The retail sector is full of champions – managers and team members, both front and back of house, who go above and beyond on a daily basis, putting customers, colleagues and the community ahead of themselves. Retail Week Awards nominee Nick Holmes is just one such champion, and is currently working hard to bring out the best of Loaf’s Solihull store … 

Taking place at Old Billingsgate, London, on 26th May – just after the two-day Retail Week Live event –the Retail Week Awards 2022 ceremony will celebrate British retailers and the workforce by recognising excellence across the industry.

Loaf’s Nick Holmes – the manager of the brand’s Solihull ‘shack’ – has been shortlisted for this year’s Quadient store hero award, which recognises the achievements of everyday shop workers. The ex-Habitat, Multiyork and Calligaris professional has long had a passion for interiors, but has truly excelled in his current role, states his awards nomination: “Nick champions progression within his team, offering support to other departments and giving his team the opportunity to grow within the business. 

“Over the past year, the Solihull team have offered regular support to our Chatterbox (customer service) team during extremely busy times when they found themselves up against the volume of calls coming through.

“When Loaf relocated its warehouse from Greenford to Nuneaton, it launched the Loaf Academy on-site, which is home to both its training facility and second customer call centre team. Nick played a massive part in the success of that new call centre and assisted with training throughout. Nick even opened up the Solihull shack for our customer service new starters during lockdown to deliver product, fabric, system and customer experience training.

“When the shacks were forced to close again in December 2020 due to Government restrictions, Nick and the team quickly offered their support to other departments across the business. The Solihull team stepped up, supporting our Chatterbox team, working from home answering calls, placing orders and replying to customer queries. 

“Nick’s team also came into the shack in January 2021 to support the demand for video consultations during our very busy sale period. These online one-to-one calls help customers place orders, discuss products and choose colours and fabrics, all from the comfort of their own homes. 

“Once the shacks planned to reopen In April, it was obvious that there may still be demand from customers that needed to continue shielding or didn’t live that close to a shack, but still wanted the full Loaf experience. Nick was instrumental in the continued success of the video consultations when the shacks were trading. His positive, can-do attitude not only put his own team members’ minds at rest, but also set the standard for the other shacks helping. Nick and the Solihull team took the reins of booking consultations, balancing the demands of consultation and increased footfall in the shack.

“Since being promoted to manager in May 2020, just as the store reopened during the first lockdown, he has led the team at the Loaf showroom to every success through the pandemic, whilst also going above and beyond to support his community – including collecting more than 500 Christmas trees across Birmingham in January to raise money for a local hospice.”

Furniture News got in touch with Nick to find out more about his dedicated approach to retail … 

How do you feel about being nominated for Retail Weeks’ Quadient store hero award?

I am chuffed to bits! It’s such an amazing way to start the year, and it’s such an honour to be considered.

What’s your retail background, and how long have you been with Loaf?

I have worked in furniture retail for the past 13 years – previously for Habitat, Multiyork and Calligaris. I joined the Loaf family in 2018 as a team leader, and at the beginning of 2020 I had the opportunity to apply for the shack manager position, and jumped at the chance!

Did you always feel destined for the retail sector? 

I accidentally fell into a career in retail. I started off working for Habitat due to a love of interiors, and I quickly realised that I loved the retail environment. I love meeting people and getting excited with them about their plans for their home improvements. It can be very fast-paced, which I really enjoy. I also love being at the helm, and leading a team to success. 

How does the Solihull location differ from Loaf’s other shacks?

In Solihull, we have a very varied customer base, and with such close links to the motorway, we have visitors from all over the UK. Like all our shacks, our customers always appreciate our laid-back approach, and can spend as much or as little time as they want here, kicking off their shoes and relaxing.

What was the hardest part of maintaining business through the pandemic?

The hardest part was the uncertainty, and not knowing what to expect. There was a lot of hard work around the first few months as we began to reopen to unprecedented footfall and pent-up demand. One of our main priorities was to ensure the safety of both our shack assistants and our customers, all whilst delivering exceptional customer service. 

Some retailers have been criticised for their poor customer services through those years. How did Loaf set itself apart?

At Loaf, we’re obsessed with delivering exceptional customer experience (it’s built into the core values we are all held accountable for delivering on). So, if we do drop the ball, we’re honest, we own it, and we do everything we can to rectify the issue. We work hard to improve in any areas where we see opportunities to step things up.

We also increased recruitment to meet the growing demand of our customers, and employed a whole new aftersales team in 2020. 

You helped deliver Loaf’s virtual consultations when they mattered most – do you think they’ll play much of a role in the future?

Our video consultations are an amazing way to interact with our customers, and we love doing them. Customers (virtually) invite us into their homes, which allows us to tailor our advice to suit their needs. Even post-lockdown, they have continued to be popular, especially with customers who aren’t local to a shack. The virtual consultations provide customers with that shack experience, all from the comfort of their own homes.

How do you manage and encourage staff growth?

I think investment in staff is so important. We have an amazing culture at Loaf, and value our Loafers throughout the company. I do think that a little bit of healthy competition goes a long way – whether that’s an in-shack incentive or just beating last year’s KPIs. It’s also important to celebrate our successes and recognise the great results that the shacks achieve.

What is it that makes you want to go ‘above and beyond’ in this role?

Loaf is such an exciting brand to be a part of. I have never been more supported or better recognised for my achievements than I am right now, and collectively Loaf are smashing it. It’s the community of Loaf that really drives me forward to success!