When people make a difference

Speed of service and staff helpfulness are both within retailers’ top five considerations when thinking about shopping in cash and carries, the new Cash and Carry Customer Tracking survey has found. It also shows that retailers turn to cash and carry operators (and those working in the branches) first when wanting support or advice on how to grow sales.

In addition there is often a very strong bond between managers and their customers at cash and carry branches. So it’s important not to overlook the attitudes and opinions of those who work around the country in depots as a means to potentially identify training or education gaps which could have an impact on sales. Suppliers should keep abreast of frontline feedback as what gets negotiated at head office needs to be implemented at branch or local level to have any chance of success.

That’s why him!’s Cash and Carry Customer Tracking Programme got the feedback from 550 branch sales executives and 160 managers at the same time as 4,100 retailers were interviewed this June. It highlighted some interesting findings.
Broadly, the vast majority (over three quarters) of managers felt there were good career development opportunities where they were working, the training they had received was adequate and their employer was making good use of their skills and abilities. However this didn’t mean that managers didn’t want any more training. In fact most managers said they wanted additional training – with “technical systems” top of the list (59%). Thirteen per cent wanted more product knowledge information.

Most – although not all – said they always implemented head office initiatives. Those who said they didn’t always implement them cited too few staff available and insufficient time as the main reasons.

But a significant number felt that there were simply too many initiatives going on, and that communication from head office was poor (in terms of on-time delivery, ease of understanding and so on). Four out of five think communication from head office to branches could be improved generally.

Eighty three per cent would like to receive more information about their customers and how to satisfy their needs better – probably because only half of all managers think sales are going to increase in their branches in the next 12 months.

Tom Fender, chief operating officer of him, says: “It’s clearly pretty tough out there – but if managers don’t think they’re going to grow sales, they certainly won’t grow sales. It starts with an attitude.” 

The survey also found a low appreciation of fresh as a driver of sales through the industry.  Many retailers don’t think fresh will be an important sales or profit generator for them, and cash and carry branch staff also feel that fresh will not be within their customers’ core categories to drive growth.

Fender says: “This is a shame, but also begs the question: on the one hand, retailers complain about the power of the supermarkets’ c-store formats entering the market and quickly achieving sales of £60,000 per week or more, but without connecting the fact that 75% of their sales are in short-life lines. That connection has to be made.”

There is also a feeling that cash and carry branches are not laid out appropriately for their customers (in terms of macro space planning and category signage) as a quarter of all branch managers feel “ease of finding products” is a major issue for retailers. “Watch this space for possible him! video observation studies to track customer flow around cash and carry depots and category interaction,” says Fender.

And Fender would like to leave readers with a little teaser.
The first person who emails Tom@him.uk.com with the correct (or nearly correct) percentage of managers who say they have fun at work (either all of the time or some of the time) will win a bottle of champagne courtesy of him!

Harris International Marketing, the consultancy which carries out the Cash and Carry Customer Tracking Programme looking at customers’ behaviour in depots, has been rebranded as him!, with the new logo also appearing in a speech bubble to highlight the need for better communication and the added strapline of “turning answers into action”.

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