Q&A: Craig Bennett – Chief Executive Officer, Sigma
Sigma, with over 20 years’ experience of transforming commercial spaces, helps retail brands seamlessly and cost-effectively deploy complex evolutionary programmes across entire estates. They are The Experts at Transforming Commercial Space.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I started my career in the Banking Sector, selling Financial Products for Barclays and Halifax. It was a chance meeting at a dinner party with (former CEO) Jonathan Haigh that highlighted a kitting and logistics opportunity for ASDA that captured my imagination and propelled me in a new direction providing support services to the retail sector.
I was not daunted by the prospect of working for a business in a sector I had little experience in and what appealed to me about Sigma was the opportunity to work in an entrepreneurial small business with big ambitions. I have always recognised the importance of developing and valuing the colleagues you work with and it was exciting to be joining a start-up with the opportunity to build a business in partnership with some of the UK’s biggest retailers.
What does your company do? / What is your USP?
Sigma was founded in 2007, born into providing GNFR warehouse management services for Asda with the business operating to manage demand for all of Asda’s GNFR equipment and planning requirements on a project-by-project basis across their entire estate.
Today, our range of our retail services has also widened to include fixture design, manufacture & procurement together with installation, mechanical & electrical and main contracting services to help retailers deliver change within their store estate.
Our unique “end-to-end” service offering has enabled the efficient and cost-effective delivery of thousands of new and refurbished environments worldwide. We are proud to partner with some of the UK’s largest blue-chip, food and non-food retailers including Asda, Boots, Morrisons, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Footlocker, Primark and Argos.
What’s special about your proposition and your approach?
As a vertically integrated service provider, Sigma are a “one stop shop”, ideally positioned for retailers looking to make changes within their bricks and mortar sites. We are able to provide a complete suite of services a retailer requires, either in-house or collaboratively via client nominated suppliers.
Our aim is develop a solution to the project initiative that fulfils all the needs of the client.
What advantage does it add?
There are a number of advantages that our flexible approach can provide to a client;
- Time – working collaboratively with external suppliers / partners can enable customers to get a project to market quicker and realise sales revenues
- Cost – Sigma’s in-house and collaborative partner model allows us to develop bespoke solutions to provide our customers with best value
- Sustainability – The impact of operations on the environment has always been a consideration for our retail clients. With consumers now more sustainably conscious they are actively choosing retail brands who demonstrate environmental commitments and ethics. Providing a full end to end service enables Sigma to consider the impact of a product from conception to delivery and installation in store and beyond to end of life and disposal. We are proud to have achieved zero waste to landfill on a number of large-scale roll outs recently each touching over 250 stores.
How does a product/service implementation actually look like and how do you measure success?
Every service solution we offer is bespoke to our client’s needs. This can range from the design, development and supply of retail equipment to a client warehouse through to a store supply management service to complex on site construction projects.
At the start of every project we establish the key deliverables required by the client. These form our service level agreement by which we are measured. It is important for us to establish at the outset what is important to the client and understand what is required to achieve success.
We pride ourselves on being flexible and agile, we understand the challenges of the retail sector and we recognise that we are measured against minimising any potential instore disruption though our planned scheme of works. With a blend of meticulous and careful planning, we ensure that any disruptive works are competed “out of hours” as not to negatively impact on the customer experience.
How are retailers using your systems to gain competitive advantage and what does best practice look like? Can you share a case study with us?
Sigma and Asda have been working in partnership since 1994 born out of providing Goods Not For Resale (GNFR) warehouse management services. Managing all of Asda’s GNFR equipment from multiple providers across their entire estate, we plan requirements on a project-by-project basis and our expertise ensures that the right equipment is procured in the right volume, stored securely and despatched to site exactly when it is required.
With a dedicated equipment centre, Asda entrusts Sigma to manage their in-store fixtures, as well as supplying a dedicated logistics service, to help refurbish, recycle and reuse their instore fixtures avoiding unnecessary spend and to help generate ‘free to use’ stock for re-use in store.
Today our role for ASDA has grown, seeing us take full responsibility for demand management, control, logistics management and installation of all store GNFR fixtures, as well as construction and mechanical & electrical works.
Are there other companies you partner with?
Depending on the nature of the project, we partner with a number of different companies including manufacturing and technical specialists, installation contractors and logistic providers.
What challenges and opportunities do you see in UK retail for 2021 / What challenges are retailers facing in 2020?
One of the most significant shifts has been online, with the previous 12 month period forcing even the most reluctant of consumers to venture online to fulfil their shopping needs. The growth has been exponential, with digital delivery far exceeding expectations for this point in time. The challenges for retailers over 2020 and onward in 2021 is how to respond in the short term and how best to invest for the long term.
The rise in online, is not the “death” of bricks and mortar, if anything the recent lockdowns are affirming that we are a social species and we enjoy getting together in our “tribes” to shop and share experiences. With online retailing growing in its presence and ease, visiting a physical store is now more of a choice than a necessity. As such, retailers in this space must work even harder to create a space and experience that fulfils more than just a transactional need to purchase something. Developing enjoyable and safe shoppable experiences is therefore key to success for retailers and whether they’re looking at ecommerce capability, logistics network, marketing and advertising or physical bricks and mortar stores, standing still isn’t an option.
How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?
At Sigma we have a tremendous amount of expertise supporting retailers’ scope and manage projects cost effectively. Often existing equipment assets are overlooked and repurposing, refurbishing or reusing components is not only environmentally friendly but also a cost-effective way to refresh a store. For one of our customers, we have saved £2.50 for every £1.00 spent by cannily considering existing assets owned.
Advancements in technology will continue to transform the retail sector, from manufacturing and warehousing through to the roll-out and implementation of new technology thus directly impacting on instore customer experience. Connecting these technologies will help to bring the convenience of online shopping to bricks and mortar stores and the richly interactive environment of offline shopping to the world of ecommerce.
Our speed of response is another of our success stories. Retailers have long been chameleons able to quickly respond to ever changing markets and Sigma will have to continue to be both flexible and agile to support this.
What is on the horizon for you as a company?
The Sigma business is continuing to grow as more retailers take advantage of the services we offer to help them re-shape and re-purpose their store estates.
The Sigma business is well positioned to support retailers accelerate their estate investment programmes in the wake of COVID19 impact on the high street and the ongoing battle with online channels. New technology and construction design innovation will help retailers deliver store estate change faster, for less cost, without compromising quality or safety and these are the areas we will continue to evolve our business model.
Email this article to a friend
You need to be logged in to use this feature.
Please log in here