Tough times are ahead. Like every other retailer we are faced with the fact that life is getting harder for our customers.
Should we invest or cut back to drive returns? We’ve decided to invest.
This is our logic: there are going to be winners and losers in retail. We want to be one of the winners.
The only way Majestic can be one of the winners is by helping our customers discover wines they couldn’t find for themselves.
The only way we can do that is by having experienced and engaged staff. This is a cliché everyone trots out, in our case, it happens to be true.
No substitute for experience
The reason experience counts is that it takes two years for one of our store managers to get to know their local customers.
Managers get to know our product range and to have the confidence to be able to make helpful wine recommendations to customers without making them feel like idiots.
“We are still faced with the fundamental challenge that some of our best retailers saw their future as getting out of stores”
The reason they need to be engaged is, I repeat, because we don’t want our staff to make our customers feel like idiots when it comes to wine.
We have invested £8m since the launch of our transformation plan. We’ve seen a lot of improvement in areas such as product availability, wine quality and customer service.
But we are still faced with the fundamental challenge that some of our best retailers saw their future as getting out of stores and into an office, because they felt they wanted to have more influence over their lives and to have more money.
Preventing a brain drain
This is a problem all retailers who invest in their people face. We’ve decided to do something that most PLCs dread – give our people the chance to literally run their own shop and turn them into partners.
Firstly, instead of earning a percentage of sales, the partners will earn a significantly larger percentage of their store’s contribution.
They therefore have the ability to grow their income materially in comparison to a normal store manager.
“We have set up a test group who will be pioneering this new experiment”
Secondly, we are reversing the traditional retail command and control style of management to give these partners more control over their store, the people who work in it and their own lives.
Thirdly we’ve dramatically accelerated training, moving away from the dictatorial “these are the actions we want you to take” to a much more fundamental understanding of people, business and customers.
Can we do this all at once?
No. We have set up a test group who will be pioneering this new experiment and over time we expect to move at least 50 to 60% of our branches into it, leaving only new managers with the career trajectory of a traditional store manager.
Is this going to cost more money?
Yes. But it has the potential to pay for itself several times over, and going right back to the point I made at the beginning, if you want to be a winner then your employees need to be the ones that are dragging you to the finishing line, not the other way round.