Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Corporate giant wants to be part of community

THE new manager of the Henley Tesco store says he wants the business to be embedded in the community.

THE new manager of the Henley Tesco store says he wants the business to be embedded in the community.

Simon Warren has taken on about 60 new staff since he was appointed in October, supported a number of charities and community groups and appointed a “community champion”.

He says: “I want people to realise that Tesco in Henley is local and doing things within the community, not just as Tesco, the big national retailer.”

This good news message is in stark contrast to some of the news stories that have dogged the supermarket giant over the past year, including a profits slump, the suspension of eight senior executives and an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, the announcement of 43 store closures and the departure of chief executive Philip Clarke.

Mr Warren, like the company’s new boss Dave Lewis, is doing his best to change the perception of Tesco.

For example, as the Henley Standard reported two weeks ago, the zebra crossing on the entrance road to the store off Reading Road has been repainted after repeated attempts by officials from Henley Hockey Club and AFC Henley to have the work done had fallen on deaf ears.

The clubs said their young players could be put at risk by using the crossing to reach Jubilee Park and the adjacent playing fields as the faded white lines meant drivers might not notice the crossing.

Mr Warren not only had the repainting done but also had speed bumps installed on the road.

He says: “I’m very proud and pleased that we have managed to repaint the zebra crossing and put in speed restrictions at the entrance to the site as I know it had been an ongoing concern for a long while for the users of Jubilee Park.”

Mr Warren’s own early childhood was spent in Henley, where he lived with his parents, Dorothy and Philip, in Upton Close.

He is now 42 and lives in Warfield, near Bracknell, with his partner Claire Spence. Between them, the couple have five children and two grandchildren. Mr Warren was 17 when he began work in the retail industry and he has been with Tesco for the last 12 years. He ran the company’s Windsor store for two years before moving to Henley to replace Roly Lumm.

He believes it takes about two years to fully understand a store.

“Every site is different and has different challenges,” says Mr Warren. “I’m looking forward to growing this one over the next 18 months to two years. It’s a new challenge.

“One of the attractive things is running a shop that is in a community. Henley is a town where there is a lot going on, lots of events, and I want Tesco to be involved.

“It’s very important that we’re seen to be part of the community. Ninety per cent of my customers are local.”

His new community champion is Alison Simmons, who has been given three priorities â?? reducing food waste, improving and helping to tackle the country’s obesity crisis and creating opportunities for young people.

“We have got many ideas on how we can bring these to a local level in Henley,” says Mr Warren.

An example is the company’s Eat Happy Project, which aims to teach young people about where their food comes from and will encourage schools to take their pupils on visits to their local Tesco store.

Mr Warren says: “Alison’s job is to promote and support events in the community, to allocate our funding to local community events and to go and support them. It’s not just â??here’s a donation’. Alison will be getting involved and she can go and give her time as well as a donation. It’s a great way of promoting what we do in the community.

“I have a small budget that is designed to be used to support local events. I’ve not said â??no’ to anyone while I’ve been here.”

Tesco allows charities to hold collection days at the front of its stores but also does a lot of work for good causes that isn’t seen by its customers or the public as a whole.

For instance, the Henley store provided buffet food for an open evening at the Chiltern Centre for disabled children and has also donated food to the Over-60s Club and to the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service.

It also gave Christmas trees to the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed.

The store is supporting Henley Town Football Club by providing sandwiches and refreshments at all home matches and it has donated more than 100 toys to the Chiltern Centre in Greys Road.

Mr Warren says: “I think I would want Tesco to be loved in the town.

“What gives me the greatest pleasure is when a customer gives me feedback that we, or one of my team, have done something fantastic and surprised them.”

Tesco is one of the biggest employers in Henley with more than 250 staff and Mr Warren has been adding to that number.

He explains: “We had some vacancies and with the investment the business is putting back into UK stores I have been able to recruit staff.

“The biggest challenge was finding the right people to fill all the vacancies. A number of the people who have started are very local. We have probably filled about 75 per cent of the vacancies.”

He is also working to overcome what he calls “operational challenges” but won’t elaborate.

“We’re backing that up with an excellent frontline team that is striving to deliver excellent service to every customer,” he says.

The only downside in his short time at the store has been its failure to secure permission for 24-hour deliveries.

Tesco asked South Oxfordshire District Council to scrap a planning condition that currently limits deliveries to the supermarket to between 6am and 11pm.

It said the restriction, imposed when the store was given planning permission in 1993, limited the availability of fresh produce to home shopping customers.

Henley Town Council opposed the application as did Oxfordshire County Council’s highways engineers, the Henley Society, four residents and the district council’s own environmental health officer.

The district council rejected the application amid fears that the delivery lorries would disturb residents at night.

Mr Warren says the company was disappointed by the decision, adding: “We will now consider what our options are.

“Having some deliveries overnight would benefit us in terms of filling the shelves overnight rather than first thing in the morning.

“This would then benefit our customers who visit first thing in the morning and those who have early morning deliveries. Our first deliveries have to be picked and leave the store by 8am.”

However, he returns to his mantra when considering whether to appeal the decision.

“I know that I have to listen to the community and my customers,” he says. “My vision is quite simple â?? to have a great place to work and have great people working here. That’s what delivers the results for our customers. At the end of the day it is all about the customer.”

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