Since the beginning of the 1990s, Poland has been experiencing profound economic and social changes. The liberalisation of the economy has allowed the starting-up and running of companies almost in complete freedom, and consequently, the last 30 years have seen rapid development – both private and industrial. This expansion is based mainly on the numerical growth of private sector businesses and on their dynamism. With close to 40 million inhabitants, Poland is the largest and most populous of the countries that joined the European Union in 2004. The Polish market has come to be considered as one of the most dynamic emerging markets in Europe, with a GDP increase year by year. Thanks to the reforms, Poland has started its own development in franchising. The first international franchising systems started to invest in the Polish market at the beginning of the 90s. The first to enter the market was adidas in 1990. Entering the market soon after adidas were McDonald’s and the French systems of Yves Rocher and Jean Louis David, followed shortly by Kodak and others like BP, Intermarché, Spar, Mail Boxes Etc. and Subway. The mid 90s saw the start-up of the first domestic franchising systems.
According to the latest survey conducted by the ARSS franchise consulting company at the beginning of 2018, there are close to 700 franchising systems operating in Poland. In the last years one could see new developments in the Polish franchise market. The basic change involved a sharp increase in the number of new franchisors entering the market. That proves that the popularity of franchising, construed as a method of running one’s own business, is on the rise. Poland’s EU accession and growing interest in the market on the part of foreign chain stores have also contributed to a greater number of networks. In last years the number of systems operating in business format franchising overcame the number of product distribution franchising systems indicating that the Polish market became a mature franchise market. Most of the franchisors operate in clothing & shoes retail, gastronomy, grocery, banking, financial and insurance services. These sectors constitute a 60% share in the franchise market.
Out of 700 franchisors there are approximately 80% Polish franchise systems and 20% foreign ones. The majority of the foreign franchise systems are being developed by subsidiaries of foreign franchisors. Most of the foreign systems come from France, USA and Germany.
The most significant problem that franchisors meet in their attempt to establish their networks in Poland (apart from macroeconomic factors applicable across the national economy) is the shortage of potential franchisees with, firstly, sufficient capital resources to pay the franchise fees and to finance the initial investments; and secondly, the required management expertise and knowledge of franchising. Most opinions on the advantages of franchising for franchisees were expressed on the basis of experiences in Western Europe and the United States (for instance, no significant initial capital required, no need to have experience in running a business, etc.). However, one should remember that what is referred to as “no significant initial capital” in those countries with a developed market economy often constitutes a remarkable amount for Polish entrepreneurs. It is also obvious that foreign franchisors launching operations in emerging markets (of which they have little knowledge) will be reluctant to entrust their reputation to people with no experience of conducting commercial activities and no knowledge of franchising. Education with regard to franchising therefore plays a very important role in relations between franchisers and franchisees. Unfortunately, in Poland there are no business educational courses on franchising organised or at least sponsored by the state.