Winner: Laura Smith - Sainsbury’s Upton
When a Sainsbury’s store restructure axed the deputy role at Laura Smith’s Upton store, for the first time she was worried.
As a working mum Smith had always maintained a healthy work-life balance while rising up the ranks at Sainsbury’s through great planning and team engagement, working three days a week when her kids were young and four as they grew older.
But Smith, who likes to lead from the front, realised that for the new structure to work, she needed “not to be so greedy with the control” and empowered her food and store leaders while playing a more hands-off strategic role.
The leaders rose to the challenge. And coupled with Laura’s wider people management and business acumen the Upton store performed brilliantly last year, exceeding sales, profits, waste and labour reduction targets.
Laura has always set great store in mentoring to bring out the best in herself and her team. And she doesn’t just support colleagues and other store managers, building mentoring relationships even outside Sainsbury’s. But it’s the manner in which she gets the most out of her staff to achieve the highest retail operational standards that stood out for the judges. Smith’s 187-strong team – all of whom she knows by name – also know she has their back. When concerns were raised about the arrival of much-hyped energy drink Prime Hydration, Smith’s crowd-control plan was widely praised by colleagues and customers.
And “the amazing part” of Smith’s approach, say colleagues, “is that she is able to be highly personable whilst still upholding a high-performance culture in which all colleagues in the store know what is expected of them.
That’s included skilfully managing a reduced staff budget, leaning into staff absences while shaving hours in quiet weeks – but ensuring that for peak seasonal events, the store is perfectly set up to deliver for its customers.
- Laura Smith, Sainsbury’s Upton
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How the store manager of the year winner was decided:
The five store managers were nominated by their respective supermarkets from their pool of winners of the annual Grocer 33 store of the week competition.
They each made a 10-minute presentation on why they should win, before being grilled for a further 10 minutes by a distinguished panel of judges comprising: Lorraine Hendle, managing director of retail, manufacturing and hospitality at William Reed; Amanda Jones, chief operating officer, Wilko; Adam Leyland, editor-in-chief, The Grocer; Debbie Robinson, CEO of Central Co-op; and Ken Towle, the former Tesco, Nisa and Asda boss
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Laura Smith overcomes tough restructure to deliver at Sainsbury's Upton store