PROFILE: Alan Shepherd, Kwik Save: Tale of a Kwik change artist/Alan Shepherd faces the task of boosting Kwik Save’s flagging fortunes

Alan Shepherd, who in August takes on the newly created role of communications director at Kwik Save, is under no illusions as to the size of task he faces at the discount supermarket chain. ’I’ve read the analysts’ reports and in the main they’re not gushingly complimentary,’ says the 37-year-old, whose career hitherto has been concentrated on fmcg product marketing.

Alan Shepherd, who in August takes on the newly created role of

communications director at Kwik Save, is under no illusions as to the

size of task he faces at the discount supermarket chain. ’I’ve read the

analysts’ reports and in the main they’re not gushingly complimentary,’

says the 37-year-old, whose career hitherto has been concentrated on

fmcg product marketing.



During the past couple of years Kwik Save has indeed performed poorly in

the highly competitive food retail market, reporting profits down 28 per

cent in November and implementing a programme to close 100-odd of its

least profitable stores.



Last month pounds 26 million was wiped off the value of the group when

it warned that sales were down six per cent - hit by competition from

rival discounters like Aldi, and Netto. Why then has Shepherd chosen to

leave Spillers after less than a year in a major pan-European marketing

job for a position at a retailer that has, to put it mildly, been

experiencing difficulties?



One of the main reasons is to re-establish his working relationship with

Kwik Save marketing director Phil Smith, for whom he worked at Kraft

Jacob Suchard, and who approached Shepherd with a job offer ’out of the

blue’.



After meeting with Smith and other members of the Kwik Save board,

Shepherd says he is confident that the path they are taking will ’help

restore its fortunes’.



Smith joined Kwik Save in October 1996 and since his arrival has set

about shaking up the chain’s marketing strategy.



He has introduced a programme called New Generation - ’New Labour, New

Kwik Save,’ jokes Shepherd - with a view to improving the in-store

environment to meet the expectations of demanding consumers.



’Consumers expect to see a degree of gap in overall ambience of shopping

experience between companies like Kwik Save and Tesco,’ concedes

Shepherd.



’But there’s certainly a need to narrow that gap.’



The recent lack of in-house resource devoted to communication is seen as

another factor in the chain’s problems.



’Speaking as an outsider it seems to me that the level of communications

to the Kwik Save consumer has been insufficient in recent years,’ says

Shepherd. ’There’s a need to drive home more clearly the price

advantage.’



Reporting to Smith, Shepherd will have responsibility for all elements

in the communications mix, including a pounds 9 million advertising

budget.



Shepherd intends to build a stronger in-house PR team, claiming public

relations will become a substantial part of the marketing communications

mix.



Retained agency Shandwick will take part in the ongoing ’brand review’

process and Shepherd also places emphasis on effective two-way internal

communication in order to encourage ’ideas and creativity’ from

staff.



Smith, who last year indicated that Kwik Save had to become more

’customer focused’, hired Kathy McLellan from Pedigree Petfoods as

director of customer information in March. Shepherd wants McLellan’s

team to become more marketing-focused.



’As I understand it there is a customer relations team that, at a basic

level, are handling complaints. We need to talk about what that group

could be in terms of bringing our brand vision to the consumer in

customer relationship building.’ However, as a brand marketer by

background, Shepherd is by no means a public relations expert.



’He hasn’t had a great deal of PR involvement here,’ says one Spillers

insider.



Asked to shed light on his professional strengths, Shepherd says he is

strong on ’structure and process’.



Barry Spencer, a former colleague at Kraft Jacob Suchard, calls Shepherd

’one of the most intellectually focused’ people he has met in the

marketing business.



Born in Chester, Shepherd has one unusual marketing ambition. ’I’d like

to sponsor Chester City Football Club,’ he says with a smile.



Whether Chester City will fit into Kwik Save’s more rigorous, New

Generation approach to communications remains to be seen.





HIGHLIGHTS

1981

Marketing assistant for paper products, Modo

1982

Marketing and sales controller, Pharmagen

1984

Senior product manager, Holt Lloyd

1987

Marketing manager, General Foods (later Kraft Jacob Suchard)

1996

European category director dog food division, Spillers



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