Steve Murrells shares his thoughts on his trip to Aberdeen and Glasgow
Three and a half years ago we were ready to move away from our larger stores because they weren’t working for us. At the time I said we needed to be flexible because things change so rapidly in retail.
My trip to Aberdeen and Glasgow to visit a handful of recently refitted large stores in our 20-strong network in the region, has shown that we were right to have that mindset – things have changed.
We’ve learnt that convenience retailing isn’t just defined by store size so we’re putting money back into those stores, and they’re working again.
Every idea is potentially a great idea for our colleagues running them – they’re encouraged to be bold and brave, try new things. This freedom has meant they’ve been able to move at a faster pace than our competitors. No other retailer has done that – that’s why we’re winning.
The thing that really struck me was how much things have moved on in the six months since I left Food to become Chief Executive. What we’re now doing is incredible. They’ve moved things up a notch. The stores look fantastic and our ranges are pretty mind-blowing – I didn’t realise we did so much.
Room with a community view
A brilliant addition to our larger refitted stores are the new community rooms. I walked into Carnoustie Co-op and thought: ‘Wow – it’s all set up for local causes to use that space for a coffee morning or a meeting. You can imagine people trying our products in here and getting to know our colleagues’.
As I said to Linda from Sunshine Wishes Children’s charity, who help make dreams come true for underprivileged, sick and terminally ill children (one of Dennistoun Co-op’s local causes), this is just the start of our community work. We’re about more than just giving money away.
It made me realise even more that while our campaigning work on a national and global scale is important, there’s so much desire for us to support our local communities. They need us more than ever.
There’s no such thing as ‘too much, too young’
What stood out more than anything was the calibre of colleagues we’ve got working for us.
I met Callum, who’s a 24-year-old store manager, running Dennistoun Co-op, looking after 35 staff and managing a £1 million profit-making business. Very few organisations would let someone of that age anywhere near that responsibility – I’m proud we do.
He was the third young manager we’d met in the two days I was there. I was so impressed with the job they’re all doing.
Then there was Emily at Aboyne, a graduate with two degrees who’s also now a Level three apprentice with us – amazing talent.
Elaine at Dennistoun, another graduate, was chatting to me about her ambition to work in HR and progress in our Co-op. While Lee, a team manager at Crown St, would love to work in our Digital team.
And not forgetting 36-year old Barry (that’s young to me), store manager at Pitlochry, who’s done wonders in turning this store around.
I love the fact that we’re creating environments where young people can flourish. The job opportunities are huge right now in our Co-op. There’s a truth that if you’ve got the hunger and ambition, your career can flow right through every part of the business.
As long as we give the right support to young people we can do so much more in making our business a place where they want a career, not just a job.
But it’s important never to forget the invaluable contribution of our longer-serving and more experienced colleagues like Frank from Beith Co-op and Willie from Crown St. This is what sets us apart from our competitors. Watching how they work with their younger colleagues hand-in-hand, supporting each other and sharing skills, was by far the best bit.
Group Chief Executive