Prospective franchisees often begin their franchising journey with a very specific franchise opportunity in mind. Perhaps they’ve always wanted to own a restaurant. Maybe they love cars and think it would be fun to own an auto repair shop. They might see the tech industry as their ticket to entrepreneurial success. But, somewhere along the way, many franchisees end up discovering that the industry segment they thought they wanted to buy into isn’t right for them at all. But, some discover that following their passion can turn into a lucrative career.
Nowhere is this truer than in the hobby industry. Case in point: Wild Birds Unlimited, a company that has expertly built a booming franchise opportunity for people who love the hobby of backyard bird feeding.
Too much of a niche? Think again.
According to the 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, 81 million people now feed birds and watch wildlife in their own backyards. Collectively, that group spends $7.6 billion annually on bird feeding and wildlife watching tools and $5 billion annually on bird seed and wildlife food. The study also found that hobbyists spend $960 million annually on bird feeders, bird baths and nesting boxes and $1.8 billion annually on binoculars and spotting scopes.
That’s a big piece of business that’s up for grabs to those who can reach this motivated base of consumers.
“There is a huge opportunity in the bird feeding and wildlife industry,” said Wild Birds Unlimited Chief Development Officer Paul Pickett. “We have a tiny portion of the whole thing. This is a very big industry. Our sweet spot is people who get interested in the hobby, buy some bird seed from a big box or grocery store, get excited about seeing some birds, then encounter some sort of pain point with their new hobby, like squirrels eating the food, food going to waste on the ground, or birds are coming to the feeder, but not eating much.”
That’s where Wild Birds Unlimited’s expertise comes into play. Big box stores, while offering some tools of the trade, rarely help people to truly maximize the joy of the hobby. Wild Birds Unlimited offers local, trusted knowledge on how to find the right feeder, how to minimize wasted bird food and how to find 100 percent edible and regionally formulated blends that attract the specific kinds of birds that people want in their backyard, while also detracting from pests like squirrels, raccoons, and even birds that can dominate bird feeders like Starlings and blackbirds.
“The opportunity is out there for us to grow and to capture even more of those consumers,” Pickett said. “It’s why our whole omni-channel strategy is in play and why we are constantly looking for new private label, proprietary products designed to attract the right birds. Birds provide true joy to our customers and we want to make the hobby as fun and as easy as possible for them.”
As Wild Birds Unlimited looks into 2018, the brand is focused on accelerated franchise growth as it expands into markets where its presence is desperately needed.
“There is tremendous open opportunity here. Look at how many Lowes, Home Depots, Targets, Walmarts, Pet Smarts and PetCos are selling bird seed in growing markets across the country. The hobbyists shopping there are hungry for more specialized attention. They want to talk to someone who shares their passion and who can serve as an expert to help them enjoy birds and wildlife to the fullest. That’s exactly what we offer in every Wild Birds Unlimited store and we do it joyfully,” Pickett said.
Wild Birds Unlimited now has more than 325 locations operating across North America, with a goal to add another 20 successful units to its network in 2018.
“Our development schedule is already accelerating, but we remain focused on growing in the right, targeted way with driven franchisee partners,” said Pickett. “We are passionate about providing customized, intense support to each and every franchisee in our system, especially in their first year when growth is so vital. As we continue to focus on that goal, we are poised for our strongest year yet in 2018.”