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iSold It announces that it has troubles in an open letter to franchisees

David Crocker, Sr. Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for iSold It, LLC has posted on Blue MauMau an open letter to iSold it franchisees from Chief Executive Officer Ken Sully.
The iSold It franchise opportunity has been named “Hotter than Hot” and the “Best New Franchise for 2007″ by a leading national magazine.  However, a letter currently circulating the Internet indicates this American Dream may have become an entrepreneurial nightmare.
Mr. Crocker stated, “In the letter, it says that we are considering litigation, reorganization or liquidation.” Regarding a time frame to declare bankruptcy, he commented, “I cannot comment on when any liquidation might occur.” When asked whether the eBay drop off store model works, he said, “The model works for some and doesn’t work for others. There are stores that are profitable.”

AN OPEN LETTER TO OUR FRANCHISEES

As we have previously announced, we are now focusing all our headquarters resources on supporting our current base of franchisees, while limiting the sale of additional stores to new franchisees. We will continue to add new stores with existing franchisees under current development agreements and will also help facilitate transfers of existing stores to new owners. iSold It, now in its fourth year of operation, currently has over 170 franchised stores open. The chain has sold more than $100 million of merchandise on eBay since inception.

As you may know, in December 2003, iSold It joined the fledgling eBay drop-off store category, still in its infancy. The first two iSold It stores, one company owned and one franchised, generated significant interest from customers, the press and franchise candidates. The initial customer response was so strong that, encouraged by their results, that first franchisee quickly went on to purchase additional development areas and opened more stores. As the category rapidly grew and sales volumes were easily tracked (due to the transparent nature of eBay), franchise candidates moved forward to open individual stores, often securing areas large enough to develop multiple stores. After 18 months of operation, the 100th iSold It store was opened, and no stores had closed.

Today, while encouraged by system-wide sales exceeding $4 million per month, the distribution of sales by store has proven to be a bell curve – with top stores exceeding $80 thousand per month and others struggling to attain $10 thousand per month. Compounding the situation, average selling prices and labor hours per item also vary significantly by store, creating a wide range in store contribution margins. This has resulted in a significant number of stores operating below break-even, and has contributed to over 60 stores closing. Tragically, many individuals who believed passionately in the potential for the category have lost sizable investments, including homes and retirement savings. We personally find this unacceptable and, despite continued interest in this category, we do not feel comfortable selling any new franchises until we get the failure rate lower.

Over the past 40 months, in an effort to support the network, we have invested nearly $20 million in infrastructure, systems and marketing — spending most of the $8 million in shareholder contributed capital and $13 million in royalties and franchise fees. During this time, no director or shareholder has ever received any distributions or dividends from iSold It, with an exception for a small distribution to shareholders in early 2005 to cover pass-through tax liability related to 2004 company profitability. The company has not been profitable since 2004 and no further distributions have been made. In addition, with the exception of CEO Ken Sully, members of the Board of Directors and shareholders do not draw any salary from the company.

Going forward, the company faces significant challenges.

First, the company must preserve its remaining cash so it can remain solvent to support its franchisees. This is being addressed through significant reductions in expenses, including difficult decisions regarding headcount reductions and moving the office to a smaller location.

Second, the company is now focusing all resources on supporting the existing franchised stores. This is the rationale for eliminating the franchise development group and exiting the company store. (In separate posts, we will keep you current on the 3.0 conversion.)

The third and most significant challenge is addressing the claims of a group of franchisees who regrettably have each suffered significant financial losses. While we all feel very badly for anyone who lost money, we believe we presented this concept fairly from the beginning and it is unclear if we will be able reach a conclusion without litigation, reorganization or insolvency.

The team at iSold It remains committed to supporting our current franchisees and finding a success path for the network. We recognize the hard work and sacrifices that each one of you has made to help build your business and this company. We remain passionate about the potential for our business and appreciate your continued support going forward.

Ken Sully
President & CEO
iSold It, LLC

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