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Worldwide Online stores continue trading as HQ goes under

Sunday, 28 February 2010
By Print 21 Online Article

Independent franchise print stores around the country are operating as usual, while the Perth-based franchisor flounders after 16 years of growth.

The iconic hub-and-spoke production model has over 80 independent stores as well as two master franchisees, east and west, overseeing the printing network across Australia. Worldwide Online claims to turn over $65 million in print and design work every year producing 120 million print items on behalf of 20,000 business customers.

The company, owned by private equity operator, Nevis Capital, went into administration on Thursday, Feb 25. Rob Dallimore, who was engaged in a senior management role with Worldwide almost since the beginning, was appointed CEO a week before, just after the departure of the incumbent, Donald McKenzie. He is currently operating the business under the administrator, McGrathNichol. He is also one of the partners in the NSW master franchise.

“I’ve had very, very supportive phone calls from franchisees across the country. They are rallying behind the effort to keep the business going. We are still trading under the watchful eye of the administrator. It’s business as usual at the hubs,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll come through this in even better shape.”
The franchisor in administration controls the digital and offset hub operations at the core of the business in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

A spokesperson from McGrathNicol said: "We are conducting our review of the business operations, and whilst we are only a couple of days into the process we can confirm that the focus is on minimising any disruption to franchisees to preserve the value in the national franchise network for the long-term."

A creditor’s meeting will be held on Wednesday 10 March.

Most WWOL franchisee stores have some production capacity, mainly digital print. They also provide design services to varying degrees. All offset jobs are routed through the hubs.

The shock fall from grace comes after some difficult years. Clive Denholm, well-known industry identity, founded the company in 1995. It has proven to be the most successful new franchise in the industry. Denholm left four years ago after 12 years in the chair.

Worldwide Online currently has over 300 owners and employees throughout the national network. In recent times, pressure on job margins and increased competition have compounded problems.

Industry insiders believe that most of the damage will be to the brand alone, with the infrastructure expected to continue to operate. Dallemore is confident the structure is sound.

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