The most stunning growth in franchises during 2003 related to senior-care. And the senior-care market is expected to lead the franchise opportunities in the year ahead.
That’s according to Entrepreneur magazine, which is out with its report of the hottest franchise trends for 2004:
- Senior care: Seniors age 68 and over account for $588 billion (USD) in spending power in the U.S. As the population ages, more seniors want to stay in their homes, but need assistance. Franchises related to assisting seniors with services are expected to remain a growth area for many years to come.
- Kids products and services: Parents, especially dual-career parents, want their kids to have fun and be well-educated. They will spend on everything from supplemental education for their kids, to fitness programs, to self-improvement and enrichment programs like dance lessons.
- Tech: Technology services, especially computer training and consulting, has seen a rebound and growth surge recently. People and businesses need advice on what to buy and not to buy, and how to overcome problems.
- Home improvement: Consumers keep spending on their homes. The home improvement category recorded almost 15% growth in 2003, and is expected to be a strong growth area in 2004. The leading sectors: building services, handyman, remodeling, windows, painting and lighting.
- Fitness: Fitness franchises have been around for a long time. Recently, though, they have been revitalized, with women-only fitness centers leading the pack.
- Income tax: Franchises for preparing tax returns have also been around for years, but are showing strong growth fueled by two trends: (1) the increasing complexity of the tax laws, and (2) advances in information technology which have made it possible for franchisors to leverage economies of scale.
- Business consulting: The growth in business consulting is primarily being driven by small businesses that need answers but don’t have any place else to turn.
- Specialty ice cream: Yes, sugar is always a strong seller. Especially in ice cream. The growth in this category is being driven by ice cream stores that allow consumers to personalize the confection with candy, fruit, little sprinkles and other items.
- Coffee: Think coffee is a trend that has reached maturity? Think again. Coffee continues to be a strong franchise category, with growth occurring in the franchises that offer something unique, such as jazz coffeehouses.
In case you had any doubt about it, catering to small business is big business. At least two of this year’s hot trends — tech and business consulting — are being driven in whole or in part by small business. And arguably even a third trend — tax returns — could be said to be related to small business. Just more examples of small businesses whose main business is catering to other small businesses.