Case study

Graduate retail manager — Louisa Myrtle

Attracted by the fast-paced nature of the retail industry, Louisa works as a graduate retail manager at Asda in Clapham Junction. She studied sociology at Newcastle University

Why did you decide on a career in retail?

I decided on a career in retail because I was keen to do something that did not involve sitting at a desk 9am to 5pm, five days a week. Also, the daily interactions with people and fast pace of the industry excited me. Retail is constantly evolving so I knew I would have to learn how to adapt quickly, which was a challenge I was ready to take on.

How did you get your job?

I got the job by applying online on the Asda website, doing some tests and video interviews, an assessment centre and one final interview.

What kind of tasks do you carry out on a typical day?

It is hard to answer what a typical day looks like as it depends on the department. To begin with I worked in the George (clothing) department, where I had to manage the splitting of the delivery that came three times a week and make sure stock reached the shop floor as soon as possible. With this came managing colleagues, the out of stock numbers and keeping up to date with the changes to displays, seasonal offers and sales.

Then I moved to the food hall, which involved following processes to ensure the availability number met the standard of the company, getting hands on with stock, and managing the warehouse by collaborating with nights.

I then moved to the online department, which involves running the 'pick', servicing the totes and ordering the loads so that drivers can deliver to customers on time. It often involves a 3am start and 'backpicking' items that colleagues have not been able to find on the shop floor, which then have to be scanned into each customer's order. I also have to juggle managing shop floor colleagues, as well as the drivers in the home shopping hub, so being able to multitask is key.

Time management is most important in this department as the day is governed by the time vans leave the hub. On top of all of this, there are always potential visits to the store, zooms, meetings, disciplinaries, trips to other stores and competitors and presentations to prepare for.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy being around people all the time, the pace and the fact that no day is the same.

The graduate programme also provides a lot of exposure to people all over the business, so learning from and engaging with talented managers, senior directors and vice presidents is something I have found very rewarding.

What are the challenges?

The challenges include the constant pressure to deliver, even if the circumstances are against you. Also, keeping up with the workload with little time to do it can be difficult.

Within the online department in particular, different kinds of challenges pop up all the time so it is impossible to predict what could happen on a daily basis. Road blocks, traffic, van damages, sickness or late deliveries, or other potential hurdles, due to circumstances out of our control, can massively impact the day of an online operation so being able to cope with this and find appropriate solutions is vital.

What type of person would suit a career as a retail manager?

Someone who is outgoing, has lots of energy and is happy to get their hands dirty. Also, someone who is able to communicate well and get colleagues on side to create a productive team.

What are your career ambitions?

Experiencing a range of shop sizes (superstores, supermarkets and express) in my first two years on the graduate scheme will provide me with the appropriate skills for the future.

But, learning how to run an online operation in a complex superstore in my first six months has already provided me with great skills that will allow me to go on to run even bigger operations/regions/areas in the future, therefore my career ambitions are to continuously grow, expand my network and ensure I strive to secure the most challenging jobs with lots of responsibility.

Also, being part of the fast growing convenience space that is expanding within Asda over the next few years is another exciting career prospect. There are lots of possibilities and opportunities.

What is one stereotype about working in retail that you’d like to debunk?

It's not always as straight forward as putting food on the shelf. I have had to adapt my management style to engage my teams as best as I can and I have had to quickly learn the company processes, how to be compliant, and how to drive sales. With systems changing and technology advancing, there is always something new to learn.

Can you talk us through two issues currently affecting your area of work?

Shrink is a big issue for us at the moment, there is a range of contributing factors that are proving hard to control but we have set plans to get to a better place.

Also, the high demand, especially in the 'express' space within the online department, where third parties deliver groceries to our customers, can be a significant challenge. Our colleagues are faced with high quantities of items to pick within a very small time frame.

Online will only get more and more popular and busy so learning how to prepare the department for this growth is at the forefront of our minds to avoid further challenges down the line.

What advice can you give to others who want to work in retail?

Retail is definitely not for everyone but you'll only know if it's for you if you try it out, although it's stressful, it's also very rewarding, so of course I would say give it a go.

I have learnt so much about people, the way a large business operates and about my own leadership style so I would say that working in retail gives you opportunities to learn a range of life skills. But be prepared to give up some weekends and evenings and be on your feet all day.

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