Annex Brands

Annex 1

Annex Brands is working to better anticipate its customers’ needs

by upgrading its technology and expanding its services. 

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Jack and Martha Lentz found themselves failing at retirement a little more than 30 years ago and stumbled upon a need for a complete line of small office and home-based office services under one roof. In 1985, the couple founded PostalAnnex+ in San Diego and had three locations operating in less than one year.   

“People would call Jack, who was a retired CEO, to help with their businesses and part of that included him driving around to different places to get things done,” Senior Vice President of Marketing Communications Steve Goble says. “Jack would have to go to one place to get copies made, another to get things shipped and faxed, and another to get keys made. He found himself driving around too much and thought all these services should be under one roof.”

Seeing his new business succeed quickly, Lentz decided to sell his first PostalAnnex+ franchise in 1986. Today, the Annex Brands Fact Boxbrand has grown to nearly 300 locations across the United States. “It was the first concept in the U.S. which incorporated so many business services under one roof,” Goble says. “It was the first of its kind, so I think that and our ability to evolve are the keys to our success.”

In addition to franchising, Annex Brands also grew through acquisitions. In September 2006, PostalAnnex+ acquired Florida-based Sunshine Pack & Ship® retail and commercial shipping centers. Sunshine provided the company new opportunities to ship large, fragile and valuable items through its logistics and van line operations.

A year later the company acquired Handle With Care Packaging Store® to expand its reach into the shipping and logistics business through its commercial logistics operations. This included creating packing solutions via custom-built corrugated cartons or wooden crates.

Because the company continued to expand beyond its flagship PostalAnnex+ brand, it renamed itself Annex Brands in late 2007. Today, Annex Brands consists of PostalAnnex+®, Pak Mail®, AIM Mail Centers®, Navis Pack & Ship®, Handle With Care Packaging Store®, Parcel Plus®, Sunshine Pack & Ship® and Annex Copy Center®.

Between its commercial and retail brands, Annex Brands has 675 franchise locations in the United States and more than 175 internationally. The company maintains one corporate-owned location in Key Largo, Fla. “It just became more efficient to be a franchise support company than to have dual roles of running your own stores plus trying to support the franchise locations,” Goble explains.

Evolving Services

Annex Brands continues to thrive in the industry by evolving with the needs of its customers. “We are big enough to have economies of scale but small enough to be flexible and rapidly responding,” Goble says. “We have opened up a buffet of optional services, depending on the local market’s needs.”

For example, the demand for digital fingerprinting has grown in the past five years. “More places where people interact with children and youth require background checks of the people who will be working there,” Goble says. “We have the flexibility to offer that service if there is a need in the community.”

Franchisees are able to pick and choose what services are offered in their retail locations. “Maybe they are located in Palm Springs and it’s a more senior citizen-centric market and there isn’t a need for many background checks,” Goble says. “We allow our franchisees to say, ‘I want to do that or I’m not in a location that does a lot of that.’ That’s where our flexibility comes in.”

One of the key components of Annex Brands’ locations is the ability to compare shipping rates among the top carriers. Customers can ship via United States Postal Service, FedEx, UPS or DHL from PostalAnnex+. “You can’t compare rates online or at any other carrier’s location,” Goble notes. “It all depends on what you want to ship whether it will go out in one of our retail stores or in a commercial location. If the shipment is too big it has to go on a freight truck from a commercial franchise.”

The Right Brand

Prospective Annex Brands’ franchisees select a retail or commercial location for their new business. Commercial locations are often situated in business parks with no walk-in traffic while the retail locations are often in a grocery store-anchored shopping center. “In these shopping centers you will find common household retail services like the coffee shop, dry cleaners, hair salon, bank and restaurant,” Goble says. “You find places people go to get their errands done.”

Annex Brands is a great opportunity for franchisees because of its size and philosophy, Goble says. “We are a company generating $350 million in sales, which is large enough to have an impact in negotiating good vendor discounts, but small enough at 850 units to have the flexibility to move faster and take advantage of local market opportunities.”

Franchisees who succeed with Annex Brands have had some business experience and typically approach the company with a brand in mind. “Many of our newest franchisees are people who want to have an encore career,” Goble notes. “Some of the most successful franchisees are often those who finished a full career in a corporate environment or in a larger family business and are now looking for something to do that doesn’t require a large staff or long business hours.”

Annex Brands will assist franchisees with site selection, lease negotiations, loan financing and in the design/build of the location. The company also provides two weeks of training and a 90-day marketing program that gets them working towards success from day one.

Retail locations are given one-half-mile territory protection, and Goble says the actual placement is always further than that. Commercial locations are much more expansive and based on zip codes. The territory could range from 15 to 30 miles. “We have a handful of franchisees who run both commercial and retail brand locations,” Goble says.

The seven members of Annex Brands’ executive staff have all been designated Certified Franchise Executives (CFE) by the International Franchise Association for their knowledge and experience in the franchising industry. “This sets us apart as experts in franchising and holds us to a standard of excellence,” Goble explains. “CFE is a prestigious industry designation and instills confidence in prospects because they realize we have been doing this for a while.”

Serving the Customer

“We have always been customer-centric and are trying to determine what people want and where they will be going to get their answers,” Goble says. “The Internet is the new Yellow Pages – it’s where people go to find what they are looking for.”

Because of this, Annex Brands is focusing more on providing service through the Internet, especially shipping rates in real-time. “What questions do people have when it comes to business services?” Goble asks. “They want to know if we can do this, if we’re good at it, if they can trust us with their one-of-a-kind items. What might it cost? ‘How can I contact you?’”

Annex Brands is looking to answer those questions ahead of time not only by updating its websites, but also by building a price quote engine it plans to begin testing in 2018. As Annex Brands continues to grow, the company hopes to reach its goal of 1,000 locations by 2020. Goble says the company is on track to meet that goal with its growth pace of 25 to 30 net new units per year.

“I think a lot of growth is going to be coming from how well you connect with people,” Goble says. “I think that’s true especially as the millennials are becoming a larger segment of the workplace and buying force. Having a personal experience and some kind of personal connection is more important than it used to be. We will start with that and work backwards.”

 

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