Who would be the CEO of ailing retail giant, Sainbury's? If the third profits warning of the year was not enough, then articles like this in the Sunday Times (I'm divorcing Sainsbury's. I want to walk down Tesco's aisles) only underline the magnitude of the task facing Justin King if he is to reverse the firm's apparently inexorable, inevitable spiral of decline.
The nice duty manager breaks off to tell a woman that they don’t have her usual coffee. “I hate Sainsbury!” she replies with passion. He shrugs. The good staff want to leave. The distribution system is demoralising. The fruit and veg guy can no longer say: “We’re OK for potatoes,” or “Send more salad because the weather’s good.” It is all done centrally. Stuff just turns up. And they must shift it, at a profit too. But because they can’t, labour costs are cut: shelf-stackers are laid off. Then folk like me get narked when they can’t find the couscous.
...The store’s huge site is an environmental disaster: plastic bags dangle from every tree, broken trolleys lie in ditches, rats scurry through the rubbish in the undergrowth.
The most precious asset an organisation has is its standing in the eyes of the public. Reputations are painstakingly built and quickly destroyed - all the more so when you manage to alienate the national press.
Still, according to the Observer, Justin King at least appears to be moving in the right direction. Sainsbury's is planning to 'go back to basics', cutting hundreds of management jobs and recruiting 3,000 new staff to keep shelves stocked and give shoppers a better service.
What was it that Dr James Rieley wrote in the Telegraph last week?
Reductions in customer service lead to fewer customers, and consequently less revenues and profits, and more headcount reductions.
What a tragedy for Sainsbury's that their management team didn't realise this simple fact until it was too late.