Catch Me a Catch: Franchise Industry, Shopping Centers Play Matchmaker

Move over, eHarmony, JDate and ChristianMingle. There's a new player in the online matchmaking space.

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By Dinah Wisenberg Brin

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Move over, eHarmony, JDate and ChristianMingle. There's a new player in the online matchmaking space.

Rather than trying to make love connections for strangers, however, this new portal -- which goes by the romantic name ICSC/IFA Matchmaking Database -- attempts to unite franchises in need of new locations and shopping centers in need of new tenants.

The searchable database is sponsored by the International Franchise Association and the International Council of Shopping Centers.

The tool could play a role in "escalating the pace at which businesses are coming to market and speeding up the creation of new jobs," Steve Caldeira, IFA president and CEO, said in announcing the site.

Michael P. Kercheval, ICSC president and CEO, called the portal "the perfect blending" of each association's core objectives and a "catalyst" for retail expansion.

Retailers searching for a new location for their spa, pizza shop, child-care center, tanning salon or yogurt store already have started posting their requirements on the site. One franchisee, for example, is looking for 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot locations with 60 to 80 parking spaces in shopping centers in areas with a $50,000 median household income and a population of 50,000 within three miles.

Related: Your Franchise Could Be Here

Landlords and brokers likewise have started to list available spaces. The contiguous 3,600 square-foot space available in a Bloomington, Ind., strip center may be the good catch that some retailer is seeking.

While the portal represents the efforts of two industries, individual shopping center operators already have been trying a similar concept – with limited success.

In February, we told you about the effort by Kimco Realty to match franchisees with vacant storefronts in its shopping centers through its FastTrack Franchise program. Kimco, the largest U.S. operator of neighborhood shopping centers, aims to connect franchisees with spaces that have been pre-approved by particular fast-food, fitness, retail or educational chains. DDR Corp., which operates more than 450 shopping centers, also had launched a web platform, FranchiseConnect, to match entrepreneurs with franchisor-approved sites.

Kimco's blog offers a video explaining how its program works.

Kimco regional leasing associate Brett Cooper said he had been unaware of the new IFA/ICSC database, although the shopping center REIT might be interested in participating.

He added that Kimco's own FastTrack Franchise program, while expanding regionally, hasn't attracted as much interest as anticipated from would-be entrepreneurs seeking to open a first franchise.

While there have been no concrete deals yet from new franchisees, the company has made deals with existing franchisees looking to fulfill development agreements, and from corporate-owned stores, Cooper said.

Still, "we're happy with the progress and how it's been going," he said. "A little slower than we initially thought [with new franchisees] but we're still happy with it."

Related: Turning Jocks Into Franchise Owners

Dinah Wisenberg Brin

Dinah Wisenberg Brin is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. She has covered business, politics, healthcare and general news for wire services, newspapers, blogs and other publications.

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