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Business students on our T Level course have recently been exploring the Management side of Retail, and how changes in the industry and the market can have a major impact on the consumer, as well as the landscape of a business. To put their learning into action and understand the impact of change in more detail, they recently had an industry visit to a local chain of a high street giant.
Wilko sell homeware, household goods and a variety of other products every day to its many customers, and have a focus on enhancing the everyday. They sell value goods and ensure that across all departments of its stores that customers not only find great deals but get high quality items upon every visit. Ashford's branch is located in the Park Mall Shopping Centre, and is run by Store Manager Neil.
Neil started the day by asking students how they felt about change, as the store and the business itself is currently undergoing change. Changes in Wilko at the moment in Ashford include product selection, layout in the store and department changes. Neil explained that these changes have all gone through various stages of approval, with staff, customers and head office having their say, before Market Research can be conducted and decisions analysed. Our students were quite surprised to learn that what seems as simple as an increase of some product ranges, has actually been in the works for 2 years! This highlighted to them just how important decision making was in any business, as change can have a massive impact, so needs to be looked at carefully.
Neil also gave us a tour of the shop floor and how the new layout was already having an impact on customers, with ease of finding products and customer satisfaction on the up. Students also got to hear about how advancements in technology mean change is happening every single day in a business of this size, with self-service checkouts just one example. They now make up 40% of all transactions in the store, and whether you like them or not, they are here to stay! As part of the process for bringing them into stores, nation-wide surveys and consultations took place to see if these would have an impact.
At the end of our visit, students took a test to see if they could be a good manager in the Wilko business, looking at how adaptable they are to situations, flexible to change and what their logical thinking is like. For our T Level students this was a really great experience as it helps them realise that there is so much more to any business than they first expect. Student Tyler said of the day "I get more out of learning with tours and visits like this, as it helps me to apply my knowledge."
Thank you very much to Neil and the rest of his team for allowing us to visit!