The Wall Street Journal has confirmed what Curves franchise owners have been reporting on UnhappyFranchisee.com for the past two years: Curves franchise owners are closing their clubs, and losing their significant investments, in alarming numbers.
The statements of Curves International President Mike Raymond in Richard Gibson’s article also confirm what franchise owners have told us in more than 1000 posted comments: The franchisor that invited them to get into business “for themselves but not by themselves” remains both profitable and coldly indifferent to their plight.
More than 2500 Clubs, 1/3 of Curves U.S. Franchises, Have Failed Since 2007
According to the Journal:
Over the past three years its U.S. franchisees have been closing outlets at a rapid rate, shrinking the chain by about a third: to 5,208 U.S. sites at the end of last year from 7,748 at the beginning of 2007, according to a recent franchise disclosure document the company filed with state regulators. More than 1,000 Curves vanished across the country in 2009, while just 35 new locations opened.
While the financial toll taken on the owners of 2500 failed clubs is devastating enough, the number is actually understated. Many Curves clubs have actually been sold once or more before they were closed – so the number of individuals and families who lost significant savings, retirement accounts even homes could far exceed 2500.
U.S. taxpayers have also helped foot the bill for these losses. Many Curves franchises were funded by SBA-backed business loans, and the Curves concept consistently ranks as one of the highest-defaulting franchises. So your tax dollars have been repaying banks for loans on Curves franchise defaults.
Curves International Profitability Rises Despite Franchise Failures
The WSJ reports that while Curves franchise owners were losing their businesses in record numbers, the franchisor actually increased its own profitability. Gibson states that Curves financial statements reveal that, for the year ended Dec. 31, Curves earned $16.4 million on revenue of $84.1 million (19.5%) compared with earnings of $17.2 million on revenue of $128.7 million (13.36%) the prior year.
The decline in revenue reflects lower franchising royalties and equipment sales, but profitability actually increased. However, struggling Curves franchisees and ex-franchisees have complained that CI has callously tried to squeeze every last cent from them, even as they fended off bankruptcy and foreclosure.
It’s not clear how much of the $16.4M in earnings came from closing fees and liquidated damages (future royalties) that Curves International and its collection agency demanded from the thousands of dead and dying Curves franchise locations.
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