Malik Ullah is a Store Manager in Ashton-on-Mersey. For the last six months his team have been trialling new systems, processes and technologies as part of the Leading the Way programme – which is looking at ways to make life easier for our colleagues in stores. Here he talks about his experience
Across the board retail is tough right now. I joined Co-op about a year ago and before that I worked for Tesco. Chatting to friends who work for other retailers, it’s the same for everyone. We’re all under pressure.
So when I was first approached to run a ‘test’ store I was dead excited. I’d done similar things in the past and that really helped me.
Essentially we’re the store that tests everything Co-op is thinking about introducing – there are other stores who are testing individual changes but I’d say we’re the hothouse.
After us, the changes will go into a range of different ‘trial’ stores to make sure they’re right and work on a bigger scale, before going to our Stores of Excellence. Then they’ll be rolled out across the rest of our stores.
There’s a lot of work still to be done, but everyone should see the successful changes gradually over the next twelve months.
Systems and processes
There’s not just one thing that’s changed. When you come to our store you’re going to find that it’s de-cluttered – there’s lots of space.
Point of Sale changes: Colleagues know that after a busy weekend you come in, fill all your dump bins (wire bins for promotional items), all your fixture displays, outside banners – we’ve lost all that. The time that will save – every store manager should love it.
So how are we shouting about our offer? Our Customer Service (CSAT) results show that customers aren’t bothered that we’ve lost all these things – before this trial our scores were at 8.1, now we’re at 9.3. To a customer if that product is available on the shelf, it’s clean and tidy and has a price on it, that’s all they want to know.
Handling cash: We used to have seven different sheets of paper and fill them in every day. We’ve just got one sheet now – we count our tills every day and count the safe three times a week.
Gap scan (counting what products are missing) and capping shelves (top shelf for products normally stored in the warehouse): We used to spend about three to four hours a day checking gaps but now we’re spending a lot less time doing that which leaves us more time to do what’s right for the customer. Our customers don’t even notice our capping shelves are there. If something’s off sale but they can see it above they can call one of us to get it down for them. It helps with availability.
In-store bakery: Before it was so time-consuming – you’d bake one thing, put them in a bag with three different stickers. Now we use our new automated production pad which tells us what to put in the oven, then we put it out – no labels, nothing.
Technology and new equipment
Intelligence shelving: It doesn’t help you fill shelves quicker but if someone comes in and robs all your meat, it will immediately send a message to your pager. It gives us the confidence to fill more meat and gives availability to the customer.
Tablet: This will change everything – it helps us be mobile. We can check our emails, policies are on there – in future you’ll be able to do your rotas from here. At the moment I have to go to the till to check my email. It doesn’t help with communication. Our Digital team are working on some exciting stuff that’s probably way in the future but we’re trialling the early versions. Read this blog post to find out more.
Headsets: These have really improved communication. Colleagues don’t ever feel threatened or alone as they know someone is always listening – we’re connected. It also cuts out all that to-ing and fro-ing from the warehouse. We only use the tannoy for customer announcements now.
Bringing colleagues on the journey
At first there was a little bit of negativity from colleagues who were worried about losing more hours, but they weren’t looking at the bigger picture. I said to them: ‘Look how much easier your job is going to be in the long run’.
It’s human nature – people don’t like change. I took my colleagues out of the store, sat them down and asked them for feedback. I told them that my door is always open – I’m with them.
I gave them the responsibility and ownership. Now there’s healthy competition between them.
All my team are so confident and can talk anyone through what this programme looks like and how these changes have made their job easier.
Even in the busy times you can feel that calmness. The results are in front of you.
Colleagues are happy, customers are loving it, and sales are up.