RadioShack aided by trade mission support, trade agreement
|Doing the honors are Perry Holloway, second in command at the U.S. embassy in Colombia, left, and RadioShack’s exec Marty Amschler, right. In the center is the franchisee, Steve Uquillas of Ecuador-based Corporacion Favorita. Below: The press prepare for the ribbon-cutting.|
The staff at the U.S. Commercial Service in Bogota had to choose: Steer the local press to the U.S. Franchise Trade Mission reception that evening or to the RadioShack grand opening in the afternoon? As it turned out, staff made the right choice.
RadioShack made the news in late August and the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, Michael McKinley, attended the reception at the El Nogal Club, an upscale business club where the trade mission delegates spent the night.
A bonus for the Ambassador was there was no press present to hound him for his opinion on the bigger news of the day: The historic announcement of proposed peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Government (FARC), a onetime Marxist guerrilla group.
Politics and business don’t always have to be at odds.
The RadioShack store, on a modern street populated with a mix of restaurants and retail in Bogota, already had a soft opening in January. The Embassy’s PR mavens were able to attract both newspapers and TV crews to the official opening seven months later because the U.S. business, which imports the vast majority of its electronics and gadgets into Colombia, is benefitting from the recent passage of the trade agreement between the two countries.
It also helped that executives from the company were in town: Marty Amschler, vice president of franchising, and Benjamin Simon, senior director of international development. In addition, the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission for Colombia, Perry Holloway, who was on hand for the festivities, had more than a casual interest in cutting the ribbon. Holloway, second in rank at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, had been employed by RadioShack early in his career, back when they did yearly polygraphs, he said. (That’s no longer the policy at the 90-year-old company.) While press was eager to ask him questions, he waved them off until he had a chance to check out all the new gadgets.
The franchise partner, a billion-dollar corporation based in Ecuador, was represented by Steve Uquillas, who is overseeing the company’s second agreement with RadioShack. Corporacion Favorita already has 18 of the electronic stores open in Ecuador, he said, and is planning to open a second store next year in Colombia. Their plan, he added, is to have 20 stores in 10 years. “As we get to know the country, we will do it as the market demands,” he said about expanding.
This first store is a handful of blocks from the largest mall in Bogota. Being in the actual mall, Uquillas said, is too expensive. But their location is close to the large Sony and other giant electronics stores. “We sell the accessories they need,” he pointed out.
Hiring in Colombia has been a challenge, Uquillas said. Employees need to be knowledgeable about the products and able to solve customers’ problems, since it’s not a self-service concept. They’ve found in Ecuador the best way to motivate employees to sell is to build commission into their salaries, but according to Colombian law, they can’t offer commissions on high-priced items.
While the split in Ecuador is 60 percent commission/40 percent salary, in Colombia the split is more along the lines of 20 percent commission/80 percent salary, he said. To keep good people, he entices them with management positions when the new stores open. Which is one more reason to stay on a steady development schedule.
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Century 21 Real Estate renewed its master franchise agreement with Century 21 France for 10 more years. The French company has 870 offices with nearly 6,000 real estate agents and is one of the system’s most successful operations, the company said. The Parsippany, New Jersey-based franchisor has more than 7,000 franchised broker offices in 73 countries and territories worldwide. It is a subsidiary of Realogy Corporate, which franchises Coldwell Banker and ERA, among others.
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QSR International, a master franchisor for quick-service brands like Quiznos Subs in Latin America and the Caribbean, opened its fifth Quiznos restaurant in the Dominican Republic with franchisee Lobarnechea Food Investment S.A. The 1,800-seat food court location is in the Agora Mall in Santo Domingo, the first certified eco-friendly building in the Dominican Republic. Just prior to the restaurant opening—its fifth Quiznos in the country—Lobarnechea signed on for 16 additional new units to be built over the next several years.
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Zambian entrepreneur and philanthropist Rocky Sombe, who has the master license agreement with Signarama for Zambia, opened the region’s flagship location in the capital of Zambia, Lusaka, this summer. Sombe is an accountant by trade and has ties to the banking industry, the company reports.
Zambia, formerly known as the African territory of Northern Rhodesia before getting its independence in 1964, has experienced 6 percent GDP growth for the past few years between 2005 and 2011, according to the CIA website on country profiles.
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