The challenges of expansion
After the original Massage Addict clinic opened in Nova Scotia in 2008, the franchise system reached Ontario in 2009, New Brunswick in 2012 and Alberta in 2013. With the transition to Clarke’s leadership, the brand expanded next to Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador in 2014 and then British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in 2015. And after this fall’s opening of the first Quebec location, the system will be in all 10 provinces.
“We expect to have more than 85 locations by the end of this year,” says Clarke.
One of the biggest challenges for this rapid rate of expansion is hiring enough RMTs to staff all of the franchises.
“In the Canadian market, the demand for qualified RMTs exceeds the available supply,” Clarke says, “so we put a heavy focus on both hiring and retaining them. We’ve spent a lot of face time with them to see what kind of place they want to work in. We know we need to provide a high-quality atmosphere for them, as their satisfaction extends to our clients. The relationship is symbiotic.”
Massage Addict also partners with massage therapy schools, associations and regulatory bodies on professional development. At a local level, this is important in helping to increase the company’s profile among the future generation of RMTs.
Another challenge, which differs from city to city and province to province, is finding and locking down the right real estate for new franchises.
“We’re very diligent about choosing locations,” says Clarke. “We have developed a model for site selection that has proven quite successful.”
The majority of Massage Addict locations are in suburban ‘big box’ retail plaza developments, often anchored by a grocery store. A typical footprint of 2,000 square feet accommodates eight massage therapy rooms, which is sufficient for most high-traffic franchises.
The remaining clinics, including the aforementioned corporate-owned location near Toronto’s Yonge Street and Lawrence Avenue, are integrated within urban communities and rely on walk-by and drive-by traffic, rather than being part of a plaza.
Connecting with communities
As a membership-based business, Massage Addict will continue to rely on the rapid opening of new clinics in communities across Canada to accommodate the needs of a growing base of clients who use massage therapy for stress relief, pain management or injury recovery.
“Most new clients try our brand based on referrals and this word-of-mouth trend happens very quickly in each market,” says Clarke.
The chain includes six successful locations within Halifax, for example, which shows how a variety of clinics can coexist and thrive within the same market. And perhaps fittingly, more than half of Massage Addict franchisees are multi-unit, growing their business within their own community through grassroots efforts and word of mouth.
“You need to be passionate about wellness and share in our vision for providing a great place for both clients and RMTs,” Clarke says. “Most of our franchisees start with one location and then open more as they become active in their communities.”
Given the need for such enthusiasm, it is no surprise some prospective franchisees are past clients or RMTs themselves.
“Over the past two years, a number of our clients and RMTs have gone on to open their own franchises,” says Clarke.
Indeed, the franchisor has supported the notion of such transitions with e-mail blasts to staff and members encouraging them to consider the opportunity. Respondents to such efforts—as well as those encountered through regional franchise conferences—are met with dedicated resources for on-boarding and then, over the longer term, continual communications with the franchisor, focusing on ensuring consistently high standards and a positive work culture.
As for the future, Canada remains the primary focus for the growth of Massage Addict over the next few years, but the franchisor has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with an RMT school in Punjab, India. A clinic will operate there under the Massage Addict brand, marking the first international location, but more importantly, some of the RMTs trained in India will transfer to schools in Canada, where they will then be guaranteed jobs at Massage Addict clinics.