It’s been less than a month since Tracy Barton was appointed to the role of retail stores director for pharmacy chain Well.
For this week’s ‘5 Minutes With…’ Q&A, the Retail Gazette caught up with her to find out more about her career and what she hopes to achieve in her new role.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before Well.
I‘ve worked in retail since the age of 14 in various businesses. During this time, I‘ve developed a real passion for the sector.
Prior to joining Well in 2015, I held roles as senior director for organisational effectiveness and head of people at Asda. Before this, I was human resources director and trading law director at One Stop Stores Ltd.
Congratulations on being appointed Well‘s new Retail Stores Director. How does it feel to be embarking on this new chapter in your career?
I‘m very excited to be back at the sharp end, working in stores again. I‘ve always found that customers and colleagues have the best ideas on how to improve the in-store environment and experience for consumers.
Being in store and identifying ways to simplify operations gives me a real buzz as it means our colleagues can concentrate on delivering for our customers.
What got you into the retail sector in the first place?
The first job I had was working in a convenience store when I was at school. I think retail is in my blood – if you are passionate about delivering for your customers it shows through, and I don‘t think it‘s a passion you can teach.
Although I‘ve enjoyed all of my HR roles, the switch back to retail was easy – it‘s all about leadership.
Describe what your role and responsibilities will be at Well
I‘ll be continuing to lead our store, field and central operations teams. This will include driving Well‘s corporate communications and professional standards to deliver our proposition on prescriptions, services and retail sales. I‘ll also be leading a number of change programmes, which will utilise innovation to continue to improve our offering.
What do you hope to achieve in your new role?
My short term objective is to simplify the way we do things in our stores, so that we can invest more time on providing excellent clinical advice and customer care, an important part of what we do in our local communities and a key part of being a primary care provider within the NHS.
Our 20:20 vision is Well‘s longer term plan to deliver growth. It‘s pretty simple (I believe retail is a simple business, and complexity adds problems) – so it‘s built on three pillars – deliver for the customer; build capability and grow the business
Can you talk about any upcoming projects?
Since Bestway acquired Well, we‘ve been investing in specific growth areas for the business, such as Well Careplus, our dedicated medicinal management programme for care homes.
We‘re committed to transforming pharmacy and our retail offering, which means we have other exciting opportunities in the pipeline – watch this space.
How has your previous experience aided your current job?
I‘ve been fortunate to work for some great retail brands along the way, such as Tesco and Asda, developing skills that I have applied to future roles.
In my first HR director role at One Stop (a subsidiary of Tesco) I had to learn the business end to end to define an operating model that worked.
During my time at One Stop, I learned about property, supply chain, distribution, marketing and commercial – as well as how to run a business through a governance framework.It was a steep learning curve and the best learning experience I‘ve ever had.
This has differed in my HR roles, where the focus has been on talent and leadership. However, these skills translate across all functions.
What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?
Being passionate about delivering for customers is key for anyone looking to work in retail. If you don‘t feel that passion, you‘re probably in the wrong industry.
Other advice I‘d share, which is specific to retail, is for employees to stick to the basics, keeping things as simple as possible. Regardless of your job role, it‘s important to get out into your stores so that you can stay in touch with what‘s really happening and how you‘re delivering for your customers.
However, more broadly, it‘s all about natural leadership skills.
What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?
As a community pharmacy, the biggest risk to Well as business is the funding cuts.
More broadly, attracting and retaining talent will always be a challenge in an increasingly competitive market place. Tailoring what you deliver for each customer requires the best people at every level.