Steinhoff International

Reconnecting a big box retailer to its customers


The Steinhoff is a global manufacturer, and retailer of affordable household and general merchandise products from over 12,000 stores in 30 countries around the world. And whilst Steinhoff has an extensive global footprint, they keep their brands local – recognising and celebrating the cultures of the countries in which they have made their mark.

Two such brands are stalwarts of the UK’s edge-of-town big box retail scene: Bensons for Beds – Britain’s favourite bed specialist – and Harveys – a specialist retailer of value lounge and dining room furniture.

Like many others, Bensons and Harveys operate in a market which had never been fiercer; against a backdrop of relentless pressure on customers’ discretionary spending on big-ticket household items. And in a sector traditionally beset with a negative reputation for high-pressure selling and low-quality customer service, the need to deliver a superior customer experience has never been more important.

But how to marry both of these seemingly competing objectives?

It was now or never, so Steinhoff turned to us to shake them from their “slumber”, discovering the roots of its under-performance and recommending meaningful solutions.

Following an intensive review with their senior leadership team and executive Board, we diagnosed a fundamental weakness in the very traditional command and control operational leadership culture of both brands. Despite significant major investment in L&D by Steinhoff at grass-roots level, an inherited legacy of top-down behaviours led to field management teams busying themselves with backstage process and record-keeping, and not driving sales on the retail front-line.

We aimed to break this dysfunctional cycle through a radical intervention to re-balance the field management role back towards team development. We achieved this by uncovering what was going wrong in existing practices and attitudes, and created a competency framework for what a good, modern field operations manager should look like.

Once adopted, the framework was used to identify learning and development needs across the entire field management population to more closely align with the new profile and to guide future hiring decisions, and in so doing helped lay the foundations for a major cultural shift.

Our next challenge was right at the heart of the business – to radically improve in-store sales conversion. Customer footfall was holding up and Average Transaction Values (ATV) were within reach of target, but conversion rates remained stubbornly short of the mark. Stores had simply lost their way.

The root problem was classic – loyal and willing sales staff feeling under-valued, under-trained and lacking direction or “permission”. Our solution deliberate eschewed traditional classroom-based chalk-and-talk, instead focusing upon the design and implementation of an in-store “on the job” Coaching Programme – providing Store Managers and front-line Sales Associates with the practical tools, self-confidence and motivation to actively engage with customers as product experts and trusted decision advisors.

Ultimately, Steinhoff would measure success in numbers rather than customer satisfaction (which also happened to go up), and the initiative proved a resounding success when pilot stores showed a significant increase in sales revenue and conversion rates in comparison to the rest of the business.

Our interventions at Steinhoff paved the way for a series of major cultural, systemic and organisational changes, helping two major UK big box brands to better compete for their respective customers’ future affection and loyalty.

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We turned to Retail Management Consultants when we were looking for some external help to create a bespoke transformation program that we wanted to undertake with our leadership team.

They were brilliant in helping us identify firstly what we wanted to achieve out of the program and what our objectives were, and then helped us create and deliver the programme which is still ongoing today.

It always felt that they were part of our team throughout the journey… thanks guys, you did a wonderful job!

Sean Quinn
Retail Sales Director, Steinhoff