El Corte Ingles

Transformation Programme for Europe’s

No 1 Department Store


Spain’s 2nd biggest retail group and Europe’s no 1 department store with a turnover of €8.5b and 91 stores selling everything from Fashion to Electricals.

El Corte Inglés is a retail icon in Spain with an enviable market position. Increasing competition from Inditex on fashion and the development of Amazon has made a focus on efficiency and profitability important to maintain its strong position.

ECI had identified the need to introduce a more data-led approach to buying and wanted to build a merchandising function, which was my brief. I identified that the main challenges were:


Providing consistent and reliable data to support trading and planning decisions


Establishing the new operating model across the diverse divisions


Change management to build sustainable success


Developing a Merchandising function in a market that typically splits planning and trading responsibilities


Success will deliver a significant reduction in stock cover and markdown spend as well through business reporting that supports planning and control, data-driven decision making, clearer roles and responsibilities

and capability development.


Now nearing the end of year two, I act as the Executive lead on this ambitious transformation programme and provide industry best practice. To deliver such a large programme of change, it was clear that more external resource was required and First Friday provide associates to support the project, as required. In the core team, there is an experienced First Friday change consultant, who adds valuable industry perspective. Our collaboration ensures that the client benefits from a broader approach.


She has led the development of the new operating model, which has been signed off with the divisional leaders working with a Steering Group and will have consistent touchpoints across the divisions. Despite COVID, the programme has defined a new trading calendar, trading metrics and management reports to provide visibility and control; defined new role profiles for Buying and Merchandising and RACI and introduced training on the new concepts to two divisions.


I work closely with the ECI Head of Trading who leads the project and his central merchandising team and gives regular updates to the Sponsor, the Chief

Merchandise Officer.


"Sarah provided me with tools, support and the confidence to grow Apples and Snakes in an entrepreneurial and ground-breaking way, helping me develop and challenge my own ideas and then the essential stakeholder support. She is clear thinking, clever and can apply her knowledge to other settings really well. I’d happily work with Sarah again and indeed have used her as a sounding board with projects from time to time."

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