What’s the difference between a franchise and symbol group? Everyone’s talking about it, so I went to One Stop’s office in Brownhills last week to find out.

According to franchise boss Andrew King, the fundamental difference is that One Stop is a retailer and not a wholesaler with a retail brand. His focus is helping retailers grow their businesses, not hitting volume targets, he says.

“We simplify running a c-store. Everyone buys at the same price, follows the same manual and the systems in place give retailers back time to invest in or expand their business or take a day off.”

Simply Fresh boss Kash Khera, however, says this level of control stifles entrepreneurship. “The most successful independents – award-winning retailers like James Brundle from Eat 17 – are constantly pushing the boundaries of convenience,” he says. “You can’t do this when you are a glorified shop manager following a set of rules and every store is the same.”

Mr King calls this the industry’s obsession with “pretty” over a functional, scalable business model. “I’m more interested in delivering tomatoes on shelf every day of the week so customers think it’s a shop they can rely on to feed their family,” he says.

[pull_quote_right]Judging by the number of calls to the RN office, the industry is as fascinated by franchising as I am[/pull_quote_right]

Many symbol groups have the due diligence checks, integrated ranging and back office systems that are so critical to franchise, but don’t enforce them. But at the same time, a number of symbol bosses have told RN they need greater compliance to run group-wide promotions more effectively. Judging by the number of calls to the RN office, the industry is as fascinated by franchising as I am.

The debate is hotting up and you can have your say at the Local Shop Summit at betterRetailing LIVE on 6 October.

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