North West businessman buys UK’s first cleaning franchise

Chris Wootton

Southport businessman Chris Wootton has completed a self-funded six-figure deal to buy the UK’s first domestic cleaning franchise.

Established in 1980, Poppies is a brand with a unique heritage. Now, it is set to bloom again thanks to long-standing franchisee Chris Wootton.

He said: “Buying the Poppies franchise has been a dream of mine for over a decade – I absolutely love this business.

“I worked closely with our founder, Sue Rorstad, for many years – she was my leader, my mentor and, later, my great friend until her untimely death in 2015.

“With the support and blessing of her family I’m incredibly proud to be able to give Poppies a new lease of life. This is a highly-respected and extremely successful brand – I’m determined to make us the number one name in domestic cleaning.”

Chris joined Poppies in 1996 when he bought his own franchise in West Lancashire, and 23 years on he’s bringing all his knowledge and experience to his new role as owner and managing director of the franchise, which currently has 22 franchised units UK-wide.

Crucially, Chris retains ownership of his own franchise which operates in Southport, Formby and West Lancashire – a distinct benefit for both his fellow franchisees and the next generation of Poppies franchise owners.

He said: “I’ve seen first-hand what works and what doesn’t, and I’ve been able to use my experience to fill the gaps that I saw as a franchisee.

“The last 12 months have been spent developing the brand ready for its next phase of life. The goal wasn’t to instantly recruit franchisees but rather to invest in the business and create the best possible environment for all Poppies business owners to succeed.”

Together with their new leader, the network has helped to develop innovative business systems, a customised technology platform and an intricate support infrastructure to benefit new franchisees as they are welcomed into the fold.

As well as updates to internal systems and technological advancements – including a bespoke app for staff and clients – Chris says Poppies has firmly planted itself in the 21st century with a fresh new look.

“We may be approaching our 40th birthday and be the oldest cleaning franchise in the UK, but we’re every inch the modern, professional brand.”

The first Poppies franchise was launched in 1984. Today, the 22-stong franchise network cleans more than 6,000 homes every week across the length and breadth of the UK and boasts an impressive turnover of more than £5m.

Chris says that anyone joining the franchise can choose to build whatever type of business they like – from lifestyle to multi-territory empire – depending on their own aspirations.

He said: “My aim is to double the size of the network in the next four years, welcoming new franchisees from all walks of life, each with their own individual aspirations, into the business.

“Poppies is a truly home-grown business, designed and built in the UK – I’m excited to be the one who is introducing it back to the market.”