The BBC has reported this week that Marks and Spencer has admitted to running out of stock in some of its best-selling lines of womenswear, which has contributed to the firms drop in sales.
Like-for-like sales at M&S fell 0.7% in the 13 weeks to the end of March. Overall on a same-store basis, a 1% rise in food sales failed to offset a 2.8% drop in general merchandise sales.
These are very difficult times for businesses. Planning in such a difficult and mixed economy where the ‘R’ word is used liberally every other month by one or more industry leader the questions over investment/disinvestment and operational resources are fundamental to success. The need is more than just to listen to the customer. Now businesses need to be at one with the customer to enable them to be fleet of foot and predict trends; boards need to be closer than ever to the frontline. From my experience if you ask the staff serving the customer and making the products how to improve, they know the solutions. They know what the customer likes and wants.
Businesses often fail to engage with their own staff – the Charted Institute of Personnel Development found that almost two thirds of UK employees are either only partly engaged or totally disengaged with their work. If we look at one aspect of engagement – advocacy – whether staff talk well of the organisation to their friends, families and colleagues, there is a greater engagement challenge for the public sector: Ipsos MORI found that in councils 33% would speak highly of their employer, compared to 48% in the private sector. Shockingly, only 30% of staff in councils would speak highly of their services, compared to 57% in the private sector. This, staff engagement, has not been a traditional topic in the boardroom but it is definitely one which should be top of the agenda alongside customer experience, with financial performance following!