According to PwC, “retailers need to strengthen the digital and operations talent in the retailer C-suite to best manage shrinking store networks, more complicated supply chains, digital innovation, and launching new services to keep currently loyal customers.” With this in mind, I talk to Thomas Merrigan to find out how they are using L&D to differentiate against the competition and what it’s like working for Browns.
Thomas Merrigan, Learning & Development (L&D) Manager
Tell us about your role at Browns
I’m responsible for Learning & Development at Browns, delivering a culture of learning, facilitating future growth and ultimately developing an offer to attract the best talent in the industry. Together with my team, we provide training to our store teams to offer the best customer experience and our head office and management teams with essential skills to keep them at the top of their game.
That sounds like a great challenge. What’s the secret to success in rolling L&D programmes out?
The key here at Browns is that we put the learner first. We are a fast-moving business with new people and new investments all the time. To keep up with these changes and be successful, we have developed an accessible multi-channel learning offer. Our buyers, for example, are often on the road and need digital access to content. We work cross-functionally and really focus on communication. We think like a marketing operation; our channels are highly engaging, and we use internal influencers to support our outreach and meet the learners where they are rather than just trying to drive traffic to an LMS.
Tell us about Browns and how you came to join them
Browns is one of the world’s most iconic fashion retailers, known for bringing new talent into the industry from across the world. With a creative and pioneering spirit, Browns are always on the search for what’s next and what’s cool. I wanted to work for a growing brand that did it differently, that was accessible, conscious and inclusive.
Farfetch (who bought and invested in Browns in 2015) are also known for their pioneering approach and have since invested in Store of the Future and Augmented Retail. We have developed a range of services and technologies to progress innovation in the luxury industry. This makes Browns a very appealing place to work. I started out my career working for Apple who went through humongous growth in the time I was lucky enough to be there. At Apple I found my “calling” so to speak. I was seconded into a learning role for the team based in Cupertino and went on to work on learning solutions that could really influence and drive growth first at Apple and later for Harvey Nichols.
Within the team at Browns, it’s a constant buzz. We are good at communications internally and celebrate success and gratitude on a weekly basis in our popular ‘Friday Thank You’s’.
And what’s next?
We are really focused on driving learning to the next level. With this in mind, we are building our platform out to revolutionise development plans in a relevant and modern way, bring learning to life, using smart technology where we can. With already over 20 different modules in our managers learning offer, and around 15% of our entire organisation this year going through our first ever in-house Management Development Programme. We want to nurture and hire internal talent where we can, growing our people to be future industry leaders.
We recently announced a new Flagship store opening next year, coinciding with our 50th anniversary. It’s an exciting time for us. The store will open in 2020 on Brook Street and will feature revolutionary Store of the Future technology. In retail, you can’t standstill. Our new store will offer an immersive ‘multi-sensory’ experience; an entire floor for styling advice, wardrobing, a fashion concierge; and, a café situated in a beautiful spacious courtyard.