David & Marie Clements
Last year David and Marie Clements won Card Connection’s award for ‘South West Franchisee of the Year’. David explains: “It was a massive surprise! Cornwall is an unusual area, it is geographically spread and not the most affluent region of the country, so has its own unique challenges. However, since joining Card Connection we have built our franchise up to supply around 165 retail outlets from Land’s End to Bude.
“In our first year of trading in 2007, we grew the franchise by 25% and we have continued to do well over the years. We visit between a variety of between six and 12 retail outlets each day delivering and merchandising Card Connection’s quality range of greeting cards and accessories.
“Some retailers are small and some can take up to three metre card displays. Some of our biggest customers are retail groups such as Shell and The Original Factory Shop. The display equipment is installed on ‘free loan’ to the retailers and they only pay for the stock they sell, so they are happy to work with us on an ongoing basis.
“Marie and I merchandise together as we find we can visit and service more stores in a day that way and optimize our time out on the road better. We are also focused on new account calls. I wouldn’t describe myself a sales person. It can be daunting visiting a prospective outlet but the cards are such good quality that they really sell themselves.
“Before joining Card Connection we ran a Londis store for twelve years in Kilkhampton, Cornwall. We had always been impressed with the quality of the greeting cards and gifts that the local Card Connection franchisee supplied to us in our shop. This, combined with the excellent merchandising service, made it clear that Card Connection had a great business idea.
“When the local franchisee let us know he was considering selling his business we knew we should seriously look into the proposition. As it turned out our experience ‘on the other side of the counter’ has put us in an excellent position to understand the needs of our retail customers.
“Because we were self-employed before, some aspects of the franchise are similar to when we ran the Londis store, such as basic bookkeeping and ordering stock. To be self-employed you need to be disciplined and motivated – and that is the same now we are franchisees. The main difference is in our day-to-day work: we are out on the road each day rather than behind a counter. We visit a different part of Cornwall every day!
“If I had to offer advice for prospective franchisees I would say: look into franchising carefully and do lots of research. Understand fully what is involved before making any commitment.
“We were lucky because we chose Card Connection and now we know the industry better, we can confirm that there are not many better franchisors out there.”