Clarks finds the perfect fit

Georgia Doyle
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Catapult is partnering with Clarks to build a high-performing, mobile workforce across its retail portfolio

Clarks has always prided itself on doing things differently: from the slipper made from sheepskin off-cuts created by Cyrus and James Clark back in 1825 and the world’s first foot shaped shoe to rapid prototyping and robot assisted manufacturing. Brilliant ideas embracing innovation are what set the brand apart.

So, when it comes to staffing its stores, it’s no surprise that Clarks thinks outside the proverbial (shoe) box by using cutting-edge digital technology to drive the business forward.

Clarks has been using the Catapult online platform since July 2018 to find skilled part-time sales advisors for its London stores. The technology helps Clarks address intra-day and intra-week peaks, as well as cover unexpected events.

caroline-cutout-squareClarks intends to smooth out the gaps between over- and understaffing, and at the same time optimise performance. Regional Sales Manager for the North, Caroline Scott, who is the architect of the programme said:

“Like many high street retailers, we tend to use a variety of recruitment approaches to find people for our stores, but it’s a constant challenge for our managers to find the right calibre of people. Catapult promised to help Clarks find a vetted and highly-tailored pool of quality candidates, affordably, at the click of a button, without sacrificing our brand values.”

Summer launch

Managers at five West End stores – Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Regent Street, Tottenham Court Road and Victoria Street – were trained to use the platform in the run-up to the launch, which went live during the busy summer sales period. Catapult worked with Clarks on defining the role specification for candidates, even working a shift at the busy Regent Street store to ensure candidates would exactly meet managers’ requirements.

Clarks went live on the online platform in the first week of July. Managers sent out shift requests for part-time sales advisors to work at stores from Sunday 8 July onwards.

Over the month of July, Catapult successfully filled 100% of the shifts requested by store managers, providing circa 20% of Clarks’ part-time workforce for July.

While successfully filling all the shift requests is critical, Catapult aims to go further by matching people to the roles and brands they like best and vice-versa. It does this by using advanced algorithms, which first offer shifts to people who a retailer has selected as a ‘Favourite’ or would ‘Use Again’.

Workers are encouraged to do the same and rate their shifts through the Catapult app. Favourited people can ‘Instant Claim’ a shift, which guarantees they get to work again at businesses they like. Catapult’s ‘Workmates’ feature even lets friends team up and work the same shifts together. As a result, retailers like Clarks start to build up a pool of qualified mobile workers, who are actively motived to work in their stores and have a strong affinity for the brand.  

Clarks21Indeed, across all five Clarks stores in July, more than 80% of shifts were filled by people who were positively rated by store managers. Workers gave Clarks a 4.78 average star rating – out of five, which is significantly higher than the Catapult average of 4.22. This positive pattern is repeated in August.

Oli Johnson, co-founder of Catapult, says: “We are injecting agility into the retail workforce by enabling people to choose where, when and what they want to do in sales advisory and admin roles. In turn, this enables high street retailers like Clarks to avoid overstaffing, take advantage of unexpected peaks and ultimately, lower their fixed labour costs.”

Paul Dunkling, store manager of Clarks, Oxford Circus, says: “Catapult is a very good idea and the pool of people that now come to us on a regular basis know the store, team members and have settled in really well.”

“The calibre of people is great. They know what to do and get on with it straight away. It’s really easy to manage the app when it comes to requesting shifts and accepting timesheets,” adds Lee Geraci, store manager for Marble Arch.

Net gains

Catapult will be rolled out to a further nine London stores during September, including its Westfield White City and Westfield Stratford flagships. Clarks is also exploring with Catapult how it can maximise the platform at a national level, focusing initially on stores in major UK towns and cities.

“We initially set out with Catapult to help bring flexibility into staffing our West End stores with good quality sales advisors. We are now seeing evidence of wider benefits than simply ‘flexing up’, including strong sales productivity and reduced labour costs. It’s a very promising start,” says Caroline Scott.

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