Cormac Tobin, managing director of Lloydspharmacy owner Celesio, speaks to Retail Week about his life working in retail.
What was your first job in retailing?
It was at Irish retailer Superquinn at 13 years of age when I started sweeping the floor. It was there I gained my passion and love for retailing and people
Which retail company do you admire most and why?
There are two: Amazon for its laser focus and understanding of its customers and the way it tailors its communications to my needs and desires; the second is Pret a Manger for its intimate people strategies and making them the centrepiece of the business.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I probably have lots of unlikeable traits according to others but everything I do is to drive high standards and to bring out the best in people and the business so I’m not going to change.
Who have you learnt most from in your retail career?
Feargal Quinn, the founder of Superquinn in Ireland, because of his obsession for putting people first.
What advice would you give someone starting out in retail?
Your job, whatever level, is to create compelling and relevant reasons for people to engage with the business time and time again.
What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing, I sleep well. I like to do an hour’s power walk each evening to clear my head and prepare for the next day’s challenges.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
When I see people who have learnt and then start to teach others in the company - seeing them achieve great success is hugely satisfying.
What’s your proudest achievement?
My daughter, even though I only played a microscopic part in creating her.
What job would you have done if you hadn’t become a retailer?
Hotel management, because it’s about creating an experience and intimacy with customers.
What’s your favourite shop and why?
The Apple Store. They’re not trying to sell you anything, they’re trying to make your life better.
What was your last purchase?
It was a pound of Irish Superquinn sausages and brown soda bread. It was for one of our pregnant colleagues who had a craving.