Inside Franchise Business



Aussie icon Clark Rubber is under new ownership. So what will this mean for the heritage brand?

By Sarah Stowe

branded products.

“We could see our skill sets could be utilised within the business, giving it more bandwidth to grow and take it to the next stage of its lifecycle.”


Edward Plowman, who has spent more than 20 years in the debt and equity capital markets, says the retailer has shown it can stand up in testing times such as the pandemic. But it also has gaps in its product range that can be filled.

“Clark Rubber’s product mix is highly defensive in this environmen­t but it’s a product mix that is uncorrelat­ed,” he says. “We see a growth opportunit­y to add complement­ary bridge products for pools, rubber and foam. We see there’s a whole bunch of opportunit­ies that bridge the gaps.

“And there is so much fun to be had, it is 75 years old next year, and we can tap into having fun. We loved that about the brand. It is a really unique business.”

The future is about evolving the business to offer more – more categories, more merchandis­e – that will appeal to customers from mums in their 30s through to grandparen­ts, says Goldman.

“Chris Malcolm [former owner] had a certain focus which has been hugely successful. We’re looking at it a bit differentl­y where we believe there is the opportunit­y to widen ranges and add categories.”

And there’s a big commitment to the physical stores.

Plowman says “If you look at other parts of the world, compelling digital businesses have taken costs out of traditiona­l retailing. But if you look deeper, some investment is going the other way. Well-run digital retailers want to get back into bricks and mortar.”

Goldman highlights the continued presence of the Apple business in bricks and mortar stores as evidence that retail is about community.

“People still want to feel and touch. We’re social beings, we need to be interactiv­e. Some products need expert advice and we see it as a good blend,” says Goldman.

“If there’s one business that could have

dominated online it’s Apple. Why do they have retailers? They are one of the top brands in the world. Because you create a community. You go and see the Genius [tech support staff], you feel part of the team.

“Do we have an ability to take some of the best ideas? Yes, as part of the community. Owners come from the community, so we look to create more of a community environmen­t.”


The new owners will also be springboar­ding the online offering as part of a true omni channel approach which embraces the benefits of digital and continues to value the physical stores.

“We have a huge digital focus, but an amazing store footprint,” says Goldman. “From our perspectiv­e we are very excited because online sales don’t compete with franchisee­s online. We need to be able to have our stores open, when and where and how customers want to shop.”

The ecommerce allows the chain to test ideas quickly, he points out. “We can expand into complement­ary products that are relevant to our customer but not totally in a Clark Rubber store.”

As the new strategy is implemente­d, expect the digital and omni channel operations to be given a boost.

And even more exciting, there are plans for a fourth product offering that is as yet under wraps but set for a 2021 big reveal. There will be a highly considered rollout program and the pool category and vans will be crucial to this.

The new owners loved the concept of the mobile van franchise, introduced as a separate agreement in 2019.

Goldman points out “The key for the franchise network is being a service provider, it’s a huge part of what we want to do.”


CEO Anthony Grice, ranked in the Top 30 Franchise Executives 2020, says the new ownership and developmen­ts are leading the brand into an exciting time.

“We have a platform to grow, we get fresh blood into the brand,” he says. “Franchisee­s can have a lifecyle, moving from a mobile to a small format store to a large outlet.”

It’s an ideal option for independen­t operators who are looking for security, particular­ly existing pool retailers.

“What will the future look like? Significan­tly bigger, and different,” says Grice.

“Already this year the business has doubled the number of team members in our network developmen­t team, whose primary focus is on new franchisee recruitmen­t.”

Grice adds, “We doubled in Covid – that’s a strong indication in our desire to grow.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia