Marketforce’s Christina Sequeira on maximising opportunities and minimising risk

14th April 2020
What does it take to manage major market place disruption through this difficult time ? The team at Ace caught up with Christina Sequeira Retail, International & Marketing Services Director at Marketforce, who highlighted the major challenges being faced, essential actions she is employing and how the highly talented team at Marketforce are to be applauded for their commitment and dedication in coping with the immense challenges distributors are facing

What impact has the Europe wide lock down had on retail sales ? 

The Europe-wide lockdown, and specifically the speed in which it has happened, presented us with unique challenges. For most nations however, magazines – and the retailers in which they’re sold – have been given essential status. This has been positive in maintaining some sales and reinforcing the enduring appeal we know magazines hold.
Our overseas distributor partners have been brilliant at keeping us informed of changes in their markets and the sales trends. Unfortunately the most significantly hit area will be the Mediterranean, given the lack of tourists over Easter and early Summer holidays. As air travel opens up again, we’ll be looking at which territories tourists are heading for, and amend distribution accordingly.

Marketforce has significant international presence for its stable of titles how are you adapting to the constraints for supply internationally? 

The majority of supply routes have been maintained as sea and road freight companies are still operating as usual. Understandably, air freight has been the hardest and quickest hit as airlines reduced flights from the UK.
Managing supplies through the chain with the added complication of freight timings has been a complex task. Where necessary, we’ve stopped supplies completely but are also mindful of needing copies in situ for when stores open. It’s therefore been a detailed piece of work going through weekly shipments and issue print orders to make the necessary amendments.

These are uncharted waters bringing increased pressure on all involved. What are the three key things that drive you forward in facing the challenge?

  1. Everyone at Marketforce is committed to maximising opportunities and minimising risk for our clients with overseas partners. This situation is temporary and it’s critical that we have as healthy a market as possible to return to.
  2. My team has a passion for what they do and are skilled in coming up with solutions. We’re working closer than ever within and across teams… even though we’re all working separately in our own homes! Supporting them to deliver the best they can in challenging circumstances is definitely a driver.
  3. Crisis situations force us to come up with new ideas and try different ways of working. The mental challenge is stimulating and I’m sure we’ll come out of this doing some things in better ways than we perhaps thought possible.

What are the toughest choices you are having to make at the moment?
Marketforce, like all businesses, is having to look at how we operate over the short term so that we are in the best possible place for the future. We also need to work with our global supply chain partners and retailers to protect the magazine category through these difficult times and over the long term. Making the right choices on how to deliver both of these is a key focus.

What are the most  frustrating communication challenges at this time and how is Marketforce innovating to overcome them?
I think we’ve found communication the least of our challenges! We’re using Teams for daily catch ups, one to ones, large team sessions and external meetings. As Marketforce moved to open plan offices and hot desking some time ago, we were already well equipped to work remotely. We were able to move from being office based to home based more or less overnight.

It is often argued “true leadership development takes place under conditions of real stress”. How is this quality noticable within your teams at Marketforce just now?
Where teams have a strong foundation of clear strategy, the right structure and the best people, you can adapt to situations as they unfold – and we definitely have that.
Everyone is rising to the challenge and doing so calmly; as they say, we won’t make a drama out of a crisis.
Communication, visibility and empathy are key to how we operate. Plus demonstrating clarity of thought leading to decisive action helps engage teams in what we have to do.

What are the best things an organisation can do just now to support the well being of their employees?
Listen and read between the lines to really understand how our employees are feeling. Regular communication and bringing a sense of humour where possible helps! The TI Media HR team has set up several well being sessions for our teams, which are online extensions of areas we’ve been developing recently.

If you had to identify the further market challenges awaiting distributors both nationally and internationally over the next few months what would they be?
Whilst we’re seeing some market sectors enjoy a boost in sales, magazines that are dependent on events or are seasonally driven will clearly be hit. We will be helping publishers make informed decisions based on shopper insights here and overseas. Being ready with the right products for when markets open will be critical.

Ace would like to sincerely thank Christina for her time sharing her really practical insights, initiatives and expertise for this interview.

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