An interesting article..

  Stuartli 11:52 22 Jan 2006
Locked today's Mail on Sunday's Financial Mail supplement about the boss of Comet, Simon Fox, who is seeking to turn the high street chain's fortunes around.

It seems he is keen to "get rid of the spotty, uninterested youths who serve in its stores" because "we need trained staff who han help people through the world of electrical goods.

"The over-25 market is targeted in our recruitment and everyone is put through an intensive training programme."

He acknowledges that the industry has a reputation problem and that "the memories of hard selling of extended warranties are hard to dispel, but that's behind us."

The move to recruit older staff - and my view is that many of the spotty youths to which he refers are probably more technically knowledgeable than given credit - has seen staff retention levels improved by 10 per cent and staff absences considerably lower.

Anyone got any thoughts on this company's apparent discovery that piling them high and selling them cheap is not always the best in the end as far as customers are concerned?

  wiz-king 12:05 22 Jan 2006

As household things get more complicated there is more need for advice these day and he seems to have realised this. The days of 'pile em high' are receding, also the store has moved out from its earlier 'radios and TV' image into a whole range of domestic goods. I think his comments about 'spotty youths' may be correct in the more household sector -it worked well for B&Q - they may have the knowledge but are often short of communication skills.

  961 12:12 22 Jan 2006

Interesting it may be, but I'll be much more interested in the replies you get here

I was both spotty and youthful at one time. Occasionally uninterested too I guess

One difficulty I see, and acknowledge myself, is the problem of coming to terms with the fact that the young member of staff knows a damn site more about what he is trying to sell than I do. Even if I accept his right to know more there is the added problem of trying to get my head round the technicalities of what he is trying (sometimes not very well) to impart

Stores such as Comet and the DSG group are fast having to come to terms with both the way customers come, look, and then buy on-line, and, second, the fact that much of the bottom line which came from things like extended warranties has evaporated as the customers have come to the conclusion that they are not value for money

  GANDALF <|:-)> 12:13 22 Jan 2006

'It seems he is keen to "get rid of the spotty, uninterested youths who serve in its stores'...the staff at his stores must be over-joyed and deliriously happy. The man is a buffon with all the HR/PR skills of Mussolini. I'll give him 6 months.


  Forum Editor 12:40 22 Jan 2006

who blames the poor performance of his business on the "spotty, uninterested youths who serve in its stores" is in serious need of some management skills advice, and in my opinion should immediately make way for someone with a little more vision. Comet is a consumer-electronics retailer, and you don't have to be a Mastermind winner to understand that young people have a head-start when it comes to understanding how oblong boxes with buttons work. What many of them need is training in how to relate to customers, certainly, but any Senior executive worthy of the name would know this before getting up in the morning, and would have attended to it long before now. The stunning revelation that "we need trained staff who han help people through the world of electrical goods" is something that has probably dawned on every one of the aforementioned spotty youths long before now, and they're probably wondering why the Chiref exacutive has only just stumbled on the idea. It is certainly a policy that any retail company's shareholders would assume is in place from day one.

Blaming your staff in such a denigrating way is an appalling thing for any CEO to do, and will immediately remove a large slice of any loyalty that he might have expected from the people he so sneeringly dismisses as superfluous to requirements.

GANDALF <|:-)>'s estimate of six months is unduly optimistic, I feel.

  961 13:29 22 Jan 2006


The question that arises is how long it has been since he actually spent a week on the shop floor

Many of the (poorly trained) assistants are on low wages and long hours. Some of them, I admit, are uninterested. They require motivation, and on occasion, support from management

Many of the customers are, from my knowledge of the retail trade at the sharp end, not particularly nice to say the least

Business frequently decides to appoint a CEO who has much management experience but little knowledge of the particular business involved

Is it any wonder that customers find Amazon, Novatech and others a breath of fresh air?

  spuds 13:40 22 Jan 2006

Is it not Comet who have an advertising campaign on at the moment, showing 'spotty youths' riding around on scooters, telling us that they have the training and answers!.

The way this CEO is speaking, reminds me of similarities to the Gerald Ratner 'mistake'.

Personally speaking, Comet could do with a re-format,as it appears to have lost its edge since taking on new ownership.

  pj123 14:18 22 Jan 2006

I don't think Comet actually want to sell anything. Let me tell you a story!!!

Normally when I have been in to a Comet store a Sales Rep appears (like a genie out of a bottle).

Last time I went (about 3 weeks ago) no sales rep. I spent quite a few minutes wandering about trying to find someone to get me sorted.

Still no one. So I thought let's disconnect the security cable that runs through the products on the shelf. Immediate result, 3 security guards and a supervisor surrounding me. Got a good telling off but managed to get what I wanted.

  Stuartli 14:53 22 Jan 2006

According to the article, Simon Fox (45) has been Comet's managing director for three years, with the company since 1998 when he started as finance director and had previously headed the internet retailing business at former owner Kingfisher, which he joined after selling stationery chain Office World.

His intention, he states, is to change the public's perception of its reputation that it will be ripped off, following the revalations about hard selling of extended warranties a while back.

He feels, again according to the piece, that the negative view can be changed by providing shoppers with outstanding service - hence his plan to recurit and intensively train older staff, which was commenced towards the end of last year.

Fox also changed the livery from red nd white to black and yellow to avoid confusion with other high street rivals - many people still incorrectly assume that Comet is part of the DSG International group.

I fully appreciate that his choice of words was, to put it mildly, somewhat unfortunate about "spotty youths", but I'm assuming that he mistakenly felt it would strike home where it counted i.e. with potential customers.

But at least he has taken the bull by the horns...:-)

  amonra 16:29 22 Jan 2006

If he wants an example of how "spotty nosed youngsters" behave after training and motivation I suggest he takes a walk around his local John Lewis store. I have always been impressed by their knowledge, courtesy and dress sense. No matter what awkward questions I have thrown at them they have either answered themselves or found someone else who can answer, Very efficient service from a young well trained staff.

  Chris the Ancien 17:11 22 Jan 2006

... if he looks in this forum.

Re-arrange these three word to make a well-known phrase or saying...




I used to have to deal (in a small way) with supplying customer care training. And I soon found that most people who should take the training never did!

There is an NVQ in Customer Care. Now, I wonder, how many 'pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap' chains have ever heard of that qualification!

But, I also agree that these young people can run rings round me with technical knowledge; and I admire them for that. But when I want service, I want to feel valued as a customer - not as some old fogey who doesn't know what he's talking about. I have some knowledge (like many other potential customers) but, eyewash (to be polite) does not work on me.

The answer? Don't just train these youngsters in product, train them in Customer Care Skills as well!

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