On the heels of a strong year filled with strategic growth, new product development and the introduction of cutting-edge technology, Wild Birds Unlimited finished out the first quarter of 2019 on a branch above the rest.
To kick off January with a bang, Wild Birds Unlimited was listed at an impressive No. 132 in Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2019 Franchise 500 Ranking based on the brand’s financial strength and stability, system size and growth, brand strength, corporate support and startup costs and fees.
Founded in 1981 by CEO Jim Carpenter, Wild Birds Unlimited has been franchising since 1983 and now boasts over 330 store locations across the U.S. and Canada. Last year, the franchise opened 15 brand new locations and smoothly transferred another 15 existing stores to new owners.
The backyard bird feeding and nature franchise kept that momentum rolling into 2019, starting out the year with even more expertly handled transfers. “We’ve been franchising for over 35 years and saw a huge amount of growth in the ‘90s, so we are now seeing franchisees who have built a wonderful career with us getting ready to retire,” Wild Birds Unlimited Chief Development Officer Paul Pickett said. “We've already completed seven transfers so far this year, and we have another seven that are in the works.”
Wild Birds Unlimited’s approach to growth is one of steady and manageable expansion with abounding support for franchisees. Based on its decades of experience and the upcoming number of transfers, the franchise is looking to strategically add 15 new stores over the course of the year. “That is the sweet spot for us,” said Pickett. “Along with our transfers, our New Owner and Development teams are ready to support the onboarding of our 2019 franchisees with everything they need to hit the ground running.”
Wild Birds Unlimited offers personalized coaching depending on individual franchisees’ needs. The brand also rolled out its 2019 Annual Coaching Plans in the first quarter this year. Franchise owners have expressed that this initiative has helped them immensely in outlining their goals and priorities for the year and beyond. Wild Birds Unlimited also offers monthly coaching calls, onsite visits from coaches, marketing meetings led by franchisees with Franchise Support Center guidance, topic-specific committees and an annual Enterprise Leadership Conference.
Speaking of steady growth, around half of Wild Birds Unlimited’s new units are a result of existing franchisees looking to expand on their success by signing new franchise agreements for additional stores. “We're in heavy conversations with five existing franchisees who are working on their second locations, getting final, formal approval for those stores,” said Pickett. “For our community-driven business model, that’s a really great thing.”
In Q1, Wild Birds Unlimited continued the rollout of its new omni-channel initiative, which essentially connects individual local storefronts to their own online retail stores. As online shopping continues to be the most convenient and efficient choice for many consumers, Wild Birds Unlimited prioritizes the benefits of shopping locally by streamlining its platform to create an extension of individual stores online. The omni-channel initiative has been met with strong results among owners and consumers alike, strengthening existing community relationships and drawing in new business to local stores.
“It’s interesting in this day and age to maintain a mom-and-pop feel but also stay relevant,” said Lauren DeRosa, Wild Birds Unlimited franchisee in Fort Collins, Colorado. “The omni-channel initiative still has that local touch, but now our store is easier to access.”
“We really opened up the omni-channel in the second half of 2018, with about a third of the system either having it fully launched or engaged in the process,” said Pickett. “We expect to onboard at least another third of the system or more by the end of the year. New owners are now introduced into the system as they come in, making the process of learning about how e-commerce can benefit their sales and operations a part of their coaching from the start.”
With a successful first quarter under its wings, Wild Birds Unlimited has already kicked off an excellent second quarter. After all, winter is ending, the birds are ready to nest, and they’ll be hungry.
The startup costs for a Wild Birds Unlimited franchise range from $150,837 to $260,991, which includes the franchise fee. The franchise fee is $30,000 per location. To learn more about franchising with Wild Birds Unlimited, visit https://franchise.wbu.com/.