marketing clout to succeed.
Enter the new management team at Winmark and Winmark Franchise Partners. We assessed the situation, determined what action was needed, formulated a plan to get our franchise partners back to the basics, and began the journey with them to turn our brand around. While it has taken a lot of hard work and our story is not yet complete, the results have been amazing. Average unit volume has increased by over 44%, average gross margins have increased by more than 300 basis points and renewal rates on franchise agreements improved to well over 95%, meaning almost all of our franchisees have elected to sign up for another 10 years as our partners in their respective markets.
While the journey is long from over, the results to date have helped stabilize the brand in an industry (sporting goods) that is in the midst of a major upheaval, and the future looks brighter than ever before.