O2 is set to complete the transfer of 80 of its directly managed stores to its franchise partners ‘within weeks’, O2 head of stores Bridget Lea told Mobile this week.
The stores transfer is part of O2’s Branchise programme to increase the number of its franchise stores and bring them in operational line with its directly managed stores.
The programme will see O2 franchise stores increase from 120 stores to 200 stores across the UK, leaving the operator with 267 directly managed stores.
Lea said the programme was close to completion with just a few stores left to transfer. She said: ‘Right now we are focusing on getting the stores transferred across as efficiently and as effectively as possible. I expect all stores to be transferred over within the next few weeks.’
O2’s retail division has also undergone a management restructure. The move sees Lea take on the role of O2 head of stores, overseeing both the retail and franchise divisions which have been combined into one team. Lea reports to Crispin Lowry, general manager of O2 stores.
Lea said the restructuring will enable the franchise and retail teams to work more closely together and prevent both teams working in silos. She said: ‘We have restructured our business with all stores now run from within one group under my direction. It is important that we work in a much more joined up manner so we can better share the learning we gain from all our stores.’
She added: ‘It is really important that our customers don’t see any difference between the stores and it is easier to achieve that if decisions are taken centrally. When you have dedicated teams working for individual channels practices can change and differ.’
To this end franchise employees attend the majority of O2’s training modules alongside O2 employees and customer experience is measured across all stores in the same way. Design, space planning and merchandising are also consistent across all stores.
Lea said the franchise partners are a mix of existing franchise partners and newcomers who had to meet strict criteria.
‘We wanted people who can live the brand, who want to be part of a true partnership with a strong track record of delivering growth.’
She said O2’s franchise partners will play a key role in developing its retail business. ‘Our franchise partners bring entrepreneurial flair. They are very vocal and not short of ideas and will really help influence the business and our strategy going forward.’
She added: ‘They are very agile and very close to their stores and can implement new ideas very quickly and get great results and we can learn a lot from them. In addition they are a very diverse population in terms of ethnicity and gender and their local knowledge is invaluable.’
O2 also expects its franchise partners to bring the added benefit of local business customers. ‘Although it isn’t the reason we expanded our franchise business, our franchise partners are very good at exploiting their local knowledge and finding new local business.’
Lea insisted staff would not be compromised by being transferred to franchise stores, with all terms and conditions carried over under TUPE regulations. She added that the move could open up shorter routes to career advancement for franchise staff.
She explained: ‘It is not in the interests of our franchisees to reduce staffing levels because they need to motivate their teams. If anything they will inject more staff into the business – and with franchisees having their own head offices there could be other opportunities and more chance to advance in what is a smaller organisation.’
O2 is also committed to its portfolio of directly managed stores, Lea said, adding that there are ‘no further plans’ to transfer any more O2 stores to franchise partners.
Author: Carol Millett