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Five beat average but a handful sink


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Printing, shipping and signage franchises posted a 3.6 percent increase in systemwide sales last year, one of the more modest gains by an industry sector.

Unishippers and ProForma managed to do much better, topping 7 percent sales growth, while Fastsigns grew 6.7 percent and Image360 hit 7 percent.

The UPS Store grew systemwide sales 5.1 percent, a remarkable feat given it’s a $2.16 billion behemoth—and it’s a lot harder to move the needle that much at that size.

There were a nearly equal number of slumps, the biggest by PostNet with more than a 6 percent sales decrease. Allegra and Signarama skidded a bit, down about 1 percent.

For one of the winners, ProForma, a good year is simply something to note, then move forward. Greg Muzzillo, founder, says the company is well into a $10 million technology spend designed to give franchise owners a competitive edge.

“Amazon is teaching the end-user customers in virtually every industry to want an Amazon-like experience,” he says. So ProForma is in phase one of a three-phase process to create a custom platform tying together customers, franchise owners and suppliers around the globe. As he puts it, “If you’re not preparing to be disruptive, you will be disrupted.”

ProForma accomplished a couple of goals in the past few years that are boosting systemwide sales. Several formerly independent operators  were brought into the franchise fold, bringing substantial books of business with them, he said. And, last year corporate landed four or five large national contracts, ranging from $12 million to $18 million in value.

Image360, meanwhile, is a 30-year-old system that beats the drum of technology, too. “As technology begins to unfold, we can do more and more,” says Mike Cline, VP of franchise development. “For example, we can go into your offices and if you have a boardroom with four white walls, we could create customized wallpaper just for you. So having additional capabilities is key.”

We’ll give the last word to Tim Davis, president of The UPS Store, who was more interested in talking about the basics, not the next new toy. “We focus on retail fundamentals. I think it’s easy for a franchisor to chase too many of the latest and greatest things,” he says.

His team visits stores on a quarterly basis, checking up on everything from how owners greet customers to how well they offer “all the things we’re capable of.”

And when asked to comment on other franchises in the space, all of them much, much smaller than UPS, he wasn’t playing. “I stay heads down on our opportunity. We don’t ignore our competition, but we definitely don’t try to chase other people’s agenda,” says Davis, sounding like the Marine Corps veteran he is.

“We have an incredible world-class brand, and we stay focused on the opportunity that we think can create value in the marketplace.” Given the numbers, it’s hard to argue with that.

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