Understanding Your Operational Challenges: Andrew Parle

17 April 2023

When it comes to choosing a technology partner, you need to be confident that they are the right company to support your business in reaching its goals. Here at TPP, we are home to a number of true retail experts who lend their years of first-hand experience to improve the in-store operations of leading retail brands.

Andrew Parle, Solution Manager, is one such expert having spent over two decades working in retail before joining the team. We caught up with Andrew to learn more about his passion for retail, extensive experience and how today he works with brands like yours to solve operational challenges through the right use of technology.

Tell me your retail background and your experience.

I spent most of my career, 20 plus years, with Mothercare starting off as a part-time sales advisor in the stockroom and going on to work full-time on the shop floor. Through that time with Mothercare, I progressed to team leader, worked in various parts of the business – including running a cafe – and then progressed into management where I was also seconded to other stores to provide support.

While I was at Mothercare, I had a family, so the business became even more relevant to me. All of a sudden, I recognised the needs and wants of a customer, not just the needs and wants of a business. I think they’re two distinct things that if you can make that link as an individual, it’s incredibly powerful.

Expanding my role from Store Manager, I wanted to know how I could add more value and grow personally. Champion roles allowed me to gain specialism so, for example, I undertook a profit protection and store compliance role for a year. Those sorts of champion roles really added to my experience.

I’ve done every role that was in-store, lots of area roles, supporting and understanding different parts of the business. I became an expert in all things Mothercare and ended up with a role as Process and Productivity Manager in the head office. Essentially, I became the go-to person for understanding every aspect of the business, either current or very importantly, forward-looking. The key focus of the role was to drive efficient/productive store teams and also at key times save money through efficiencies.

How did you come to join the TPP Retail team?

I worked with TPP on a project, and I loved the mentality, the attitude, and the speed at which we delivered and the ability to flex and change in line with needs as they flexed and changed too. I got to know the team really well from working on that side.

My career was at a point of change, and I thought it was a good time for something new. So, that’s the point that I then moved over to TPP Retail to start a different journey.

Tell me about your role as Solution Manager?

I’m a bridge between our Account Management team, the customer, and our wider internal teams to make sure that what we do is the best for the customer’s needs. I’ll marry our solutions with their needs from a practical point of view so that we can ensure success.

The key word for me about my role is understanding. To understand our customer and their end customer, I will go and buy their products, I will speak to my family and friends asking “Have you shopped it there? What do you think?” and I try to imagine what that journey looks like and why would I go to them over somebody else. What makes them special? Understanding, first, from a customer point of view, and then understanding the operations from the view of head office and the store; how does it work for them? what do they do to get to that point? what does their day look like? and what does the process look like and why do they do they do a process a particular way?

The second part is in my understanding of our solutions, how all the different components work, and how our solutions can help and flex. What are the bits that we turn on and turn off that are right for one customer and wrong for a different one?

Day to day, it is attending meetings, visiting stores, documenting clearly what the needs are and what is required, and being able to vocalise that. Then when we get started, I’ll make sure that we keep referring to those needs, wants, and outcomes to support the delivery of it.

How has your previous experience helped in your role?

My time now is spent in a similar way to a store manager. It’s very much about doing it right, doing it well, training the teams, and making sure that they understand from day one, that they’re accountable, and that we have measures in place.

Being store manager of half a dozen different stores, including a flagship store, we received a lot of visits from senior team members and were involved in a lot of trials bringing in new ideas and concepts, and it’s about how you deliver them. That’s still relevant to my role today.

It’s understanding what you’re trying to achieve. It’s understanding what the trial or solution is, and then engaging your teams because if you don’t train and deliver something well on day one, then you’ll always be on the back foot. And it comes back to the value of doing it right the first time because you want your team to be absolutely focused on the customer.

How do you help ensure a successful project?

It’s about education. Education for us so that we make sure we get it right. Education on the problem, to make sure the problem is really clear, and we all know what we’re trying to fix.

It’s about really getting to the crux of the problem – what’s the challenge? what’s the need? – and that follows a well-trodden path. We get into really good conversations with the customer face-to-face at head office and in-store with their teams too, talking about what they are trying to achieve. We like to go back a step and ask “what’s the problem?”, “how has it gone wrong?”, “what have you got now and why doesn’t it work?”. This is important to delivering the solution.

When you speak to store teams, you discover things that would never be defined in the initial outcomes. The store team are the people using the technology and it’s in the nuances, the little bits that make all the difference to the problem we’re trying to fix. It’s marginal gains that make your teams more efficient. You want to make them quicker; therefore, the solution has to be more efficient, and you don’t want it to need lots of training.

Just how important are your visits to stores?

For me, it’s vital to a project being a success. I can’t champion it enough because what it does is it goes back to the earlier point of being in the customer’s eyes. Often it can just be standing and watching, asking a few probing questions.

When we are in-store, we realise that there are other things happening. What other pains have you got? What other things are the store teams doing which are difficult?

We see other problems that the same new technology that is being considered could also be used to solve. We discover more opportunities for a retailer to maximise their investment by truly understanding their store environment and challenges. We’re here to fix problem A, but we can help build a roadmap because we can also see problems B, C, and D.

By getting in there and seeing the store, you build the relationship, you understand the problem really well, and only then can you see the big picture. If we can do this, you’ll have a successful project.

Here at TPP Retail, we have a passion for delivering technology projects with real impact. We hold a deep understanding of the operational problems retailers face, working with national brands including Clarks, Pets at Home, The Entertainer and The Original Factory Shop.

Are you looking for a partner to help take your retail operations to the next level? We’ll get to the root of the problems that are causing inefficiency in your retail operations. To take the first step towards solving your in-store challenges, increasing working efficiency and improving the experience for your store colleagues and customers, get in touch with the TPP Retail team today.

Sign Up For More

Stay up to date with the latest in retail technology with news and insights sent straight to your inbox.