Taking the next step

I started working weekends at Co-op when I was 15 and I took to retail really well.  I quickly worked my way up to a Store Manager, which I’ve been for over eight years now.

I’d thought a lot about what was next for me at the Co-op and our Retail Degree Apprenticeship Program seemed a great opportunity to help me understand what was out there and think bigger about the Co-op.  After I was accepted I jumped right into it. I guess I’m now officially a ‘mature student’ as I’m not as wide-eyed and bushy tailed as I used to be – but I’m still up for a challenge.

The sales challenge

I was part of a group of 20 apprentices. Our challenge was to increase sales of our Co-op Fairtrade Colombian Coffee. Other groups had a different product. With the summer heat wave and peak holiday season upon us, we knew we had to think quickly – it really felt like a challenge!

Working collaboratively

In our group we had a mix of store roles. Most importantly we were all apprentices, each with something unique to offer. I volunteered to take the lead. The 20 of us were geographically all over the country, so we found things like conference calls and WhatsApp useful to keep in touch.

We knew it wasn’t just about promoting the coffee to increase sales. We needed to understand the provenance behind it. So, I spoke to our coffee buyer and our technical and product quality teams who gave me a real flavour of why it’s genuinely best in class. This meant we could talk passionately to our customers about our point of difference. We backed it up with tastings and sold home-made coffee cake, milkshakes and iced coffee (remember, it was pretty hot this summer!)

Our Co-op Colombian Coffee sales increased by 10% during the challenge. I, along with another member of the group, presented our group’s work to Chris Whitfield, Peter Batt and the apprenticeship management team in Manchester. It went really well. I love presenting, but I learned to be wary of transitions in your PowerPoint slides – they don’t always go to plan! We actually jointly-won the top spot with the ‘Argentina’ team who drove the sale on Co-op Argentinian Malbec. Hats off to all teams who presented on the day – they demonstrated some real Co-op Values.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

That’s my advice to any colleague who embarks on an apprenticeship programme and takes on a challenge similar to this. Sometimes it doesn’t always look like you’re making steps forward, but it’s worth it. Year one of my programme was all about getting the foundation skills under your belt. Things like how to read with a purpose for your assignments.

That reminds me, note to self, don’t procrastinate, I better sign-off and start to tackle the two assignments that I need to submit by December.

James Leggett
Store Manager, Crossways – Warmwell Road

Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. Is that the photographers’ car in the reflection there?

  2. I love to listen to your views and the way you understand and interpret so many things. This apprenticeship will enable you to take the next step in your career. You work very hard and are totally committed, you deserve to succeed. Very proud of you James

  3. Very proud of my son, James, and for all his hard work and commitment
    Well done,
    John Leggett (Father).

  4. I love this James – I love that you dug deep into the sourcing and product development teams and found out what they knew but we didn’t about great Coop products – and how you passed that info on – I am looking forward to the roll out of the coffee cake and iced coffee sampling to all stores! Way to go.

    And.. by increasing sales by 10%, think of the effect of the additional Fairtrade premium to those coffee farmers and their communities in Columbia – not many apprenticeship programmes can have such a global knock on effect. Well done.

  5. Great article- selling coffee in a heatwave with superb results!

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