In tune with the local community
Reitan Retail are close to their customers – which means that the store managers own and control as much as possible. Thomas Berthelsen (35) has created a successful store that customers, the local community and employees all love.
“Ever since I was a child, I have known that I wanted to be my own boss and to work with something that had to do with retail and people,” says Thomas Berthelsen.
Fulfilling his dreams at REMA 1000
Having decided what he wanted to do so early in life, he did not have to think twice when, as a 15-year-old, he was offered a job in his local REMA 1000 store. And it quickly became a permanent position.
“I was captivated by the whole culture and the independence, which perfectly matched my dreams. And I’m still here,” the 35-year-old from Fyn in Denmark smiles.
After one year at business school, three years’ apprenticeship and further training on REMA 1000’s talent programme, in 2009 he realised his ambition of becoming a store manager. At the tender age of 23.
“It was a lot of responsibility and learning – but exactly what I had always dreamed about and an incredibly good way to start my career.
Matching customer diversity
Reitan Retail wants to give people the best everyday customer experiences through its various brands and outlets. The goal is to be close to customers and clearly visible in the local community. This means that as many decisions as possible are made by the local store managers, who know their customers best.
Four years ago, Thomas took over his dream store: REMA 1000 Marienlund in Odense.
Here he leads a team of 65 employees tasked with capturing customers in a highly competitive and heavily populated area. So it is essential that they enjoy their job.
“We are a diverse team. I try to recruit people with different skills and backgrounds, and we talk a lot about being different. We give each other space, are honest, want the best for and learn from each other. And we also like to enjoy ourselves –we laugh and cry together. It all helps create a strong team spirit,” says the committed store manager.
“The fact that employees have different backgrounds is also a great advantage when dealing with a composite customer group,” he points out.
“Our customers consist of different people of all ages, and are actually an ideal demographic mix. Families with children, single people, young and old, they all shop here. We want the composition of our team to reflect that of our customers. I think this enables us to engage more with our customers.”
In tune with the local community
Thomas is also passionate about having a visible presence in the local community. That is why they are happy to sponsor various teams and associations, with a focus on children and young people.
“It is important for us to support local initiatives that provide value for the local residents. That is why, for example, we sponsor the local football school. And when a local day-care centre was raising funds for electric delivery bikes, we were only too happy to support them – and give the children a chance to get out during lockdown,” he explains.
To persuade customers to shop with them, they must continually strive to improve. With such a diverse customer group, it is crucial to have a wide product range. To stand out to discerning consumers, they have chosen to focus on fresh produce, fruit and vegetables. This has not gone unnoticed:
They are the only supermarket store in Denmark to have won both the industry organisation Landbrug og Fødevare’s prestigious awards: ”Denmark’s best fruit and vegetables” in 2018 and “Denmark’s best dairy department” in 2021. In 2019, they were also named “Fyn Region Store of the Year”.
“The fact that employees feel that they have some autonomy and ownership of their job is an important success factor,” Berthelsen believes.
“We are constantly trying to improve our culture. If we stand still, our customers will leave us behind.”
The store’s Facebook page is overflowing with enthusiasm – for customers, employees, tasty ingredients, well-stocked shelves, sustainability and unbeatable offers. And customers reward them with heartfelt feedback and by coming back, time and time again.
While turnover was DKK 73 million in the first year after Thomas took over, last year the Marienlund store turned over a staggering DKK 107 million.
Reitan Retail’s REMA 1000 differs from other supermarket chains in that the store managers are franchisees. This gives them a great deal of freedom to shape the store operations themselves – using their own creativity, imagination and local knowledge – provided that they follow the company’s concept and philosophy. The franchisor’s most important role is to do their best for the franchisees. It is a model that is perfect for an independent team player like Thomas.
“It is fantastic to be part of the REMA 1000 family, with such a solid culture, with everyone pulling in the same direction. We have a strong community and a great desire to succeed, and always put people first. The independence and the support the entire group offers are clearly the biggest benefits for me as a store manager,” he concludes.