Standard Distributors rolling out more holistic customer experience w/appointment of 2 Sr Female Executives
Well-established retail home appliance, electronics and furniture company, Standard Distributors (Barbados) Ltd. is poised to offer improved and more holistic experiences to its customers with the recent appointment of two senior female executives, one of them the company’s first female Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
Katrina Newton was appointed CEO effective October 1 while Michele Marshall joined as Store Manager at the flagship location at Haggatt Hall in August. Between them the pair, who have accumulated decades of expertise in retail, interior design and customer service management, are bringing an energetic and more practical approach to the management of the home retailer. “We’re both high-energy and hands-on and this is essential as an example to the rest of the team,” Newton explained, looking towards Marshall during their interview on the expansive showroom floor at Haggatt Hall.
Describing how the two executives complement each other, Newton said, “Both of us have a passion for this industry and I see us working closely together especially in the purchasing side of the business. Also having a sounding-board and being able to openly share opinions is key.” She added, “Michele’s exposure and background with her finely honed skills in Interior Design is unique and is critical for strongly supporting me in my role.”
An experienced business professional, Marshall, Store Manager at Haggatt Hall, holds a Diploma in Interior Design and Architecture, and a BSc in Business Information Technology from the University of Salford in Manchester, England. She was sought out by Standard having impressed them with her ability to transform small spaces. “I was excited when approached for the role and so the decision to join Standard was a no-brainer,” Marshall, who worked with a local and regional manufacturer of furniture and custom cabinetry before joining Standard, explained.
Marshall brings a keen understanding of how people shop to her new role. “I understand the buying patterns of consumers and how Caribbean people, and women in particular, live. I marry this with an understanding of Interior Design and Management and how they work in the Caribbean retail environment.”
The Store Manager describes Standard Distributors as being at the “cutting edge of retail in Barbados“, saying that it is willing to do something special even during a recession. “At Standard we’re about understanding the needs of Barbadians and addressing them.”
New CEO, Newton, holds a BSc in Psychology from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland and began her career managing large and successful retail stores in the United Kingdom (UK) before moving back to Barbados to join the retail sector. She joined Standard because she had arrived at a point where she looking for a new challenge. “In my previous role I had grown the business and improved the customer experience over a period of 10 years and needed a new challenge,” Newton explained.
In addition to her retail management expertise, Newton brings to Standard an eye for merchandising and maintaining high standards, skills she developed while working in the UK. And she believes that Standard has a fantastic opportunity to rebrand itself. “One of the more exciting challenges ahead is to influence the look of the new Standard and further develop the team. We’re known for quality and now we are seeking to build on that by offering a more holistic customer experience so that customers can shop for a lifestyle not just furniture and home appliances.” To this end, Standard will be expanding its product categories as well as introducing a fresher and more contemporary design aesthetic. And with the challenges in the economy Standard is making its credit process simpler for customers as well presenting varying options for their different budget levels.
With regard to opportunities being provided for professional women in senior roles, Newton, whose previous role was as Retail Sales Manager of a local chain with four retail stores for seven years, said that some female staff in ANSA McAL (Barbados) Ltd., Standard’s parent company, expressed excitement about there being a woman at board level.
Marshall noted: “It’s great that there’s a feminine perspective and thought pattern on the board,” with Newton adding, “In this business women drive most of the purchasing decisions and we understand what motivates them and are incorporating this into Standard’s vision. It may be harder for men to perceive this and so that’s where a woman’s touch is key.”
As to the advice she would give to other women leaders in the retail market, Newton said, “You have to find your voice and find it early and you have to assert yourself or decisions will be made for you.” Marshall was circumspect, saying that when she joined Standard she benefitted from a period of observation, particularly as she wanted to learn more about the retail model used by the retail company.
On the question of balancing careers and family, Marshall, who is a boot camp enthusiast, noted that Caribbean women had been doing this well for many years and oftentimes on their own. Newton, who loves baking and entertaining at home, said that people presumed that mothers and wives should have the lion’s share of responsibility in the home. “For me it was important to establish a reliable support network so that I was able to pursue my ambitions and deliver in my role knowing my family was well taken care of.”
In commenting on the two appointments, CEO of ANSA McAL (Barbados) Limited, Nicholas Mouttet said, “With the addition of Katrina and Michele at the helm of the leadership team at Standard we’re even more excited about what the future holds for the brand. Their vision, expertise in this sector and enthusiasm can only augur well for the company. We look forward to working with them.”
Excited about the journey they have embarked upon at Standard Distributors, Newton and Marshall are focused on leading the team of 64 staff at Haggatt Hall, Tudor Street and the bargain centre at Meadow Road and ensuring that the vision for the brand is communicated to and supported by staff and redounds, ultimately, to the benefit of their customers.