Great mistakes I've made: Des Flynn

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  • March 29, 2016
  • Sarah Dunn
Great mistakes I've made: Des Flynn

Following the 1979 purchase of the Woolworths brand by L.D. Nathan, Flynn worked to integrate other existing independent supermarket chains into the Woolworths brands.

One of these was a chain called Super Value, which was already owned by L.D. Nathan when Woolworths was acquired. Flynn soon discovered that this precedence had given the Super Value staff the idea that their chain would be the dominant one and all Woolworths stores would soon be rebranded.

“But it was the other way around,” Flynn says. “The new owners of the business wanted to change the Super Values all to Woolworths’.”

Flynn and a colleague were sent out on the road to personally facilitate the changeover of two Super Value branches. His colleague handled the Mairangi Bay Super Value, while Flynn took care of the Northcote branch.

“We barrelled on in, as young guys do, and we went into the stores saying, ‘Righto, this is what we’re doing, this is what we’re changing.’”

In a businesslike fashion, Flynn laid out his intentions to change the layout of the store, change its systems and replace the large ‘Super Value’ sign above the store with one bearing its new name. He then set about implementing his task list.

While he was busy, the ticket library arrived at the store. This was a box which contained pricing cards destined for the supermarket’s shelves and other signage material. When Flynn went into the stockroom to get it, he was met with a terrible sight.

“Somebody had opened the box, it was a quite big box, and spread [the tickets] all over the stockroom floor. And the butchers had run their meat trolleys and so forth over the top of them - just ruined them.”

Flynn wasn’t willing to take this insult lying down.

“I saw this Super Value sign which had come down off the outside of the building… I went and picked up a hammer that was sitting on the bench, and I smashed the sign to pieces.”

“And then I thought, ‘Hmm, that probably wasn’t the right thing to do, but anyway, I’ve done it.’

Soon afterwards, Flynn’s colleague at the Mairangi Bay Super Value store called him to say he was also having trouble implementing the changeover. Flynn suggested the pair meet at the pub after work to devise a solution.

“We said, ‘What’s happened here? These people absolutely hate us, and we can’t understand why.’”

The lesson they pieced together was that the Super Value staff had developed an attachment to their brand – “It’s where they have chosen to work” . These people felt disrespected by Flynn and his colleague’s focus on efficiency and lack of consultation. Between them, the pair figured out that in order to succeed, they needed to integrate the Super Value teams into the rebranding process.

This story originally appeared in NZRetail magazine issue 742 February / March 2016

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