Cold Stone hunts for local agencies as chain grows

SCOTTSDALE, AZ: Cold Stone Creamery, a fast-growing franchisor of ice-cream shops, is searching for local PR firms on the East Coast, in the Midwest, and on the West Coas

SCOTTSDALE, AZ: Cold Stone Creamery, a fast-growing franchisor of ice-cream shops, is searching for local PR firms on the East Coast, in the Midwest, and on the West Coas

The company has worked with Golin/Harris as its agency of record and will continue to use Golin as "marketing consultants," said Kevin Donnellan, communications manager.

However, with its franchise network expanding rapidly, Cold Stone felt it needed local PR help around the country to support local franchisees.

"What benefits our store owners the most is the coverage they receive on the local level," said Donnellan. The company sent an RFP to about a dozen boutique PR agencies in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Phoenix, as well as on the East Coast, Donnellan said. It will select winners in each market by January 1, with plans to introduce the new agencies to franchisees at the company's annual franchise meeting January 5-8 in Las Vegas.

Cold Stone has 530 stores open across the country and has sold rights for 800 more. It expects to open 450 stores in 2004 and was opening a store a day as December began.

Company annual sales have grown from $45 million in 2001 to $88 million last year and an estimated $145-$150 million this year, Donnellan said.

The privately held company, founded in 1988, does not report earnings. Donnellan also would not disclose planned PR spending for 2004.

Agencies that win the company's RFP will be required to send staffers to Ice Cream University, a facility the company maintains in Scottsdale to train new franchisees, corporate employees, and suppliers, Donnellan said.

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