Store managers feel more tightly controlled by head office than five years ago and would like a greater say in areas such as ranging, promotions and pricing.
But most managers believe head office is now communicating better with them and appreciates and exploits their understanding of their local markets, according to research undertaken for The Grocer by Storecheck Marketing.
"My role is more about being a business manager and less focused on the everyday running of the store," said one manager. Storecheck interviewed random managers from the top 700 UK stores run by Asda, Tesco, Safeway, Sainsbury and Somerfield. Tesco came out tops in terms of independence and consultation. Over two-thirds of its managers feel more independent today while 80% think they are consulted enough about issues relevant to their store. One manager said communication was "fantastic". "Head office is more supportive than it was and the business has changed from being office-led to being led by the store," another manager said.
Tesco group HR director Clare Chapman said managers and staff in stores knew their customers and local markets better than anyone. "Store teams have a lot of freedom so they can best serve the needs of the communities," she said.
Safeway managers also feel independent but three-quarters want more control over pricing, promotions and ranging. There is also some alienation, with four in 10 managers saying they are not consulted enough.
While Asda managers have seen a major change in their role since Wal-Mart's arrival, with two-thirds feeling a loss of autonomy, nearly 92% believe their knowledge is used centrally. Sainsbury managers feel the least independent, three-quarters believing they had more autonomy five years ago.
"Wooden spoons to Safeway, for independence without support, and Sainsbury for turning a deaf ear," said Storecheck marketing MD Colin Harper.
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