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Meet the woman in charge at Tesco Knocknagoney

Emma Cowan on July 29, 2014 - 4:37 am in Featured Interview, Interviews

At 33, Nicola Irvine is one of Tesco’s younger female retail managers. Having already overseen the re-launches of two major Tesco stores in Banbridge and Lisburn, she is now the driving force behind the re-opening of Tesco Knocknagoney as the flagship Extra store unveils its brand new look. NI Business Now caught up with Nicola in a rare five minutes downtime….

Tell us about your career path with Tesco…

I worked in various departments before being accepted onto the Tesco Graduate Trainee Programme after which time I was appointed Personnel Manager for one year overseeing Tesco branches in Ballymena and Carnmoney Road, Glengormley. My first Store Manger post was at the Ards Shopping Centre for a six-month tenure, before I was chosen for the Tesco Development Programme to officially gain my Store Manager credentials. It is an intensive programme which involves numerous rigorous back-to-back interviews by a panel, and the purpose of these is to test your leadership abilities and ensure you are the right calibre for the job. After this, I was tasked with re-launching the former Springhill Shopping Centre, Bangor, Tesco store, where I was Deputy Store Manager for six months, rising to Store Manager for a year to further my experience in retail management. I had to do a lot of training to earn the Store Manager title, before heading up Tesco in Banbridge. After this, I attended a series of Development Days in England after which I was assessed by a panel, then went on to be Store Manager at Tesco stores in Banbridge and Lisburn, before coming to the flagship store in Knocknagoney.

What did you study at university?

I completed a BSc Hons in Maths, Statistics and Computing at the University of Ulster in Jordanstown. Afterwards, I gained a Diploma of Industrial Studies while I worked as a trainee for one year at the Central Statistics Research Branch which is part of the Department of Regional Development (DRD).

How did you start off with Tesco? Had you worked there part-time as a student?

I began working on check-outs at Tesco when I was 16 and still at Belfast Model School for Girls. At that stage it was a convenient job to do while I was still studying. I have worked at Tesco continuously even when I went to university. I have a certificate on the wall of my Store Manager’s office in Tesco Knocknagoney which I received for 15 years’ service two years ago and of which I am very proud. My story which has taken me from the checkouts to running Tesco’s flagship store in Northern Ireland demonstrates the incredible opportunities there are within Tesco for those who are up for the challenge.

What training did you receive with Tesco and what did you think of it?

People development at Tesco is world class and second to none, at all levels, especially when it comes to spotting and nurturing good leadership and people skills, as well as general business knowledge. I have always been a strong advocate for women in business, and recently completed the first Tesco Women In Leadership course which examined the diversity between men and women in the workplace. The insight the programme gave me was significant. The Graduate Programme and Development Days ran alongside practical store experience which involved me overseeing a “refresh” as we call it – a comprehensive store refurbishment and review and implementation of a multitude of new product lines, ranges and departments – at Banbridge, Lisburn and, most recently, Tesco Knocknagoney.

What stores have you worked in and in what roles?

My Tesco career has seen me work in many branches, the most notable of which has included Banbridge, Lisburn and Knocknagoney as Store Manager.

What would you say you overall career objective is?

I am always striving to develop myself at Tesco so that my colleagues and I can give ourvery best to our customers. My goals have always been to reach the level that is right for the business, right for me, right for customers, and I will keep on challenging myself. Shopping is evolving, and Tesco is continuously evolving in terms of its strategy and processes. It is this movement that will make Tesco a stronger business.

Where do you want to go from here? Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

There are so many career opportunities and avenues to explore at Tesco, so I will continue with my professional growth and development and to do a good job.

Who has been your inspiration in your career?

I have tremendous respect for the Tesco Executives because they are extremely determined, committed and loyal to their customers and staff. These are important qualities to me and I find them inspirational – this is the type of company I want to work for.

Rather than single one person out I’d say I draw inspiration from my entire team at Tesco Extra Knocknagoney – from checkouts to counters, from the shopfloor to the Tesco.com team. These colleagues are on the ‘frontline’ and everyday they continue to go the extra mile to improve our customers’ shopping experience.

What’s in store for shoppers a Tesco Knocknagoney now?

The changes have been significant and with the addition of many new features including Beauty World we believe we are now offering shoppers something completely different – and all under one roof. This is now a location where they can shop for groceries, relax, chill and even pamper themselves. You can even book some Winter sun now, or plan next year’s summer break at Virgin Holidays.

What has the re-vamp entailed?

Tesco Knocknagoney has had a £2.3m refresh which has created 30 new jobs taking the staff numbers here up to 460. We also have over 1,000 lines of Northern Ireland-sourced food and drink from 80 suppliers, with new signage indicating those local products making it easier for our customers to support local producers. There is also a new Phone Shop, Pizza Counter and a beautiful new general merchandise / non-food area. It really is a signature project.

Do you have any special activities or events to celebrate the re-opening?

We certainly do. Coming up soon we will be hosting Tesco Northern Ireland’s first ‘food market’, which will feature lots of local suppliers, and customers can sample the best and tastiest homegrown foods right here. There will be everything from artisan breads to lemonade and tea tasting.

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