How did we help?

Dozens of brands. Hundreds of stores. Thousands of colleagues. It’s not easy to run a tight outfit when you’re a major department store. But get it right, and the payoff can be huge. Debenhams called us in to talk shop, spot opportunities and set them on a course for increased productivity.

From Jasper Conran to Frost French, Designers at Debenhams and a range of carefully curated concessions have helped make the retailer a British high street institution. Variety is a department store’s lifeblood, but it can also add a layer of complexity that affects efficiency. Profit margins are tighter on external brand products, and processes are constantly being introduced, tweaked and dropped. Throw in the added complications of multiple floors and different-sized stores, and the risk of time wasted is a real one.

The solution? Taking stock of what’s working, what isn’t and what improvements could be made. We helped Debenhams understand their current productivity levels – and design a plan of action to increase them.

What Did We Do?

We sent our analysts to scope out ten Debenhams stores across the country. Scrutinising every in-store task carried out by Debenhams’ people, they measured, watched and listened, coming up with average task times and critical observations. It helped us identify where time was being wasted and where it was being well-used – and how that compared to other retailers and companies.

To add another level of insight, our team shadowed store managers as part of our ‘day in the life’ studies. The aim was to work out how they split their time and what was blocking them from spending valuable minutes at front of house – something we know can help motivate colleagues and drive the pace of work on the shop floor.

We accurately timed tasks,
watched and listened

We quantified time spent
serving customers

We spent a day in the
life of managers

How did it help?

We pinpointed areas for improvement

We uncovered important opportunities to cut down minutes spent on tasks that didn’t add value or weren’t customer facing, and found that small jobs were expanding to fill available time. A confusing array of clothes hangers were making jobs unnecessarily complicated, visual merchandising was eating up a bit chunk of colleagues’ time, and moving between floors to restock products wasn’t as smooth a process as it could be. There were also big inconsistencies between stores.

It all pointed towards a broader need to simplify processes, set clearer goals and introduce more guidelines to keep colleagues focused.

We made practical recommendations

Our suggestions included:

  • Making the most of tablets and technology, allowing managers to complete admin tasks on the shop floor, rather than being tied to the back office
  • Training colleagues to be more aware of what they’re carrying as they walk between floors. Can they reduce journeys by carrying more items at once?
  • Introducing store specific guidelines for visual merchandising, so teams have a clearer idea of what’s expected of them and how much time they should dedicate to the task
  • Learning from stores that spend more time with customers For example, if a store is performing well, even though its managers have fewer sales updates, maybe other stores should follow its lead and streamline in the same way?

We laid the groundwork for the next step

So far, we’ve helped Debenhams identify 60 hours of opportunities per store, per week. We’ve given them data they can use to iron out inconsistencies, clarify processes and make solid decisions for the future. The retailer’s next step is using the average task times we produced to build an operating model that will tell them exactly how many colleagues they need to run each store effectively. It’ll make a complex business a lot simpler.

What Our Clients Say

“ReThink’s help has been vital. Their findings played a key role in our strategy to release more time to serving our customers.”

Nancy Foster, Head of Store Operations and Transformation