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EDITORIAL Driving change from the top – How HoF can use its blank canvas

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Over the past few weeks I have spent a fair bit of time talking to retailers and vendors about changing customer service culture to meet the needs of today’s omni-channel shoppers – and one thing that has come up time and time again is who drives the change.

Anecdotally, I’d be inclined to say that most retailer execs – and most of the vendors – freely admit that change has to be driven from the very top: get the big guy(s) to buy into it (or to think that it was their idea in the first place) and the necessary cultural and technological change will follow.

Companies that don’t see this top-level buy-in simply won’t be able to compete.

While most of this has been outlined in the confines of Chatham House rules, the move by Mike Ashley to sack the entire board of House of Fraser as the first step in his revamp of the company possibly lends our roundtable chit-chat some credence.

Whether he simply wants to replace them with ‘his people’, or whether it is part of getting the right leadership in to carry out the revamp that is truly needed is as yet unclear. However, one thing is for sure: it is a very brave move.

For starters, HoF actually had one of the more forward-thinking management teams and had done much to pioneer omni-channel retail – not least pioneering in-store mobile use to try and knit it all together. It is hard to see what a new team could do different (although we do outline some key pointers).

Sports Direct is famed for its product sourcing, to achieve the ‘Harrods of the High Street’ that Ashley has bandied about in his one-liner press statements, however, is going to require some more radical approaches than just that.

As we report in our story, to carry on in the vein of being a department store, Hof – and any other department store, for that matter – needs to become more of a curator of a limited number of things: to trade off the idea that it is the arbiter of taste – selecting the things that you, the customer, wants to see.

This, as anyone who has been recently, isn’t what Harrods does, but it is one of the key things that any multi-brand retailer needs to do. It also needs to bring in more in the way of lifestyle and education input to try and make a trip to House of Fraser worth the bus fare.

Any new board and CEO at HoF could do worse than to heed some of what Domino’s Pizza’s CEO David Wild said this week at eCommerce Expo. He believes that to make Domino’s “the number one pizza place everywhere on the planet” requires three key pillars: convenience, engagement and recognition.

While you can read all about his views in the interview, what is striking is that this view from the top is what is driving Domino’s to increasing success. This exemplifies what I am talking about. Retailers that have a vision at the top are the ones that can make the shifts needed to try and alter course to keep up with our ever changing customer needs.

House of Fraser has a big job in front of it, but also a massive opportunity. It isn’t often that you get to reinvent your business and striping out the management to start again is a lovely blank canvas on which to paint. With House of Fraser already seen as such as a pioneer in technology and services in omni-channel, there is a solid foundation to build on. Only now it is a new build that can take advantage of all that is great out there in etail.

Image: Fotolia

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