Australian Franchises

Mrs Fields celebrates 20 years in Australia

Written on the 16 April 2008

When Debbi Fields, a young mother with no business experience, opened her first cookie store in Palo Alto, California in 1977 she wouldn’t have dreamed of dominating the specialty bakery industry worldwide. Nearly 31 years later there are more than 500 Mrs. Fields stores in 19 countries and another 3,000 independent outlets worldwide.

Mrs. Fields fired up their ovens in Australia in 1988 and celebrates their 20th anniversary in the country this year. Despite its global presence and strong local customer base, Andrew and Debbie Benefield set about giving the monster cookie chain a major makeover. 

The Benefields acquired the Australian Master Franchise rights to Mrs. Fields from the United States 12 months ago after identifying the company’s enormous potential for growth domestically.   Their five year vision is already materialising. 

Milestones in the ensuing months has included establishing an updated logo, new packaging and revamped store presentations, including refurbishments and changes to the in-store layouts. 

“We also brought in a new operations manager experienced with major franchises, a PR firm and launched a whole set of new products,” Mr Benefield explained. 

“I travelled to the US on a fact finding trip when we took over, and we’ve since introduced the premium brownie, made our cookies bigger in size, launched a 13 inch cookie cake and changed our cookie cards, which like a traditional card feature a personalised message for special occasions. 

“We also redesigned our gifting range, which was huge over Christmas, and brought in a number of other new products from the US.” 

Managing director/owner Mr Benefield had been running major franchise chains for a number of years and saw an opportunity to breathe new life into an already successful international brand. 

“My skills base lay in helping others establish and optimising their own franchise, hence the role of a master franchiser felt like a natural fit,” he said. 

“I spent the best part of 5 years looking for the right opportunity and the more I looked into it, the more Mrs. Fields seemed like the most logical choice. Here was a brand that had been a success in Australia, with long running stores. To me it wasn’t a big risk like jumping into something new and untested on the market. 

“But Mrs. Fields had plateaued and needed new life injected into it. I saw the potential to improve on the existing framework, change aspects of the brand such as packaging and presentation, as well as bringing in new product lines.” 

With a 5 year plan to open 50 new stores, Mr Benefield said the franchise was well on track with 10 new stores to open this calendar year. 

“There is a familiarity and appeal Mrs. Fields has with the domestic market,” he said. 

“Australians relate to the product because they grew up with biscuits being an everyday treat, it is not a major step away from the norm as perhaps some other international delicacies are. “ 

“The level of decoration appeals, it takes the humble cookie to another level and establishes it as a real luxury item that is inexpensive. And when customers find out that the cookies don’t use any preservatives, colourants or artificial flavourings, they see them as a not so guilty indulgence.” 

There are two types of Mrs. Fields business opportunities in the system, Cookie Cafés and Cookie Kiosks, giving potential franchisees a choice depending on their desires and location’s needs. Each exhibits the same high quality marketing, merchandising and design features, which are warm yet bright and cheery, with a high profile trademark identity.  

A Mrs. Fields Shop costs between $180,000 to $300,000 to establish, depending on the seating configuration, including franchise fees and training and a kiosk is between $160,000 to $230,000. Log onto www.mrsfields.com.au for store locations. 

Mrs. Fields are proud members of the Franchise Council of Australia, and subscribe to its ethics and Code of Conduct.


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