This “Outside Consultant” column by Mike Porter, EdD, a faculty member in the Marketing Department at Opus College of Business, ran in the Star Tribune on Feb. 1, 2021.

While the pandemic created various kinds of struggles for small business owners, many people will be looking to maximize the potential return to “normal.” Success requires serious consideration of many moving parts of the business landscape.

One option for potential new business owners remains franchising, and according to John Francis (often called “Johnny Franchise”), there appear to be some strong near-term trends to consider.

“I see any home-oriented franchise business as highly interesting at this time,” suggests Francis. He notes that the “nesting” behavior mandated by COVID-19 restrictions likely holds traction for some time to come. “Any business that contributes to a consumer’s sense of comfort in the home has potential.” This includes everything from cleaning services, building contractor and maintenance businesses, and “nesting” elements like furniture, decorating and design, for both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Beyond the home, Francis sees the reaction to the reopening of more natural activities to translate into a strong resurgence on experiential businesses. “Anything related to travel, vacations, bar and restaurants … especially ways to enjoy being with larger groups of people again,” according to Francis. “We’re all ready, and a well-positioned franchise can offer benefits to both customers and owners.”

Another area Francis finds interesting arose from “pivots” of businesses during the worst of the pandemic. “I saw flood and disaster recovery business franchisors retool to deliver deep cleaning services for health and safety during day-to-day operations, and not just for health care businesses.” He also cites the rise of support businesses behind the scenes, like “ghost kitchens” that support food delivery services. “Home delivery boomed, and it will probably be one of the significant carryovers from what we have been experiencing.”

Finally, Francis suggests that vacancies in malls change the landscape for retail spaces. This means some franchises can now find space physically and in the market. He believes a potential franchisee can do some proactive investigation of vacancies and seek a franchisor to pitch a location that may not have been reasonable a year ago.

Mike Porter, EdD, is a faculty member in the Marketing Department at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.

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