Mexico's Fiesta of Franchising

There is no better way to appreciate the popularity and economic buoyancy of franchising south of the border than to have witnessed the phenomenon of the 29th International Franchise Fair, held from March 8 to 10 at Mexico City's World Trade Center. This three-day event rivals franchise trade expos in any other part of the globe. The event receives almost unprecedented press and TV media attention and typically delivers a high-profile exposure of both Mexican and non-Mexican franchise brands.

All this attention is derived from Mexico's tremendous interest in expanding the business base of small and medium-sized enterprises, in addition to the newsworthy success of franchising in Mexico. Franchising has flourished in Mexico over the past 5 years. In response, this event has sold out and many late entries were left out despite a yearly 20 percent increase in floor space.

As one of the world's most heavily attended franchising trade shows, Mexico's International Franchise Fair was not to be missed for franchisors targeting an entry into the U.S.'s closest and most populous franchise-friendly neighbor. The Mexican Franchise Association's president, Roberto Ramos, has reported that this year's event:

  • featured 215 exhibitors representing 250 franchise brands and 27 distinct business formats and industries;
  • attracted nearly 30,000 visitors, 70 percent from Mexico, with the remainder from the U.S., other Central America, and South America;
  • offered a conference program drawing a record attendance of 1,500 with standing room only for top franchising speakers from Mexico and abroad, including Mary Ellen Sheets (CEO of Two Men and a Truck) in a simultaneously translated presentation; and
  • promised the grant of as many as 500 or more franchises from franchisors reporting from the floor of the event, which translates into the potential creation of 50,000 new jobs in the franchise sector, and among its suppliers and related service and support networks.

As truly the world's "Fiesta of Franchising," this event draws entire pavilions of foreign exhibitors (nearly one third of the total), led by the U.S. this year with 25, closely followed by Spain with 20 , and Brazil with 14 exhibitors. France, Italy, Costa Rica, and Guatemala were also among the countries represented by franchisors exhibiting at the event.

In the words of Ferenz Feher Tocatli, president of franchise consulting firm Feher & Feher and past president of the Mexican Franchise Association, "My expectations were surpassed. What better to continue growing!"

Mexico, despite today's heavy focus by the U.S. press on immigration northward, boasts a fast-growing, oil-producing economy, receptiveness to U.S. franchise brands, and a strong interest value fueled by the high level of press, and TV coverage devoted to franchising. Ramos says that the International Franchise Fair now ranks in "the second, or the first place, worldwide by virtue of the quality and quantity of exhibitors, the floor space allocation, the number of attendees, and the conference program," which has made this a must-do trade show for U.S. and Canadian franchisors looking south. Seventy percent of the 2007 Franchise Fair is already reserved by this year's exhibitors, so make reservations well in advance, or you just might miss out on next year's fiesta.

Charles Weeks is senior director of Edwards Global Services, Inc.

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