John 3

Category D: (International), Finalist, SMA

John Fox

SPAR Northern Ireland/ Henderson Group
Craigavon, Northern Ireland

He began his career at Henderson Retail as a customer adviser. Ten years later, after ascending to a store manager position, John Fox remains driven by customer needs and how he can best meet them.

Having different perspectives based in varying roles with the organization gives Fox a more multi-faceted picture of the grocery business. That has served him well as the business has shifted due to a changing retail environment and the advancement of technologies in daily interactions and transactions.

One case in point is consumer engagement that now happens at different levels. Although Fox has long communicated directly and effectively with shoppers on the store floor, the rise of social media has led to greater engagement on digital platforms that allow for the sharing of photos, videos and store updates.

This outstanding manager also bridged technology and consumer concerns and preferences when introducing a new cashless system into the store operations. Fox was one of the first store managers in the company to test new front-of-the-house units and, later, full-loop systems that eliminated the need for cash handling and resulted in a reduction in errors and a redirection of labor.

Another example of a different form of shopper outreach is his deployment of a customer feedback platform that helps identify and facilitate changes to improve the shopping experience. Fox shared the results with other store managers as a way to coordinate area-wide initiatives. His embrace of technology extends to his in-store leadership as well. Fox uses a mix of communication methods, including WhatsApp groups, face-to-face huddles, phone calls and the traditional team notice board; the addition of digital tools has helped boost efficiencies across a number of functions.

The fusion of technology and the personal touch has contributed to the location's strong performance. Under his stewardship, sales grew by 6.9% and the store expanded its food-to-go program with a 13% increase in sales. Based on customer surveys, the store added 407 lines across fresh and shelf-stable categories.

Fox tasked and trained three department heads to oversee the expanded selection of fresh foods, produce and ambient items. Such coaching and mentorship is another hallmark of his leadership steel, reflected in a “Developing Our People” company award that he won in 2022. Among other accomplishments, he was recognized for developing 12 members of his team to new or higher roles.

This manager's commitment to people extends to the larger group of people within the store’s community. Last year, he sponsored three schools with a kit that included healthy food and drinks and supported initiatives like a local river clean-up and a fundraiser for children affected by cancer. For the children’s cancer campaign, Fox organized a mountain scaling event that was attended by all of the store managers in his group and raised a substantial amount of donations. That was just one more example of how ascension can be achieved by keeping others in mind.

“He is a high-driven and motivated manager who is also committed to working on the business, and not just in it.”