In the post-COVID economy, many retail franchise owners are facing some sobering realities.
One-third of American consumers are feeling financially squeezed, finding themselves with less disposable income than before the pandemic hit. It’s expected that demand is going to fluctuate as consumers have scaled back and are focusing on making essential purchases.
If a retail business hasn’t built a cohesive omnichannel strategy that aligns with changing consumer behavior, it’s already playing catch up. And it’s not just online shopping that has increased. More consumers are turning to virtual consultations, contactless payment and curbside pickup.
Throughout 2020, retail franchise owners have been gaining new insight and perspective about their businesses. Many have discovered that their retail franchise investment:
- Is an essential business that consumers depend on regardless of the health or economic circumstances
- Has been leaning into inevitable changes that COVID-19 has helped thrust forward
- Is agile enough to have rapidly responded to market forces to meet consumer wants and needs
Naturally, those looking at retail franchise opportunities are seeking out ones that provide essential services and products built around a business model that caters to today’s value-driven, omnichannel consumer.
Here are a few questions that help answer whether a retail franchise is set up to thrive in a post-COVID economy.
Does the retailer provide an essential service or product?
Many franchises have claimed they are recession-resistant. They’ve demonstrated this by having a solid track record during the 2008-2009 recession, but what we’ve seen during the pandemic is the stark contrast between being recession-resistant and being an essential retailer. Those that are non-essential have had a difficult time validating their resiliency as they’ve been forced to close their doors and figure out how to safely reopen to varying degrees of consumer interest.
At My Eyelab, we’re fortunate to be part of the vision care industry, which generates $181 billion globally and is essential in helping the more than 164 million Americans who wear eyeglasses get the eye care they need to get the glasses they want. The fact is that consumers cannot get a complete eye exam (prescription + health check) at home or through an ecommerce platform. It requires specialized equipment that allows a licensed optometrist to perform the exam and prescribe corrective lenses.
How has the retail franchise adjusted its in-store operations and experience?
Before the pandemic, consumers were driven to brands that provided convenient, exceptional experiences. For most retailers, hitting the mark in this area came down to your people, your product and service and the environment.
Now, retailers have to rethink the purpose of their locations. With limits on the in-store capacity aimed at reducing the chances of spreading the coronavirus, retail franchises must make the most of every customer interaction.
As an eyeglass franchise, our business model has consistently focused on the customer experience and making what’s traditionally been a cumbersome and stressful experience into something easy and enjoyable. My Eyelab is the only vision care franchise that has developed a proprietary telehealth system, transforming and simplifying the retail eye care experience. Our customers can walk in to get their eye exam completed without the need for an optometrist to be on site. Instead, franchisees and their team can leverage a built-in network of doctors who remotely perform the exam, identify any eye issues and provide a prescription. Customers are then at liberty to choose from our huge selection of affordable frames or contact lenses.
There are numerous benefits to this model. For the franchisee, the regulatory complications or working with an on-site optometrist and operating a lab are removed from the situation. Labor costs are kept low and capital investments for equipment are reduced because operators don’t need to purchase the technology that traditional eye care franchises require.
For customers, the experience is curated to their needs. My Eyelab employees can spend their time helping customers find the exact frames that fit their style and needs instead of focusing on arranging appointments around a single optometrist’s schedule and having customers sitting around waiting.
How is the retailer navigating the commercial real estate market?
For the retail businesses that haven’t been able to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, the experience has been painful. According to Coresight Research, more than 7,700 stores retail stores have closed in 2020 as of the end of August.
The silver lining is that this has ushered in opportunities for retail franchises to not only find highly attractive commercial real estate but also take advantage of new leasing agreements. For instance, retail landlords have been offering short-term leases with revenue-adjusted rents.
Retail franchises in the best position to succeed post-COVID and take advantage of brick-and-mortar space will be those that carry a higher average sales ticket. Businesses that depend on a high volume of customers visiting their stores will be challenged to meet previously established revenue benchmarks if they haven’t modified their model to safely and conveniently accommodate a large number of customers.
Retailers like My Eyelab have an average sales ticket above $200, which means franchisees don’t depend on seeing thousands of customers per day. Additionally, landlords may be more inclined to have tenants that are more service and experience-led and aren’t strictly dependent upon high in-store traffic. My Eyelab also leverages highly sophisticated software to help you identify the best location and ramp up quickly with their team of experts, providing you support every step of the way.
Learn More about My Eyelab Franchise Opportunities
Looking at the post-COVID economy, My Eyelab is poised for success in the retail franchise space. Our model has leaned into many of the changes that were already forming before the pandemic hit, resulting in a uniquely simple-to-operate retail franchise that provides an essential product and service at an affordable price. Our business model is proven and time-tested.