Problem Solver: What do you miss most since leaving supermarket trade?
Q: What do you miss most about not being involved in the supermarket industry any more?
A: In reality, I still have a lot of contacts at both a domestic and international level in the food retail market so I still get to keep up to date with the latest developments.
Of course, you can't substitute meeting customers on a daily basis at the coalface - and this is the probably the element that I miss most.
As most people will be aware, I spent a significant amount of my weekly timetable on the shop floor interacting with the customers and reacting to their feedback. This was one of the key elements that allowed us to differentiate Superquinn from its many competitors. Many of our best ideas came from consumers in our stores.
Equally, I miss the energy that was involved at being at the helm of a small, fast-moving company.
On several occasions, larger international supermarket groups were astonished at our ability to make decisions fast, and implement innovative ideas that others simply couldn't do because they had become too large.
The unpredictability of the food retail sector in Ireland was never short of surprises. On many a day I went to work assuming I was going to have a quiet day, only to find out by 10am that some major challenge had been mounted by one of our competitors to try and attack our market share. There is nothing like this to get the adrenalin going, and nothing more rewarding when you beat the big guys at their own game.
Q: Can you suggest any ways I might attract more customers into my hair salon business?
A: It is good that you are looking at ways to generate new business. Before I respond with suggestions on how to get new customers in, I would first like to challenge you and ask are you doing enough with your existing customers to retain them and increase the frequency of visits and spend levels with you.
Working with your customer base is always going to be an easier win than trying to attract new people who don't know your business.
Simple things that you could do with your customer base includes, developing a good text marketing programme that is used no more than eight times a year, developing a loyalty scheme to encourage more repeat visits, running talks and events with guest stylists, etc for your customers, etc.
In terms of attracting new customers, obviously a great website and digital media strategy are mandatory. From time to time I would encourage you to drop a high-quality brochure throughout the neighbourhoods you are servicing.
Partnering with a retailer in your town who might give out vouchers for your salon or might text their customers on your behalf could also be an interesting initiative.
You also need to be attracting some free PR and media coverage through innovative events to keep your name in the public arena.
Work with your existing customers first, and only when you have exhausted your energy and resources here should you start to look at attracting new customers. You will find that a much more robust strategy.
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