Showing we Care – Old Uniforms to benefit the Salvation Army

As Shakespeare once said “clothes maketh the man” and this is certainly true of the image we try to portray to our customers and members through our Co-op uniform. As advocates of our brand, it ensures customers know colleagues are part of the team and the community.

Taking pride in appearance is important to our store colleagues. At the Retail Support Centre we try to guarantee colleagues can access the right uniform at the right time, as we recognise the lasting impression a poor or incorrect uniform can give our customers and members.

All Change

Over the years we have seen many variations of the uniform, and with each new style we have stacked stock high to allow colleagues to access what they need, when they need it. This has left us with a massive amount of legacy stock that we have already paid for but can no longer use.

The launch of our new pioneer brand, and the move away from the Black and Green uniform, has given the Retail Loss and Costs team an opportunity to complete a full review of the stock we have, and we have identified 14 lines, over 2000 items, which are now surplus stock. This includes shirts, trousers, skirts and polos, some of which haven’t been part of our uniform for several years! These are all new, good quality items which, after a little bit of de-branding, can be put to good use elsewhere.

Showing we care by doing what matters most

Working in partnership with our uniform supplier Dimensions, and our own internal Customer and Community team, we have identified one of our many charity partners to help us distribute this surplus clothing to people who can make good use of it. And so after months of ground work, 84 boxes of clothing, nearly £20,000 of stock, have been distributed to help people in other areas of the country.

Our community partner, The Salvation Army, have distributed this stock to its many charity shops around the UK, allowing people to purchase a bargain and help a good cause in the process. The Salvation Army allows us to distribute on a wide scale whilst still supporting causes close to our Co-op heart – modern slavery, homelessness and people in poverty.

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It’s not always about saving money

Often the bearers of bad news, the Retail Loss and Costs team are not usually the ones to give money away! However, we are constantly working with other Retail Support Centre teams to ensure the best outcome is achieved for all our Colleagues, Customers and Members.

Being able to fix problems in the background allows the team to see things from a different perspective, and this is just one example where the result is absolutely not about saving money, but about doing what matters most for us all in a Simple, Meaningful and Sustainable way.

Sarah Bedwell, Retail Loss & Costs

Simplifying Fresh Reductions

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Removing complexity is one of the most important ways the Retail Support Centre can help our store colleagues. One of the most common issues we’ve heard from colleagues is that our fresh reduction process wasn’t working.

Colleagues told us our reductions matrix was too complicated and the timing was not right. Having different processes for long life and short life products adds complexity and can lead to products being missed and ‘out of code’ products being left. We were reducing too many products which is time consuming and damages customer perception about the quality of our food.

We’ve listened to colleagues, and to enable stores to focus on serving our customers at our busy times, we’ve made fresh reductions process a lot simpler. We’ve changed the frequency of the checks, and the exceptions. We’ve also empowered colleagues to choose the best time to complete first reductions for their store, and to override the iRTC system where they may have store-specific challenges which need to be taken into account.

When we trialed the new process, we had some really positive feedback from colleagues. But we also learnt a lot too. We’ve learned that following the new process exactly (as it’s written) is the key to saving time and reducing waste. But how have our colleague found the new process? We spoke to a few of our store colleagues to find out how the new process has impacted their stores….

“The new process is much better as it give us more time to get it right. Because we have until 10am on the product date it allows us to be more flexible.  If something unexpected happens like a late delivery, it means we can pick up the process the following morning. It’s helped eased pressure on the late jobs which has really reduced stress in store”

Gina, Petrol Harrogate Rd

“The new process is really much simpler and easier for us”

Ifte, Southwark Mill street

“It’s working really well, I didn’t think it would as our store previously had high level of waste, but since the new system was introduced our waste has been much better, our split has improved to 80/20…….Its so much simpler now that we use the same rule for both long and short life products, and we’ve found the system is giving a much better price on the first reduction”

Tammy, Alnwick Bondgate

But we aren’t taking our foot off the gas – We’ll continue too look at how the process can be improved – We’ll be using data from the new process to improve the suggested prices generated by iRTC which will help products sell through at the first reduction.  We’ll soon have simpler reporting to help us improve our range and waste, and we’ll be looking at introducing improvements to our ambient reduction process later in 2018.

How we improved service in 2017

In 2017, the Retail Support Centre re-launched with a clear aim of improving service by simplifying the work we do – to bring the Co-op difference to life. Since then teams across the Retail Support Centre have been listening to stores more than ever, to get to the heart of how we can improve the service we give to stores. More than ever, in the past 12 months the feedback of our store colleagues has been essential in shaping the improvements we have made.

Supporting Store Services

Across store services we have seen some great improvements. We allocated over 5,700 additional hours for Hermes over Christmas – helping stores handle the 250,000 parcels that came through during the festive period. This earned just under £200k in income in December alone. We also got better at communicating this, by sending weekly updates which as a result of feedback from stores will now become a permanent monthly cascade.

We have supported in promoting the benefits of having great availability in scratchcards and stores have responded seeing an increase of 4% across the estate.

In response to great demand from stores & the communities we serve, we installed Costa machines in to 12 stores in December – outside of the acquisition and refit programme – so far generating over £11k in sales, with more stores planned in 2018.

We’ve had some great feedback about improved ATM availability over Christmas, and have supported 12 stores in introducing an ATM to support the community where there has been local bank closures – leading to £12k in commission in Q4!

Simplifying Communications

At the heart of improving service to stores is reducing complexity. Communications is a key area where we have been working hard to simplify. We have reviewed how we communicate, and the Food Internal Comms team and the RSC have been working more closely together to simplify messages to stores as well as stopping ‘Illegal’ messaging. We’ve created a new comms process and shared it with the business to ensure all messages are either planned of agreed before they’re sent to stores.

We have reduced comms messaging to stores by 10%, with an additional 40% reduction in messages sent on Fridays and Saturdays. We have also challenged back to the business around incorrect messages which has helped us reduce the number of ‘apology’ messages by 75%.

We have additional work to do in ensuring quality of submissions from the business to the Comms team and activity is already underway to coach and support colleagues across the business to improve how we communicate. Going in to 2018, the comms team will be collaborating with Colleague Insight team to carry out a full review of a store inbox to see what they receive in a week and from who, to look at more ways we can reduce the volume of comms stores receive.

Better Operational Service

On the OSS desk, call volumes have decreased by a massive 20% in 2017 from 208,000 to 166,000,  with the launch of ‘How Do I’ playing an important role in ensuring colleagues have the information they need when they need it. Additionally we are getting better at answering the phone quickly, with 70 % of calls now being answered in under 30 seconds, and we’ve had some great feedback from stores:

“I love the email function to OSS”

“The improvement in OSS in the past 12 months has been unbelievable, from the speed they answer calls to the knowledge of the operators, which has seen massive improvements”

We’re Listening more than ever

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We’ve been listening more, and the Colleague Insight team is building on the work done previously by Listen Act and Fix to develop more ways for us to listen to the colleague voice. We held the first RSC ‘Hackathon’ in October, as well as co-ordinating Store Manager Listening groups. To help give colleagues a forum to share ideas we’ve rebuilt our Intranet page and set up the colleagueinsight@coop.co.uk email address, where colleagues can send us ideas on how we can simplify store operations.

We know we have a lot more to do in 2018, and colelague insight and feedback will be at the centre of the way we support stores, improve service and deliver change in 2018. The Colleague Insight team will be building on the groundwork set by Listen, Act and Fix to provide more detailed insights into what matters most to our colleagues, and will be collaborating closely with teams from throughout the Retail Support Centre to ensure colleagues feel supported and that their voice is listened to.