@lantic, the country's largest independent consumer Internet service provider (ISP), is boosting its franchising model with a retail conversion programme that will formalise brand standards in the company's first-tier channel.
Dederick Venter, @lantic's marketing director, says the ISP's 139 franchise outlets have been meeting the market's need for local service. "To take them to the next level we decided to implement a branding and service standard throughout our network."
The ISP, part of the Vox Telecom group, opened a pilot retail franchise a year ago in Heidelberg, to test market response to a physical @lantic presence.
"It has made quite a difference in the way customers respond, which has led to us expanding the retail model by converting all current franchisees to @lantic outlets. This won't just present a consistent look and feel, but will also give customers a consistent service experience," Venter says.
After Heidelberg, the company opened a first wave of @lantic stores around the country, including Bloemfontein, Ellisras, Kakamas, Pietermaritzburg, Somerset West and Mokopane (Potgietersrus). Some of these are full retail stores, selling computer, office automation, Internet communication and telephony hardware, as well as Internet and computer services, while others are standard Internet service outlets.
Venter does not divulge details, but alludes to more such re-branding initiatives coming down the line across the country. By financial year-end in August, @lantic wants 20 full retail stores and 20 standard service outlets fully re-branded and shopfitted. The remainder of its network will be converted over the next 18 months.
He says that, besides 'professionalising' the company's franchise channel, @lantic's backing offers them group hardware buying power, allowing them to compete equally against household computer superstores. @lantic supplies all shopfitting, asking only that franchisees qualify in minimum customer service, technical and product standards.
"We are fortunate to be part of a bigger group that gives us access to capital, allowing us to expand in this way," says Venter. He reveals that @lantic itself showed "good organic and even better acquisitive growth" in the past year. "We feel we've done well to not only survive, but thrive in the current climate," he adds. "March 2009 was our best month in the history of the company."
The current retail drive will also serve to expand @lantic's national presence by making it increasingly attractive to retail partners. Having recently rationalised its franchises by cutting out non-performing outlets, the company is "always looking for more franchisees", says Venter.