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New Wave: Non-Traditional Locations On The Grow

Franchising can be a tough business. Franchise growth and expansion can be even tougher. More and more brands - and franchisees - are fighting for space and market share today and certain markets are saturated with operators. Throw in the continuing difficulty to access capital for expansion, and adding franchise units to your portfolio can be difficult. But they say that necessity is the mother of invention and some brands and franchisees are turning to non-traditional locations in an effort to continue building their businesses.

Franchises are showing up more and more in place like airports, college campuses, sporting events, concerts, stadiums, hospitals, military bases, government offices, convention centers, highway rest stops and turnpike plazas, even large companies - anywhere large numbers of people congregate, pass through, or live.

Perhaps you've even seen or heard of kiosks selling smoothies at concerts, quick-serve youth-oriented meals on college campuses, and sit-down casual dining at an airport. Franchising has moved beyond shopping malls, strip malls, and standalone locations to explore new horizons. And when done well, it's paying dividends, to individual franchisees and franchise systems alike.

Brands like Auntie Anne's, which just opened a location at the Army's Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, is one of several franchise brands now employing non-traditional growth strategies.

The new Auntie Anne's unit, which opened last month at the West Texas military base, marks a significant milestone for the soft company whose growth plans include considerable focus in the development of locations in supplementary non-traditional venues.

Recognizing an opportunity to further expand the brand's appeal in locations outside the shopping mall, Auntie Anne's is beginning to move into non-traditional venues including centers, colleges and universities, large retailers, and transportation sites such as airports, train stations, and plazas. In 2011, the company opened 17 locations in "non-traditional" venues with 46 more under development this year.

"As our brand continues to evolve, we have been proactive in seeking out unique, high-traffic areas and being flexible and innovative with our store designs," says Brian Boycan, director of strategic development for Auntie Anne's. "We are proud to begin serving military families in this capacity, and we believe military bases are a growth avenue for our brand."

With Auntie Anne's, there is no "one size fits all" store model. Instead, the company has the ability to tailor stores to better appeal to the venue and its traffic count. Auntie Anne's typical store layouts include in-line stores, baking kiosks, and satellite but are flexible when examining all avenues of the setting including the venue at hand, available square footage, typical foot traffic, build out cost, and the partner's access to capital.

Non-traditional locations can offer franchisees lower start-up costs, lower rent, and lower monthly bills.

Consider a non-traditional location for your next unit and you may discover a new wave of generating revenue.

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