The crucial, yet often taken for granted role that merchandisers play in keeping products on shelves has gained renewed shine amidst the calamity of COVID-19. Since inception, FMI have been delivering merchandising services for household brands throughout Ireland. Our teams ensure that shelves are sufficiently stocked for customers and they continue to do so, despite the current challenging circumstances. This month we chat to Fiona Hennessy, one of our long-standing supervisors for Glanbia. Part of her job is to ensure that the essentials, like milk, are always available for customers in-store.
I originally started on a 3-month contract 19 years ago to help out while people were on annual leave. FMI won the Glanbia account 15 years ago and I was transferred across from the previous agency to FMI. I got to work with a great supervisor, however, three years ago she decided to take a step back from the day to day activities and I was promoted to Supervisor.
When I was first promoted, it was a little daunting. For example, I had to learn how to do the payroll, which was challenging, just because I had never done it before. Thankfully, I feel more relaxed now as I have settled into the demands of the new job. Typically, I try to deal with problems as they arise. One of the on-going challenges is if one of the team cancels their shift or calls in sick. I manage a team of 14 merchandisers, and I still merchandise myself which means that I can quickly fill a gap if one of the team is not able to make it into work. I try to be pragmatic in my approach. I realise that I can only do the best I can today, there is no point in worrying or thinking too far ahead.
I am not suited to an office environment. I like to be out and about meeting people. I like the flexibility this role offers me, and I like the social aspect of the job. Over the years the attitude towards merchandisers has changed. Today store managers and customers are a lot more respectful. It can be a tough job and you do need to stand up for yourself. Most store managers appreciate it if you do a good job and if they know that they can rely on you. You build up the relationships over the years.
Naturally, there is a lot of worry about what may happen. People are anxious and nervous. Initially we lost staff due to the schools closing which necessitated one parent being at home, but as some spouses lost jobs, some of our people have come back to their jobs while the spouse takes on the role of childcare. Merchandising is now a much harder environment to work in because of social distancing restrictions, which means that it takes us longer to do our job as we try not to be in the way of customers.
The team have been good at adapting as best they can. We all have masks and gloves and when the stricter restrictions were put in place, we had to make sure that we got the correct permit letter out to our team to confirm them as essential workers. I am always grateful to my team, and I appreciate that it has been an extremely challenging time. I just try to focus on what we can do today to get through it. I tell my team that they need to just follow what we are told to do to protect ourselves and to follow the guidelines. Yes, it can be very scary, but for me, being able to get out and have a little bit of my normal routine is also strangely reassuring.
We have a really good team at FMI. The team in head office trusts us to do our jobs but equally they are always there to support us if we need it. I was fortunate in that I had a really good supervisor who taught me loads and always looked out for her team. I try to do the same for my team. If people feel looked after and valued, they will stay and continue to work hard.