Business took me to London recently and a trip to Sainsbury’s HQ in Holborn. Despite a sizeable kerfuffle in their reception caused by a gaggle of media reporting on a Sainsbury’s sponsored health initiative, it was their signage that caught my eye.
Anyone with experience of large retail businesses will appreciate the tensions that can arise between the seemingly all-powerful HQ and the coalface of the retail estate. Interesting then, to see Sainsbury’s describe their London base as the STORE SUPPORT CENTRE. Simple it may be, but it serves as a powerful reminder to everyone that walks through its doors as to exactly their role and purpose.
Set against a backdrop of falling sales, store closures and an ongoing price war across the grocery sector, customer service is the one differentiator brands can leverage that competitors cannot, by and large, copy in order to compete. So anything that demonstrates support for those that deliver this service and acknowledges the importance of their role within the business is critical.
This is a fact not lost on John Timpson, CEO of the eponymous high street chain of shoe repair shops.
The author of Upside Down Management and a firm believer in putting power in the hands of his people, John refuses to let Timpson’s HQ be called, well HQ, preferring instead the unremarkable ‘Timpson House’ because, as he puts it, the head office ‘doesn’t run the business’, whereas his frontline retail staff do.
Lest anyone forget, whatever retail sector your brand competes in, without well-stocked, well-managed and well-promoted stores, there will be no well-healed customers to serve and no need for a well-appointed HQ. Well said.