Mail Boxes Etc. celebrates 21 years in the UK

Whichever way you look at it, a 21st birthday is a milestone, and champagne corks are popping as one of the world’s largest retail franchises, Mail Boxes Etc., celebrates 21 years in the UK.

Coming of age also means taking a little time for reflection, a chance to look back at the development of a business model that’s gone from strength to strength, with a network that now comprises 150 stores throughout the UK and Ireland, and a first class reputation among franchisees and customers alike.

Undoubtedly one of Mail Boxes Etc.’s best-kept secrets is its people. Whatever their backgrounds, MBE franchisees share a commitment to personal customer focus that combines local knowledge with a unique mix of services that help meet people’s everyday needs – from UK and worldwide parcel delivery, copy and print and mailbox rental to postal services.

There’s no better advocate for the MBE formula than Girvin Vincent, who also has cause to celebrate this year. As the first person to join the MBE UK network, starting his business in 1993, Girvin was already familiar with both franchising and the MBE brand from living and working in Canada. However, in the UK the brand was still unknown and franchising was little understood, so by signing up as MBE’s first franchisee Girvin was a pioneer on two counts.

Leap of faith

After leaving his native Belfast for Canada to work for a Canadian bank for 15 years, transferring to London and then being made redundant eight years later, Girvin was ready to work for himself, and was very impressed when he came across the MBE franchise opportunity: “It offered exactly the right combination of opportunities that suited my experience, talents and skills,” he says.

Girvin’s leap of faith paid off. He went on to create a highly successful business, spending the next 18 years working as an MBE franchisee in London, opening stores in several successive locations and ending up in Great Russell Street. He recently decided to go back to his roots, however, and is back home in his city centre store in Belfast.

During Girvin’s years as a franchisee, the MBE network has grown steadily. “There have been many changes over the years in franchising, which – as a sector – has also expanded at an incredible rate,” he observes. “But Mail Boxes Etc. has continued to maintain the same values and high standards of customer service, which I think are crucial to the brand’s success.”

National brand – local focus

Franchise development executive Rachel Perry underlines the company’s commitment to core values: “The Mail Boxes Etc. brand is ubiquitous in the UK’s high streets these days, and it’s crucial to us that customers perceive their local MBE store as somewhere they can go not just for everyday services, but for help and advice from our knowledgeable teams.

“Brand awareness and consistent values are what drive footfall, and the customer’s experience is consistent across our network because our people have the skills to create the confidence and build the relationships that lead to higher value sales and repeat business. Having said that, we’re not about homogenisation – each of our franchisees is very much an individual, and their personalities, skills and areas of expertise are reflected in the approach they bring to the business.”

MBE Franchisees come from all walks of life. Many have backgrounds in key business areas such as logistics, which allows them to exploit their knowledge in advising customers on shipping and export, while contributing to the strength of the network by sharing expertise with other franchisees. Some may already have worked in retailing or the corporate environment. Younger entrepreneurs often join the network straight from university, gaining experience in an MBE store before setting up their own business.

Coming of age is also a good time to look ahead, and Mail Boxes Etc. is confident that its formula will continue to evolve to meet the needs of franchisees and customers alike. “With all the set-up assistance, training and ongoing support we give our franchisees, there has never been a better time for forward-thinking, energetic, conscientious individuals who are dedicated to friendly, personal service to talk to us about joining the network,” says Rachel.