The fact that most of the major retail success stories are down to managing that margin so well is something I admire. The evolution of retail logistics, information systems and facilities management have been entwined with my own working life for the last 40 odd years and have fascinated and involved me.
So I hold retail as a sector, and retails units as a specific, up as paragons and an example of how to really do it when I write here and talk to groups and, in general, I can see no reason why I should need to change my mind. I think that the retail sector will continue to lead the way in many fields of business.
So it comes as something of a smack in the face when my nearest hypermarket provides a shopping experience that reeks of massive neglect and also demonstrates how not to do it in so many directions; the chillers and freezer cabinets are always on the blink with leaking water all over the floor and that means lost hours mopping up, wasted product, lost sales and frustrated employees and customers (last Sunday most of the freezer area was empty and cordoned off). The place is generally scruffy and it is easy to sense the people problems that knock on from a site in trouble. These are not just the occasional clump of moaning employees blocking up an aisle while they vent their spleens on the management in front of customers, but also in the attitude to customers.
Further signs of leadership not being up to scratch include empty roll cages blocking aisles , shelf pricing and offer information not being consistent and often missing and poor shelf stocking. Almost everywhere I look there will be something that is a classic example of doing it the wrong way.
The place is pretty much a model of everything that could be wrong, and yet this is one of the country’s leading retailers, and at a site that is busy with both regulars and, because of its location, somewhere that must get a fair deal of passing trade.
Enough of the problems, how do you turn this sort of situation around? The first stage is to work on the people. Morale is hard to lift when people see the place running down, so you have to instil some belief in the leadership so that they will start to follow. Getting the basics right and enthusing your team is a leadership fundamental, but requires some support from above in a big organisation. The people are not stupid and will not get behind someone who they think will not be around for too long.
Next you do need to be able to find some money to spend on the place. This is not just about lifting your team, but also about that other group of people that you rely on; your customers. This particular store has had some money spent on it, but for a store within store operation who no doubt contributed towards their pitch.
Turning things around takes time, effort and cash, but the results tend to pay back handsomely if you can get it right. We know a lot of the people who serve us at the emporium I refer to above and would love to see them have somewhere better for them to work as well as for us to shop. This weekend, we’ll be somewhere else though, and they’ll find takings are down by a few more bob each week for a while, because we can’t rely on them having what we need.