A cowboy asked if I could round up 18 cows. “Of course, I can” I said …” that’s 20 cows”

A cowboy asked if I could round up 18 cows.
“Of course, I can” I said …” that’s 20 cows”….Jake Lambert

I love the Edinburgh Fringe. My family are an am-dram family and my wife and I have taken shows to the festival and now help run a theatre. We really missed this year’s festival. Particularly the stand up:

Someone stole my anti-depressants.
Hope they are happy now…Richard Stott

A thesaurus is great.
There is no other word for it…Ross Smith

One thing I have learned is that you can’t just tell people you are a comedian…you have to tell them a joke. You have to give people something to earn the right to get their attention. And cutting through with simplicity is hard.  It’s the same in retail. You can’t just tell people you are good you have to show them.

Why did you set up NorthBailey?

A very famous ad man (who will remain nameless) once told me why he’d started his own agency rather than continuing as CEO of his previous agency. “Andrew” he said “there were two reasons… greed and ego”

What he said was a typically memorable, if 20th century, way of saying that he wanted to be in charge of his own destiny and wanted to be successful if he could help his clients be successful. Those seemed like good reasons to me at the time, and they still do.

You need confidence to start a new business and I was confident in success because, having had senior marketing & insight roles at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Coop and M&S, I had plenty of experience to draw on.

I’m now using this experience & network to solve strategic marketing problems for NorthBailey clients.

What does your company do?

We solve problems for retailers and suppliers to retailers using our experience, technical expertise in marketing and market research and our networks.

We bring fresh perspective and critical thinking along with a wealth of retail thinking and knowledge.  We are provocative, challenge convention, ask the difficult questions and allow you to see your business from a different perspective.

My business partner always jokes:

Where does a dog go when it loses it’s tail and needs a new one? A retail-er. Where does a retailer go when it needs a new insight & loyalty director? Andrew Mann

Over the last 2 decades I have worked as an insight data and loyalty director in Tesco, Sainsbury’s Asda, Coop and M&S. So he has a point.

Which retail leaders do you admire the most?

I love an opportunity to drop names and here are a few standouts…

Steve Murrels at the Coop. He taught me to listen more and let people talk more.  He always said: “Two ears, one mouth: There’s a reason.”

Mike Coupe and Paul Mills-Hicks at Sainsburys. Mike is one of the most genuine leaders I have worked with; equally at home talking to colleagues or the shop floor or leading board sessions.  He has a grasp of the detail and always knows the right questions to ask.

Paul Mills-Hicks is a bright, intelligent, ball of energy who inspires people to go the extra mile.

Roger Burnley at Asda.  We worked together first at Sainsbury and then at Asda. He is an intuitive, genuine leader of teams.  He has a good grasp of the detail and a great common touch. He leads with strategy but always said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

What challenges are retailers facing in 2020 and beyond?

And the great Zeus said “come forth and revive eternal life” …But unfortunately, we came fifth and won a blender.

It’s been a crazy year.

Retailers in UK are facing three key challenges to Survive… Revive… Thrive…

  1. Survive the next 10 weeks,
  2. Revive in next 10 months and then
  3. Thrive for the next 10 years

Every organisation will need to approach these challenges differently. What is certain is accelerating digital adoption and planning for an economic recession should be part of every retailer’s thinking. Retailers who open to change and new ideas, and are nimble in execution will be the most successful. Just like always.

As ever, retail is an endless series of problems to solve.

Any final thoughts?

A cynic once said a consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time… and then keeps the watch.

When you are a comedian you can tell a joke, It’s harder as a consultant because you have to tell people about what you’ve done … so give us a ring to let us tell you what we have done and help you solve some business problems.

And I promise I won’t keep your watch … well not all of it.

Published by Andrew Mann

Managing Partner at NorthBailey. Having had senior marketing & insight roles at Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Coop and M&S, I'm now using my experience & network to solve strategic marketing problems for NorthBailey clients

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