By Peter Saunders
Rob Goggins has just been promoted from chief operating officer (COO) to president of Great Clips, a salon and hair-care product retail franchise system. The move is part of a major executive transition plan, whereby previous president Steve Hockett has been named CEO and, at the same time, previous CEO Rhoda Olsen has moved on to become vice-chair of the franchisor’s board of directors.
“After decades of leadership, it is time for me to pass on the privilege,” says Olsen, who began consulting with the company back in 1984 before joining its management team. “I have been given the pleasure of working with the very best people and now is the time to let them take the lead.”
The transition follows a renewed effort to grow the Great Clips brand in Canada, with the franchisor bringing on a fresh team of development leaders who are familiar with the market, so as to better pinpoint desirable locations.
Having already expanded from British Columbia to Alberta and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the franchisor’s current strategy is to open new franchises in Ottawa and Kingston, Ont., and then ‘fill the gap’ starting with development in Winnipeg, where as many as 25 locations could be added. While Canada is now home to nearly 150 Great Clips franchises in total, including 48 in the GTA, there is still clearly opportunity for much more growth, given the brand has more than 4,000 units within the U.S.
“We recently opened our Canadian headquarters (HQ) in Toronto and are expanding our search for real estate to the Prairies,” says Goggins. “We see the potential to gain 10 per cent market share overall in Canada, which would be equivalent to about 750 units. Given where we are today, that may take 20 years, but we’re no longer starting from scratch.”
Building a singular brand
Goggins joined Great Clips in the summer of 2007 as vice-president (VP) of franchise development. He had previously held the same role for four years with Service Brands International, when it was franchising Molly Maid, Mr. Handyman, 1-800-Dryclean and Ductz.
“The biggest difference was going from an organization with four brands under one umbrella to a true single brand,” he explains. “It was always fun and exciting to work at Service Brands with all of its shared resources, but when all of your attention is on one brand, it can be much more powerful.”
At the time, Great Clips’ presence in the Canadian market was limited to a small footprint in the Western Canada.
“When I joined the company, our mission was to increase that presence,” Goggins explains. “Our only Canadian salons back then were opened by a master franchisee. We eventually bought out that master franchisee and strengthened our direct communications and support for our Canadian unit owners.”
He identified First Choice Haircutters, a Regis brand, as the primary competition in Canada, as it fit the same ‘bread and butter’ category in terms of price and convenience.
“There has always been a strong contingent of players in the hair salon business,” he says. “Lately, you mainly have the ‘salon suite’ category, where independent stylists rent out space, and then a more upscale category where haircuts take longer and cost more. Ours cost about $14 to $17 and take 15 minutes or less. Sport Clips is also making a big push in Canada these days, but they only focus on male customers with their theme and their prices are higher, around $20 to $22.”