Halfords is a rejuvenated clicks-and-mortar retailer, but there’s a big change agenda ahead of its revolution with CIO Anna Barsby the driving force. Read the full CIO interview here.
By Mark Chillingworth
"Halfords is a part of the British retail framework and an historic part of our high street. "Halfords indelibly feels part of all our lives, from buying our first child's car seat to a bicycle or car parts. It's extremely rare that you meet someone who hasn't been into one of our shops.
"The key for us is to get better at being part of people's lives as we're an 'infrequent' retailer."
"Our strategy is to be a specialist retailer and make sure that our staff are very knowledgeable. It's been incredibly healthy as it keeps us on our toes and it makes us more competitive," Barsby says of the multiple retail threats Halfords faces.
"Davies has chosen the kind of people who have a history of transformation, and we all get on really well and have the same mindset. We have a 'Get Stuff Done' meeting to make things happen."
"Our new website is about the experience of life on the move. We also have a new store format rolling out which have screens in them, with an App that enables customers to enter their car registration number and the App tells you the exact part they need."
Tablets are being used with YouTube to show customers the products we supply in greater detail. We've developed a bike wizard for choosing a bicycle online, but many customers still want to sit on a bike, so we looked at how we size people from standing in front of a screen. Technology is at the heart of these changes."
"Omni-channel retail should be seamless; it's just about a single customer view. Customers order wherever they like and we must deliver wherever they like."
"We're rebuilding our network and in-store IT estate and we've done a lot in the first year, but there's still a lot to do. We've put in new laptops across the estate to support the in-store training investment. Many of our tills and handheld devices are being changed over the next year before a major software will follow next year. I have been around many of the stores and met many store managers, and they are seeing results from our work so far. We've delivered a lot of quick wins."
"We're compressing the data centre estate from nine to four, and we've done an SAP upgrade that should have been carried out five years ago. The business was buying IT themselves and we had very poor integration. The IT team relied on overtime to carry out routine work and we had no architecture, PMO or business analysis teams. HP partnered with us for the SAP upgrade, moving it into their cloud, and it's all gone really well. I'm looking at cloud wherever we can, as we have two peak times of the year – Christmas and summer – and I want to be able to flex up and down."
"My first big job was to sort out the people in the team – fix the basics in year one and then spend two years of transformation as part of a three-year plan.
"The key thing for me was to get their hearts and minds, and tell them it's going to be amazing. I found it remarkably easy to bring in great talent. Some people came from my network, but a good agency also helped. We've raised the skills bar with a mixture of experienced Halfords people plus staff from financial services and travel sectors – and that blend is working really well.
"There was a culture of order takers and I've had to coach a few people to get them to tell me what they think by saying: 'Your job is to recommend a way of doing things and you have a voice'. It's a very different role to challenge the business, so it's been a big culture shift.
"Also we've got them thinking what the customer journey is, not what their job is, as it's not about the systems. This has helped change the culture and it's now firmly about the customer and what the customer will see in 2017."
What I wanted was companies with a breadth of skills that each know they could do the other suppliers' jobs as I don't want complacency."
"Tills cost too much and we can move to e-receipts – great for CRM. We aim to reduce the OPEX by 15% and cut the CAPEX by 20% in 2017.
"Information is at the heart of our three-year plan and we've recruited Halford's first data architect."
"The digital director sponsors some projects, and I sponsor others – and it has to be like that as it's fine line between what's a digital project and what's an information one. Digital development is in my team because that's also about supplier management. This means that the digital director can concentrate on website trading with a focus on the customer experience."
"I was sceptical of the culture change that could be achieved, but that period really made me sit up and take notice. I've seen the same here with Matt Davies, so it wasn't a hard decision to come back to retail. Matt's a very motivating and inspiring person to have at the helm and he's really in touch with his colleagues.