Day 1 at the West Coast Franchise Expo. First, I was surprised to note that not a lot of food concepts are at the show this year — just a handful of them. This is a 180-degree turnaround from the shows two and three years ago, where food concepts had a large presence at the shows (not to mention the most popular booths). Trendwise, it's hard to miss that there is a proliferation of "green"-oriented franchises, from green janitorial services to environmental kitchen filtration solutions. Not surprising, given that the market for green-oriented business is booming worldwide. My client, LaptopXchange, fits perfectly into that space.
This year, the show's floor space seems to be dominated by franchise consultants and other industry suppliers. I haven't counted, but strictly based on observations from having walked the floor, it appears that suppliers and consultants outnumber the franchising companies.
Of course, the main topic on everyone's lips is the economy: are companies selling franchises, and are banks lending? The consensus seems to be that credit markets are loosening up, and that more franchises are being sold now, as compared to this time last year. Unfortunately, there are not a significant number of franchise lending companies or banks at the show to back up that anecdotal evidence from industry watchers.
Everyone is wondering how the results of the election are going to affect the economy in general and lending specifically. My favorite anecdote of the day, and one that describes the disconnect problem we are facing with our elected officials, comes from an IFA official. He described a meeting that he had with his U.S. Senator. During a discussion about the economy, his Senator was shocked to learn that small businesses account for 80% of the country’s economic activity. Shocked. This coming from someone who is responsible for making key decisions about how our tax dollars are spent. I would hope that the people we entrust to safeguard our economic vitality would understand the importance of small business to our country, but apparently (at least for her) that’s not the case.
Looking forward to Day 2 of the Expo. Stay tuned.