Aston and Fincher is one of the UK's oldest and most respected specialist wholesalers, supplying products and education services to the hair and beauty industry since 1934.
A 6 month management development program, custom developed by modelling their high performing store managers, has set them on the path for increasing turnover by 50% in 3 years.
Since the recession of 2008, Aston and Fincher have struggled to maintain growth. On one hand, the hair and beauty industry has suffered in the same was as all retail businesses, and this has affected sales volumes and the demand for premium products. On the other hand, aggressive growth plans from competitors, funded by their new US based parent companies, have driven down customer expectations of price.
How can any business survive without joining a price war, and ultimately losing to a competitor with deeper pockets?
Aston and Fincher's plan is to grow from £35M to £50M turnover by 2018, in part fuelled by the recovery of the national economy. But to ride a market upturn, you have to be in a stronger position than your competitors.
The answer: 27 store managers who build solid, long term relationships with their customers.
No matter how good those relationships are, any retail customer can be tempted away by discounts and special offers because, ultimately, the wholesale business is a transactional one. Services such as education do help to develop a relationship, but again this is widely available.
Aston and Fincher is a company that, historically, does not publicise its virtues. Its everyday prices are actually lower than its competitors offer prices, but it's the offer prices that customers see on leaflets pushed through their letterboxes, and perception is far more important than reality in the consumer world.
As a result of the 6 month management development program, the managers implemented new performance management systems, competency frameworks and staff induction and training processes which they had designed themselves to meet their real needs, leading to:
- Improved store performance
- Improved resource utilisation
- Reduced manager workload
- Increased customer retention
Improved store performance was measured by an increase in store performance of up to 485% - putting the organisation well on track to achieve its growth goals.