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FDD Talk 2016: The Wild Birds Unlimited Franchise Opportunity (Financial Performance Analysis, Estimated Costs, and Other Important Stuff You Need to Know)

by Franchise Chatter on December 8, 2016

in Bird-Related Franchise, FDD Talk 2017: Retail Franchises, Franchise Earnings, Retail Franchise



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Wild Birds Unlimited Franchise Photo

In this FDD Talk 2016 post, you’ll learn the following:

  • Section I – Background information on the Wild Birds Unlimited franchise opportunity, including relevant news updates
  • Section II – Estimated initial investment for a Wild Birds Unlimited franchise, based on Item 7 of the company’s 2016 FDD
  • Section III – Presentation and analysis of Wild Birds Unlimited’s financial performance representations, based on Item 19 of the company’s 2016 FDD, including information on the:
  • 2013, 2014, and 2015 same store sales percent change for those Wild Birds Unlimited stores open and operational for at least 2 full calendar years
  • 2015, 2014, and 2013 average gross sales for those Wild Birds Unlimited franchises open and operational for at least 2 full calendar years as of December 31, 2015, December 31, 2014, and December 31, 2013, respectively
  • 2015 average gross sales for Wild Birds Unlimited franchises broken down by number of years of operation
  • actual number of stores that were open and operational for at least 2 full years during the year and that achieved certain gross sales levels for 2015, 2014, and 2013
  • summary of gross sales for the first and second full 12 months of operation for stores that opened between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2015 who had completed 12 full months of operation as of December 31, 2015
  • average monthly sales volume percentage that contributed to the 2015 gross sales for those Wild Birds Unlimited franchises open and operational for at least 24 months as of December 31, 2015
  • average cost of goods sold for products offered by the stores open a full 24 months in each of 2014, 2013, and 2012, as well as the average of advertising and wage expenses incurred by first year stores that completed their first year of operation in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010
  • 2014, 2013, and 2012 average owner’s discretionary cash flow achieved by stores as reported by franchisees that were operating the previous full 24 months

Section I – Background Information

Wild Birds Unlimited Connects People With Birds, Nature

According to Wild Birds Unlimited, the first and largest company devoted to bringing people close to birds and nature, 52.8 million people feed birds and watch wildlife in their yards. These people spend $6.9 billion on bird feeding and bird-watching, including $5 billion on birdseed and wildlife food.

It looks like many of them are spending at Wild Birds Unlimited. In 2015, the average gross sales for U.S. WBU stores open for one full year was $534,140. The average gross sales for the top half of U.S. stores open for a full year in 2015 was $738,992.

Wild Birds Unlimited currently has nearly 300 locations in the U.S., where it has a presence in almost every state. Eighteen locations are in other countries.



The company, based in Carmel, Indiana, franchises stores that sell bird-feeding and bird-watching supplies, such as birdhouses, baths, feeders, bird food and binoculars. Its website displays videos of birds enjoying the feeders.

Bark Butter Is New, Versatile Treat

One of the stores’ newest products is Jim’s Birdacious Bark Butter, named after founder and bird-lover Jim Carpenter. The high-energy bird treat that can be used in a Bark Butter feeder but can also easily be smeared on tree bark to attract birds to multiple trees in one’s yard. The product is made from suet, peanut butter and corn.

The company’s website has a list of more than 135 North American birds that have been spied eating the treat, from ducks and quail to hummingbirds, American Robins and northern Mockingbirds.

Not Just Sales

The WBU website offers extensive free educational resources about birds, covering species, habitat, behavior, feeding, care and many other topics, including a page that focuses on a Bird of the Month and provides helpful and interesting information about that bird. Providing this information and education is part of its mission: “We Bring People and Nature Together.”

Also part of Wild Birds Unlimited’s mission is its conservation fund, Pathways to Nature. All of its stores donate a portion of their proceeds to this fund in support of conservation, education and wildlife viewing projects at parks, nature conservancies, parks and wildlife refuges within North America. Grant Funds go to projects within the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Wild Birds Unlimited is committed to helping children connect with nature. It has since 2007 partnered with the National Audubon Society to provide scholarships for summer camps. The company says children spend, on average, 44 hours per week using electronic media, and it is committed to reversing this trend through its Pathways to Nature for Kids initiative. Additionally, the website provides instructions and ideas for numerous projects for kids to do in the outdoors, as well as suggestions for places to go.

Love of Birds Evident From Backyard Owl Cam

Wild Birds Unlimited founder Jim Carpenter, who has a master’s degree in horticulture, managed a gardening center before opening a backyard bird store. His first Wild Birds Unlimited store opened in January 1981. Carpenter, his wife, and a business partner began franchising in 1983. He bought the partner’s shares in the company in 1989.

Carpenter still owns and operates his own store. He has an owl box cam in his backyard, and in March 2015 the Barred Owl Next Cam was chosen by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to be a highlighted cam on its website. The cam is also viewable on the WBU site and other sources.

WBU Honors in 2015

Wild Birds Unlimited, which announced in February 2015 that it had experienced an increase in same-store sales for five consecutive years, was ranked 144th on the Franchise 500 list in 2016, up from No. 149 in 2015.

Franchise Update Media gave first place for Best Overall Performance to Wild Birds Unlimited in October 2015. WBU also placed first in Best Franchisee Satisfaction: Retail Brands for the second year in a row.



Franchise Business Review recognized Wild Birds Unlimited as No. 1 in the Retail Category in March 2015. The franchise came in at No. 7 in Large Class for franchise concepts with more than 250 units. WBU also entered the inaugural Franchise Business Review Hall of Fame of companies that have been on the list for 10 straight years.

Wild Birds Unlimited ranked No. 15 on Franchise Gator’s list of top 100 franchises for 2015.

Oregon Store Reopens After 12-Month Absence

A Wild Birds Unlimited location in Medford, Ore., returned in August 2015 after a yearlong absence. The hiatus occurred when the building in which the store was housed for 20 years was sold shortly after franchisee Laura Fleming purchased the business from retiring Katy Reed. Fleming was determined to find a new home for her store.

“I have dreamed of having my own bird store for many years now,” Fleming told the Mail Tribune. “When the opportunity to buy the WBU franchise came up, I jumped in with both feet.”

She searched for a new location during the winter of 2014 and signed a lease in late spring of 2015. She opened the doors of the new store on Aug. 27, 2015.

Fleming has worked in the industry for 25 years, including a job at a Wild Birds store.

Section II – Estimated Costs

  • Please click here for detailed estimates of Wild Birds Unlimited franchise costs, based on Item 7 of the company’s 2016 FDD (updated).

Section III – Financial Performance Representations (Item 19, 2016 FDD) and Analysis



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