Safeway marketing director Roger Ramsden is currently running the company’s store in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, for a six-month stint. His secondment is the pilot for a new senior management training scheme introduced by Safeway chief executive Carlos Criado-Perez, who aims to familiarise his senior directors with store management duties, redressing what he perceives to be a lack of basic retail know-how.

Criado-Perez describes his decision to dispatch Mr Ramsden back to the shop floor as a mark of confidence: "When I first arrived at Safeway, I soon realised that [Ramsden] would be very important to the company. He's seeing how the changes we make at head office can be imported to the stores. A normal store manager would not be able to see the other side of the equation. He is the first to do this, but he won't be the last. It is working very well, and there will soon be many others following in his footsteps."

Ramsden is enthusiastic about the scheme: "Most people working in our stores would say that Hayes [head office] has become quite remote. It's a bit like driving a car - you can read the books and watch the videos but until you've driven it, you don't quite know what you're doing."

The scheme’s emphasis on practical skills effectively means that the career path for the next generation of Safeway managers is more likely to be via professionalism in shelf layout rather than an MBA.

Criado-Perez, who replaced Colin Smith as chief executive six months ago, has no MBA. He started his supermarket career trundlingtrolleys in Madrid, then worked his way up through Makro. After a brief spell at Wal-Mart, he joined Safeway as operations director last year.

Mr Ramsden, whose marketing duties are now assumed by Karen Bray, will take up a new unspecified role when he completes his six-month secondment.

News source: The Times (London)