By Erica Hannickel
Encouraging start-ups: With a specialty retail format and "Turn Wellness into Wealth" brochures on opening a franchise at every check-out stand, GNC encourages customers to become franchisees in the stores themselves. Focusing on underpenetrated markets, GNC plans to boost openings in 2000, with financial incentives awarded to start-ups.
Recent achievements: GNC has been acquired by Dutch conglomerate Royal Numico, known for its great research facilities. This new parent company hopes to find the product development and distribution it needs in GNC.
Next year's goals: Internationally, a regionalization of resources is underway, while investment in communications and support programs continues.
In 10 years: GNC is the top specialty retail player in what is projected to be a $11.6 billion industry in 2000, a figure that's expected to double in five years. After domestic business matures, GNC will concentrate on international growth. It already operates in 25 countries, with development agreements for five more--current targets include North and South Africa and the province of Quebec.
Communication is key: A dedicated Internet system, or electronic intranet, has given GNC franchisees 24-hour, two-way electronic communication with corporate headquarters. Market meetings, franchisee forums, and weekly and quarterly publications keep the company on its toes.
Standout savvy: GNC has formed an alliance with Rite-Aid drug stores. Expanded co-branding opportunities are expected to generate $30 million worth of advertising in deal's first year alone, with GNC planning to open 1,500 more stores with Rite-Aid in the next three years. Always charitable, GNC sponsors marathons, health events, sports and fitness programs, classes on nutrition for expectant mothers and drives for health-related illnesses.
Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.