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
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
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
’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
Reporting to Smith, Shepherd will have responsibility for all elements
in the communications mix, including a pounds 9 million advertising
Shepherd intends to build a stronger in-house PR team, claiming public
relations will become a substantial part of the marketing communications
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
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
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
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.
Marketing assistant for paper products, Modo
Marketing and sales controller, Pharmagen
Senior product manager, Holt Lloyd
Marketing manager, General Foods (later Kraft Jacob Suchard)
European category director dog food division, Spillers