Magazine article Marketing

Iceland Comes in from the Cold

Magazine article Marketing

Iceland Comes in from the Cold

Article excerpt

After 26 years of almost unbroken growth, the high Street retailer Iceland hit big trouble in the mid-90s. Profits and share price slumped, and financial commentators suggested that, as a medium-sized store chain with no distinguishing features, it had no future.

It tried all the conventional responses, including major price promotions. Leading management consultancy Bain & Company was brought in, but failed to provide a lasting solution.

Human resources director Janet Marsden concluded that the company was suffering from a dictatorial, control-freak management style, common to a lot of retailers. "I called in Forum Europe, and the piece of the jigsaw which they realised was missing was that we had become a very cost-focused, rather than customer-focused, organisation."

Forum took the evidence to chief executive Malcolm Walker, including a list of 50 ways in which customers were being badly treated. His response was immediate. The whole board went to the US for a week to examine best practice, and took part in a two-day workshop to identify the values they wanted the company to embrace.

"We created a four-day management development programme to help people align themselves with these values," says Marsden. …

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