Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Undercover Boss Ann Summers

I just had to tune in to the new episodes of Undercover Boss last night on channel4 as it was featuring the Assistant MD of Ann Summers going back onto the shop floor to see what their stores are really like to work in.

She disguised herself (pretty poorly as she was nearly outed!) and went to three of the brands stores to meet the staff. It was fantastic viewing as the MD (who has never worked on a retail shopfloor in her life) got to hear what the brand was like to work for straight from the hard workers themselves.

 She discovered that the 'veteran' staff members thought the brand was being led astray from its kinkier and more sexualized roots, whereas other staff would love to invest their time in the company on a full time basis but the store only offers full time management positions. She also soon learnt that the cultural Ann Summers Parties were not all they cracked up to be with the hosts having to fork out a large amount of money just to get started themselves.

The Assistant MD was also shocked to see that the shops were looking tred and outdated and even witnessed a few powercuts along the way which led to profit and customer loss.

Having worked at four of some of the largest retailers around, I know that Ann Summers aren't alone in their finding issues. I worked at one company who were forever masking over big problems just because it would be costly to sort them out. I worked at another who couldn't provide full time hours so I was forced to leave. And the other offered no progression routes into better career positions nor any training either.

I think its so important that the bigwigs in Head Offices do take the time to visit their stores and witness what the brand is really like. And its even more important to visit as a suprise so nothing is masked over - a company I previously worked for let you know six weeks in advance when they would be visiting so everything was perfect when they arrived and that was not how the store was on a day to day basis.

Retailers that have a strong work force should want to mentor and mold their passionate staff so the brand image and service is consistenly strong. Everyone should work together, both shop floor, area and Head Office staff and forget about the recruitment hierarchy for a second and focus on the business. Then maybe the highstreet wouldn't be in so much trouble.

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