Going global - protecting your retail brand in new markets

Peter Cummings


Brand is a retailer’s most valuable asset, but many major players are struggling to embed brand strategy across their global capital development programme

Major retailers are increasingly seeking growth opportunities through international expansion. They are delivering investment programmes across diverse and often volatile markets and, at the same time, seeking innovative new ways to both reduce their expenditure and boost business performance. One significant challenge they face is ensuring that the way they execute major capital investment programmes in both new and existing markets stays true to their brand values.

Brand values are communicated at every interface and stage in the execution of capital investment programmes and should guide every decision made. These decisions might include quality of work and outputs; managing multiple stakeholder requirements; operational disruption; and harmonising diverse attitudes and approaches to risk management, health and safety, and sustainability performance.

A Programme Management Office solution

For major capital programmes, a key way to tackle this challenge is to set up a Programme Management Office (PMO). Although PMOs are not a new concept for the retail sector, they are generally not as sophisticated or mature as those that drive major programmes across the infrastructure and natural resources sectors.

A good PMO provides a holistic view of programme investment; capturing and promoting best practice that will in turn create efficiencies, improve control, effectively manage risk and enhance communications. Crucially, it can be an effective approach to aligning the capital investment programme to enhance and protect the business’s brand strategy. 

Defining objectives

It is vital that the management and delivery of each individual project aligns with a business’s brand values in relation to, for example, sustainability, procurement, health and safety, and ethics. There needs to be a thorough understanding within the PMO about the aims of the programme and its influence on the brand values that it will demonstrate to the world. This should be balanced with an understanding of local markets and allow for flexibility so that the programmes delivered – while supporting the brand – are fit for purpose, sympathetic to the local market and meet business case requirements. Brand strategy should be tightly integrated into the brief from the start, influencing key decisions and approaches to:

- programme support
- business case
- sources of funding
- return on investment
- attitude to risk
- commercial drivers
- revenue generation
- sourcing strategy
- sustainability targets
- team capability and organisation
- programme governance and controls

Driving consistency through a global supply chain

Often, health and safety standards are governed by varying local legislation. Successful global retailers will often adhere to the standards that align with their brand values, however, regardless of any lower levels of local legislation. One retailer that Turner & Townsend is supporting, for example, is rolling out universally consistent high standards of health and safety training in a wide variety of local languages. To deviate from brand values risks the inevitable backlash and loss of reputation if something goes wrong. Conversely, upholding higher health and safety standards than those strictly required marks them out as a company who genuinely cares about the safety and welfare of those who work with them; an approach that helps uphold their brand values of trust and efficacy.

In retail, protecting your brand is key. A well-managed global capital investment programme presents an opportunity to add value to your brand, and help to bring about improvement to industry practices and the environment in the markets where you operate.