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A great place to work

We have always said that Iceland is a Great Place to Work – and we are delighted that this has been confirmed by the annual Sunday Times Best Companies survey, which ranked Iceland the Number One Best Big Company to Work For in the UK in 2012, and Number Two in 2013. We climbed the Best Companies league table from sixth place in 2011, number 13 in 2010 and 14th place in 2009, the first year we were assessed. These excellent results provide authoritative, external confirmation of the results of our own regular staff surveys, which show high and improving levels of job satisfaction throughout the company.
Great Place To Work

'Feels Like Family'

Although we have sales of over £2.4 billion and employ more than 23,000 people, our staff agree that working for Iceland feels like being part of a family. We believe that the key to success in retailing is looking after our customers properly, and that starts with looking after each other. While we naturally expect our employees to stand on their own two feet, they can also expect to be treated with respect by their colleagues, and to be part of a team where everyone is willing to roll up their sleeves and help out when support is required.

Everyone at Iceland is on first name terms with each other, and we share a strong sense of pride and common purpose. The 2012 Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For survey ranked Iceland Britain’s Best Big Company to Work For “by dint of having the happiest workers in the country. Iceland is second to none when it comes to staff Wellbeing, work relationships expressed in our survey factors My Team and My Manager, good Leadership and a Fair Deal. People don’t just like working for Iceland. They love it (79%). The 2013 survey again ranked Iceland Number One for employees feeling that they have a Fair Deal (76%) and for Wellbeing (69%) while 77% feel that there is a strong sense of family in their teams and 83% that their colleagues are fun to work with.

Our Chief Executive Malcolm Walker was named the UK’s Best Leader of a big company in 2012, achieving top scores across a range of measures, with 81% of staff expressing a great deal of faith in him and 75% finding him inspirational. He was also runner up in the Best Leader category in 2013. Staff in 2012 agreed that Iceland was run on strong values (80%) and that senior managers truly live those values (80%, the best result in the survey). Continuing confidence in the leadership skills of the senior management team was reflected in a 77% positive rating in 2013.

The Best Companies results mirror the findings of our most recent Straight Talk staff survey, in March 2012, in which 93% of our retail employees told us that they are proud to work for Iceland, 90% feel a strong sense of belonging in the company, 93% enjoy the work they do, 95% consider that their manager treats them fairly and with respect, and 94% would recommend Iceland as a good place to work. These outstanding results were based on a response rate of 97%. All measures showed improvement on the already high scores recorded in our last survey in September 2011 – and place us in the top quartile of companies in the External Benchmark for Employee Opinion which includes businesses such as Asda, Morrisons, Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose as well as Pets at Home, Matalan and New Look.

Times Best Big Companies to Work For

Keeping it Simple

The key to the revival in Iceland’s fortunes since 2005 has been simplification: refocusing on our traditional strengths in innovative, value-for-money frozen food and making life simple for our customers through round sum pricing.  The same principles have been applied to the way we work, ensuring a clear focus on the things that really matter like service and quality.  We give our employees clear objectives and expectations, with 98% of the respondents to our most recent staff survey telling us that they are clear about what they are expected to achieve in their jobs.  At the same time, we also allow more freedom for individual initiative than most other retailers, as we believe that it is ultimately this sort of personal touch that can make all the difference to our customers.  

Our March 2012 Straight Talk staff survey showed that 98% of our retail staff believe that their stores are serious about service and 99% feel confident that they can deliver high standards of service to our customers.  We communicate with each other openly, honestly and directly, doing our utmost to avoid jargon and ‘management speak’.  This was again reflected in our staff survey findings, with 91% of our employees rating their manager as a good communicator and a good leader, and 92% believing that their manager listens to ideas and shows an interestin their views.

Speed, Energy and Enthusiasm

Iceland moves like a speedboat among the supertankers of UK food retailing. We’re always keen to keep moving forward and to make the most of every opportunity. That makes for a lively and fast-paced working environment, in an organisation that is open to new ideas and suggestions and willing to try them out. Our managers are never afraid to take decisions, and are keen to get things done. Our stores are supported by a lean head office team that is totally focused on retailing and believes in action, not bureaucracy.

Something for Everyone

Iceland is a successful and growing business, and to maintain our momentum we want to help all our people to fulfil their ambitions and realise their potential.  We take pride in our training and development, and our March 2012 Straight Talk retail staff survey showed that 94% of our employees considered that they had all the training they needed to do their job well.  In addition to paying close attention to the results of these regular surveys, we conduct individual performance reviews designed to identify strengths, ambition and potential, and we are strongly committed to providing opportunities for those who wish to develop their careers within Iceland.  Over 60% of our store managers have attained their positions through internal promotion.

Jan Baker joined Iceland in 1986 when the company took over her original employer, Orchard Foods. After a career break to have her two children she returned to Iceland as an assistant manager in 1991 and was promoted to store manager in 1992. She is now the Area Manager for Iceland’s stores in South London.

Jan Baker

I began working for Orchard Foods back in the early 1980s and joined Iceland when they took us over as part of their expansion into the south of England. They made me store manager at Rainham in 1992, after which I managed the Sittingbourne store for nine years and then moved to Sheerness.

In 2008 the Sheerness team won £10,000 and a Mini car for being Iceland’s best performing store and in 2009 I was delighted to be named Iceland’s Store Manager of the Year. In the same year Sheerness also won the store of the year title in Retail Bulletin’s People in Retail Awards. I am really proud of everything we have achieved – and even prouder of the fact that I received 100% positive feedback from my staff in Iceland’s annual staff survey in 2010.

I absolutely love working for Iceland – I would and do recommend it to anyone, and I can’t imagine a better company to work for. They give you the autonomy to achieve results, so in many ways it is like running your own business, but they also give you real support and ensure that you are properly recognised and rewarded for what you do.

I also like the fact that Iceland genuinely believe in a proper work-life balance – I came back to work when my kids were still young and they gave me the flexibility I needed to bring them up as a working mum. Family commitments were no bar to promotion, either. Another real strength of the company is that it does not matter what age you are – Iceland put me through a 12 month development programme in 2009, and I don’t think many other retailers would be prepared to invest in that for anyone beyond their 30s.

I love going to work every single day.  I have been with Iceland a long time now but I am still passionate about what I do and the results we get.  I have been an ‘area trainer manager’ for about 12 years now, helping to train people in my area from junior staff right up to store managers, and from September 2010 I was on secondment as acting Area Manager for our stores in Kent.  I really enjoyed the experience and was delighted by my promotion toa permanent position as Area Manager for South London in October 2011.

Richard Broadbent began working for Iceland in 1988, aged 18, in a part-time job in his local store while he was an A-level student. In September 2012 he was promoted to become Iceland’s Head of Stores, after serving as Southern Divisional Retail Controller since December 2010, prior to which he was the Regional Manager responsible for the company’s stores in London and East Anglia.

Richard Broadbent

I suppose I fell into working for Iceland, to be honest.  I started doing Saturday and occasional evening shifts in the Cleveleys store while I was at college doing my A-levels, and found that I really enjoyed it.  I got a buzz out of the work and thought that the people were really good.   When I left college, with no fixed idea as to what to do next, someone suggested that I should apply to become a trainee manager.  I looked at a few other companies, but I liked what I saw at Iceland and went for it. 

As a trainee manager I worked in stores along the Fylde coast and in Cumbria, then became a store manager.  That took me around North Wales, Lancashire and Manchester.  About nine years ago I was promoted to become an area manager and worked in Yorkshire and Humberside and the North West. Then I was asked to go to London on a six-month assignment, and I’ve been there ever since. I was promoted to the job of Regional Manager after Malcolm came back into the business in 2005 – and I was promoted into the job of Divisional Retail Controller for the South in February 2011.

I feel that I’ve been very lucky in my career.  Although I’ve been with the same company all my life, it’s been like working for several different businesses because my job has changed so often.  I’ve never done anything for long enough for there to be any danger of it becoming boring.

On top of which, this is a hundred miles an hour business; it’s changing all the time and no two days are the same.  It’s a really exciting, fast-paced place to work and the fact that we are opening so many new stores creates lots of additional opportunities to progress.

Obviously it’s hard for me to describe what makes Iceland different, given that I have never worked anywhere else, but from talking to people in other companies I think the key thing is that Iceland feels like one big family.  It’s got a very informal atmosphere where you really feel that anybody can say anything to anyone else, and that you do have the ability to make a difference because people will listen to your views.

I was ambitious when I joined – I had my sights set on becoming an area manager – and I’ve been supported all the way by the people I worked with.  I firmly believe that anyone joining the business today can go as far as they want: there is simply bags of opportunity.  You don’t need to have high academic qualifications, just masses of common sense.  If you’re good with people and prepared to put the effort in and demonstrate enthusiasm and commitment, there is no reason why you couldn’t become an area manager within five or six years - or a Regional Manager 10 to 15 years down the line.

Richard Hindes joined Bejam in 1985, aged 16, as a part-time assistant in the Great Yarmouth store. He joined the business full-time in 1987 and, following Bejam’s takeover by Iceland in 1989, became an Iceland store manager in 1997. He is now Manager of the Gorleston-on-Sea store in Norfolk.

Richard HindesI started off working as a Saturday lad, collecting trolleys and so on, while I was doing A-levels. I had no thought of making it a career – I wanted to go to university and get into computer programming. But the Area Manager Paul Holdsworth told me that the company had a great talent scheme and he pointed out that I could be better off financially by getting onto that.

So I did, and worked my way up around the East Anglia stores, becoming a store manager in Cambridge in 1997. After that I worked as an Area Training Manager for a time, and was also heavily involved in the store refit programme for a couple of years before I came to Gorleston-on-Sea as Manager in 2007.

The most exciting part of my career for me has been the last three years. I was aware that I was not performing particularly well as a manager – through no-one’s fault but my own – but Iceland has put the right processes and support in place to enable people in my positionto change their behaviour and develop the right skills to do the job well.

I have been helped to develop successfully as a manager through Iceland’s Capability Framework, which focuses on four things: driving for results, a winning team, energy and engagement, and think customer. That’s all about building a sense of belonging in a winning team and taking collective decisions, ultimately for the benefit of the customer.

Following this Framework has been really exciting for me and my whole front line team and means that we are developing real talent internally – so much so that our whole succession plan is now internal, rather than looking to recruit from outside the business.

One of the things that makes Iceland A Great Place to Work is that the company provides you with the Framework, but gives you real autonomy to deliver.

I have also benefited greatly from Talking Shop, our communications forum in store, which enables me to communicate frankly with the store team and take on board their issues, ideas and suggestions. This is supplemented by Straight Talk, our twice-yearly feedback on how people feel about working for the company. This is a fantastic tool, enabling us to react and make adjustments very quickly in response to any concerns.

All this has helped me to become a high achieving manager, winning Manager of the Year for our area in 2009and for the whole of the London and East Anglia Region in 2010, based on the Straight Talk results. Our store also won the regional Christmas incentive in 2010, based on our mystery shop results. That was the culmination of the work we had done together through the year on training and development, listening to feedback, and the whole team pulling together because they wanted to do a great job for me and, more importantly, for our customers.

Iceland today really is a very progressive, people-focused business and there is a structured pathway for people to follow all the way up through the company. There are proper rewards and recognition, and support for any individual who wants to get on. If you have the drive and capability to do it, no-one will hold you back and the world really is your oyster.

As for me, I am currently doing a project for the Region on developing fast-track senior supervisors, as well as running the store, and hope that I may be able to have a wider influence in developing and engaging teams in either an area management or HR role in the future.

Steve Hughes joined Iceland in March 2008, as a home delivery driver in the Wavertree Road, Liverpool store. He is now a Home Delivery Driver at the Breck Road, Liverpool store and Iceland’s area Talking Shop representative.

Steve HughesI joined Iceland because they were offering a job in my local area as a driver, which is what I have always done sinceI was 17, and I wanted a change after seven years driving buses. I also had a couple of friends who worked for Iceland, and they told me that it was a decent companyand a secure place to join. But I like to make my own mind up and I soon saw that it was a very staff-oriented company. They genuinely care about their staff: they really do.

I’ve got a much better work-life balance than I had in my previous job, where I was working 12 hours a day. Iceland is also a very flexible employer. Obviously you have to work your contracted hours, but if there’s a problem at home you need to deal with, you can just have a word with your manager and it has never been an issue.

I absolutely love my job – and that’s down to the customers. Maybe you have to see it to believe it. In the store there are times when the odd customer can give you the impression that they are in a bit of a rush and just want to get their stuff and go, but delivering to them in their own houses is a totally different experience. They’re at home, they’re relaxed, and the vast majority of them have time for a laugh and a joke. It’s a pleasure to deal with them.

Having done my job for a good while I have really got to know my customers and I’m on first name terms with most of them. For some, particularly the older ones, I’m more than a Home Delivery Driver and I try to help them out as much as I can. Sometimes that just means making time for a bit of a chat, but I’ve also done a variety of odd jobs including changing lightbulbs and topping up one lady’s pay-as-you-go mobile phone.

Within a couple of weeks of joining the company I was asked if I would like to be the Talking Shop representative for my store, and I am now the Area Aepresentative. Talking Shop is a brilliant idea that gives every member of staff someone to talk to about any ideas, questions or issues they may have, whether about Iceland or in their personal lives. Each store has a representative, elected by their store colleagues. Obviously it has to be someone who is approachable, and is prepared to find out the answers and offer advice. We’ve then got the back-up of the Iceland HR Team and the Retail Trust to deal with more serious problems. As the area representative, my job is to visit all the other store representatives and find out what is going on, and make sure that it is all working smoothly.

Iceland sells good stuff – I shop here myself – and I’ve got a real passion for the company: I’m here for keeps or as long as they’ll have me. Now that I’ve been here for a while, and particularly having had my Talking Shop experience, what I’d really like to do next is get involved in an HR or training role. I’m a people person and I really feel that I have something I could offer.

Richard Love joined Iceland in 1999, aged 28, as a home delivery driver in the Caernarfon store. After a successful period as a member of the refit support team working on Iceland’sstore opening programme, he is now a Senior Supervisor in the Phwllheli store:

Richard Love

I applied for a job as a home delivery driver after being made redundant by my previous employer, because it sounded really interesting and different: no-one else was doing anything along those lines. I did it for five or six years and absolutely loved every minute of it: I really enjoyed the interaction with the customers.  Particularly in a rural area like North Wales you get to know your customers really well, and there is an element of trust because they invite you into their homes.  It’s like being the postman or the milkman – you’re a well-known figure in the community, and I was proud to be a representative of the company. 

To be honest, I only moved on from the job because I was worried about the future of home delivery after Malcolm left the company, when the focus moved elsewhere, and I thought I would be more secure working in a store. So I took the opportunity to become a chilled supervisor and then a customer service supervisor, again in the Caernarfon store. I was delighted when Malcolm came back and refocused on home delivery and made it as important as ever. It’s a big part of what makes Iceland different.

In my last role I was helping to support the huge roll-out of new stores in 2009 and 2010.  We were recruiting a lot of new people and they needed support from an experienced team until they found their feet.  Naturally it was a particular pleasure for me to support and coach the home delivery side.

It was a great job because I got to see a lot of new people, and every team I met was full of enthusiasm to be going into a new store. It was brilliant to be able to help them hone their skills so that they could be fully independent.

Iceland has been a really fantastic employer, and I simply could not conceive of working for anyone else now. It feels like a family, not a corporation. We work hard, we play hard and we have a lot of fun together – and that spirit is all down to Malcolm Walker, the guy who founded the business. I am just so grateful we got him back.

John  Mackie joined Bejam in 1985, aged 15, as a part-time stock lad in its Leamington Spa store. Following the takeover of Bejam by Iceland in 1989 he became the company’s youngest store manager and is now based at head office in Deeside as Director of Delivered Sales (E-Commerce), a position he assumed in September 2012 after six years as Supply Chain Director, responsible for the flow of all Iceland’s products from its suppliers to the stores.

John Mackie

I  knew  that  I  didn’t  want to go into further education so I went into Bejam straight from school and quickly became a stock supervisor.  I joined their management trainee scheme just before the Iceland takeover and became a  deputy manager in Reading in 1988, then worked on a number of new stores as  a  refit  and  training  manager before I became the company’s youngest store manager at Coalville in Leicestershire.  I was just shy of 21.

As  a  manager,  I  moved  around a number of stores in Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Then in 1997, shortly after my daughter was born, I stopped and took  stock  of my career.  I had never known anything else but I knew that retailing  was  in my blood and that Iceland was a fantastic business which had  developed  and  supported  me  every  step  of  the way, so I took the decision to stay with them and move into head office.  Initially I became a Supply  Planner  as  part of a team leading the introduction of sales-based ordering,  initially  with  a  pilot  of just three stores.  By 2000 we had rolled it out across the whole company.

Iceland Lorries

“After that I became a Supply Manager, handling one product area, then after 18 months I was promoted to Category Supply Manager in charge of grocery. I did that job for three years then became Head of Product Supply, covering frozen, chilled and grocery, before I was promoted to Supply Chain Director in 2006. In this role I was in charge of the flow of all our products through our distribution system from the suppliers to our stores, making me responsible for stockholding and availability to our end customers. Iceland’s distribution is handled through four centres in Warrington, Livingston, Swindon and Enfield, which are managed on our behalf by DHL. I headed the team of 25 people that pushed the buttons to make things happen.

I  love  my  job.   I  am very much a perfectionist and I love the way the business  operates.   The executive board sets the direction – what we call Due  North  –  as  a trading board we then have the autonomy to deliver the results.   I  can’t  think of many other businesses where you could achieve the  sort of career progression I have done, from joining as a stock lad at 15 to being on the operating board by 36.  Yes, I have worked very hard but I  have been supported every step of the way.  I think that Iceland is very different  from  most  other  businesses,  and  that  is why it has been so successful.

I  am  even  more  enthusiastic  now than when I started – I wake up every morning  eager  to come to work.  I am well rewarded, but I am not grafting for that.  It is simply a fantastic place to work.  Everyone in the company is  very  enthusiastic  and  we have a great top management team, which has taken  us  from  the  brink  of  bankruptcy to probably the most successful retailer  in Britain over the last eight years.  I wouldn’t mind having a go at  running  the  whole  business  myself  one  day;  I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

The Bottom Line

At Iceland, we have built our success on giving more: better value to our customers, and better rewards to our staff. In October 2011 our 22,000 front line staff shared in an industry-beating and inflation-busting £14.6 million pay award, which delivered store staff an average pay increase of 6.3% and a maximum possible increase of 45.5%, while home delivery drivers received an average increase of 13.1% and a maximum possible increase of 22.1%. Over the first six years after Malcolm Walker and his senior team returned to the business in 2005, Iceland increased its hourly pay rate for store staff by 33.7% and for home delivery drivers by 49.8%, making the Iceland team among the very best paid on the British high street.

The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For survey underlines that Iceland delivers good pay and conditions, in addition to a friendly work environment and high levels of job satisfaction. Our overall Fair Deal ranking of 80% in 2012 and 76% in 2013 was simply the best in the UK. In 2012 the Sunday Times noted that our “employees are far happier with their pay and benefits than anyone else on the list”, with a satisfaction rating of 81%, beating even the bankers at Goldman Sachs. This top ranking was maintained in 2013 when the Sunday Times reported “Iceland employees are the happiest in our survey about their pay relative to people in similar jobs elsewhere (76%).” In 2012 “the 23,000-plus employees, most of whom work part-time, are the least stressed of any workers on the list and they have more fun with colleagues than staff at any other firm, returning top positive scores of 86% and 85% in our survey”, giving us the UK’s number one ranking for employee Wellbeing. This position was also maintained in 2013, when the Sunday Times reported that “employees work flexible hours and say work does not interfere with their responsibilities at home or the balance between their work and home life (two more top ratings of 74% and 73%).”

Fringe Benefits

  • All Iceland employees benefit from access to Talking Rewards, a 'no catch' money-saving website powered by Reward Gateway. This offers discounted shopping with cashback and discounted shopping vouchers with over 1,700 participating retailers including some of the biggest and best-known names in the UK. The scheme offers many exclusive deals and provides opportunities for shopping online and by phone as well as on the high street, allowing our staff to make valuable savings on their insurance, broadband, mobiles, days out and holidays, as well as on their regular food, clothing and household purchases. The success of the scheme can be judged from the fact that members of the Iceland team have spent over £2.5 million through Talking Rewards since it was set up in 2008.         
  • We encourage our employees to shop in our stores and so they also enjoy a staff discount card, issued twice a year, offering a 10% saving on their purchases in Iceland.
  • Iceland is committed to a healthy work-life balance for all of its staff and our childcare scheme is a great extension to that. Our employees benefit from saving money on childcare costs by taking advantage of childcare vouchers via a salary sacrifice scheme.
  • It is not unusual for individuals to encounter problems at certain points in their lives and Retail Trustworks in partnership with Iceland to provide support and assistance to working or retired people in the retail industry. The support can range from an employee wellbeing service, financial assistance, scholarships and bursaries. The services provided by Retail Trust are free to our Iceland employees.

Simply the Best Place to Eat

Costa CoffeeThe 500-strong team at head office in Deeside benefits from one of the best staff restaurants anywhere: the Roxy, given a £400,000 makeover in 2005 and run by former top restaurant chef Mike Truelove.  It offers a mouth-watering daily selection of at least two different hot dishes and freshly griddled fish, plus well-stocked pasta and salad bars. The prices, too, are truly exceptional, with lunch costing between £2.00 and £2.50 for a main course, including a wide choice of vegetables or salads to accompany it. The Roxy also serves breakfast and has an all-day Costa Coffee bar. Fresh fruit is provided free at the The Roxy and staff who over-indulge in Mike’s excellent hand-cut chips can work off their excesses through free membership of a local gym.

Mike Truelove says

Image of Food sold at the RoxyI’ve been at Iceland for seven years now. When Malcolm came back I was running the Crabwall Manor Hotel near Chester and he rang me up and said ‘My staff restaurant needs sorting out.’  It had been outsourced to contract caterers who used the cheapest possible produce, and the staff hated it.  My brief from Malcolm was simple: ‘I want it to be the best staff restaurant in Britain, one that is worth a Michelin star.’ When I worked at the Box Tree in Ilkley I was the only English chef in the country to have two Michelin stars, so I knew how to go about it.

I started by sourcing good quality ingredients and putting some skill back in the kitchen; there is no convenience food here. That put some pride back in to people’s work. I have the most brilliant team: I inherited them when I arrived and kept them all, and I’ve given them chances to broaden their skills so that they can all have a go at different things like cooking on the griddle or serving at the Costa as well as working on the till. I multi-task, too. I started my career in the kitchen and I still cook on the hotplate every day.

Image of Fresh Fish

My team are a fantastic bunch of people and they really love working here; we always come out on top in the Iceland staff satisfaction surveys.  One of the best things about Iceland is that it is structured to train and develop staff, which is not something I’d ever really come across in the catering trade. Here we have one-to-ones and appraisals and there is no place to hide; it’s one of the really good things I have learnt here.Image of fruit in The Roxy

Image of Fruit in the RoxyAs for the prices, you would be paying a minimum of three times as much to get food of the same quality anywhere else.  We just cover the cost of the ingredients and the company chips in for the wages and other overheads.  Malcolm started giving away free fruit as a perk after the head office conference in 2008, and it was costing us £300 – 400 a week.  So he came back to me after a year and told me to put even more out: he said ‘I want it be like a harvest festival’.  Now we’re spending nearly double that.  Those struggling to get through their five a day can always pick up a fruit smoothie at the Costa.
From my own point of view I think Iceland really is a great place to work. The hours are civilised and the people are brilliant.   They are really grateful for what they have got. They treat you like part of the team and it’s so nice to be appreciated.  We serve around 350 lunches a day and I have had to deal with precisely two complaints in three years: one from someone who thought they had been overcharged for their salad, and one that our bananas were on the small side.  Other than that it’s all been positive feedback!

View a sample menu from the Roxy.

The Best Conferences

Iceland is a fun place to work, and we like our people to be able to get together, let their hair down and enjoy themselves as well as learning more about the business and their colleagues. 

Store Managers’ Conferences

2005 Iceland emerged from The Dark Ages with a store managers’ conference at the ICC, Birmingham.  Star of the show was Iceland’s founder and newly returned Chief Executive Malcolm Walker, who gave a candid sofa interview about the Iceland story from the day he opened the first store in 1970 to the point where he was thrown out of the company in 2001, and his vision for the future.  The evening’s entertainment took the form of a Bavarian Christmas dinner complete with pitchers of beer, an Oompah band, ice rink, carousel and Christmas village.

Image of the conference and the winning store

2006 Back at the ICC we planned to base our conference around writing a story called “Winning: The Iceland Way”.  We had a 22-foot high mechanical book on stage along with a Ferrari intended as the prize for our best performing store manager.  But the night before the conference the set caught fire, causing some £500,000 worth of damage.  There could be no better illustration of the Iceland spirit of rolling our sleeves up and helping out than in the way we managed to salvage most of the set and wheel it round to the borrowed Birmingham Symphony Hall, where the conference went ahead as planned.  The evening concluded with entertainment inspired by Cirque du Soleil.

Image of acrobat and Mini car at the conference

Image of conference - fire and entertainment

2007 We took 900 people to Disneyland Paris in two chartered planes, where our managers were entertained by Iceland’s directors performing a Christmas pantomime and set a team challenge to perform in the theme park (where their enterprising decision to wear fancy dress proved too much for the management’s Gallic sense of humour).  The evening was spent on the rides of another theme park and dancing to a band.

Image of store managers at airport and image of panto

Image of conference panto and fancy dress

2008 We held our conference nearer to home in Liverpool, holding a fashion show of Christmas products with lots of razzmatazz provided by cheerleaders and acrobats.  We offered a BMW Convertible as the prize for our best performing store manager, along with a wide range of cash incentives for the best performing store in each region. The evening was a black tie awards gala dinner – The Iceland Oscars – hosted by Kate Thornton and supported by the Manchester Camerata Orchestra with entertainment including an opera singer, dancers and pyrotechnics, and concluding a live performance by Girls Aloud.

Conference fashion show and charity donations

Image of giant Cheque for Alder Hey

2009 At the end of his speech to the 2008 conference, Malcolm Walker told the managers that, if Christmas was good, the 2009 conference would be taking place in Florida.

So, in celebration of a fourth amazing year of double digit like-for-like sales growth, in September 2009 Iceland chartered jets to fly almost 800 store, regional and area managers across the Atlantic to spend five days at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.  The conference itself took no longer than usual, giving our managers ample free time to explore the Disney theme parks and other nearby attractions including Universal Studios, Sea World and the Kennedy Space Center.  Highlights of the visit included an exclusive performance of the Lion King, evening events offering private access to many of the theme park rides, and a spectacular fireworks display. 

Images of store conference held at Walt Disney World Florida

Image of Lion King show and firework display

Managers also enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of the staff areas under the Disney theme parks to give them an insight into Disney’s remarkable staff culture, incredible attention to detail and total dedication to customer service.  Helping our managers to understand this world class approach was one reason for our £4 million investment in what was agreed by all to be our best conference ever; though our principal aim was simply to give our key people a great time in recognition of everything they have done to achieve the astonishing transformation of the business over the last four years.

Image of Florida conference

2010 For the 2010 retail conference Iceland returned to the ICC in Birmingham, where we brought together a record 1,650 people, including not just our store managers but service champions for each store chosen by their colleagues.  As well as revealing the highlights of our Christmas range (in 3D) and the incentives for our best-performing stores, we laid on a fashion show for the new uniforms designed by our staff.  In the evening, the Band of the Life Guards led a fancy dress parade to Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena, where we celebrated Iceland’s 40th anniversary at a huge street party.   Entertainment was provided by iconic tribute acts from each of the last four decades, Marc Almond, the legendary Peter Kay and X Factor winner Alexandra Burke.  We also presented a giant cheque to our Charity of the Year, Help for Heroes, and enjoyed all the fun of an indoor fair.

2011   The 2011 retail conference was again held at the ICC in Birmingham and featured a host of innovations including a keynote address by retail guru Mary Portas, a lunch menu made up entirely of Iceland’s own new Christmas range, and constant audience feedback throughout the day through SpotMe handheld technology. The Christmas incentive was new, too, with reward opportunities open to all stores and a top prize of a “live like a millionaire” trip to Monaco by private jet; though there was also the traditional giveaway of a car, with an unusual twist. The conference ended with a Riverdance routine performed by all Iceland’s area and regional managers as the introduction to next year’s conference venue in Dublin.

The traditional post-conference event took place in a spectacular ‘winter wonderland’, complete with giant snow-globe, ice-skittles game, and a sumptuous dinner and dance.  Entertainment was provided by the face of Iceland, Stacey Solomon, who was celebrating her 22nd birthday that day, Shaun Ryder and comedian Vernon Kay, who doubled as host for the Regional Manager competition quiz & on-stage DJ for the late night disco.

2012 In October 2012, we took over 1,000 store managers, area managers and the Iceland Retail field team to Dublin to see for themselves how the Irish bring the craic to life and deliver an unforgettable customer experience to their visitors!

Delegates were welcomed to Dublin by store colleague volunteers who bought an Olympic spirit to this year’s conference. Conference opened with welcome speeches and some very frank views from Malcolm before everyone was transported to the Guinness Store House for a true Dublin experience.

Over the three days, the Retail team were introduced to Iceland’s family of investors, listened to the challenges ahead and the importance of allowing our colleagues’ personalities to bring service to life in our stores and saw the launch of the 2012 Christmas incentive - a trip like no other to New York!

The evening’s entertainment did not disappoint with the party literally lighting up the Dublin Convention Centre. Entertainment involved colleagues from stores who were transformed from store to star and everyone danced ‘til late and onto Temple Bar!

Head Office Conferences

2007 We decided to hold our first head office conference in 2007, but the event planned for Chester Racecourse had to be relocated at short notice as a result of flooding.  So, in another fine example of the Iceland gift for pulling together and improvisation, we managed to turn the old grocery warehouse behind our head office into a venue suitable for 600 people, with a full rock and roll style stage.  The daytime conference was followed by a funfair in the head office car park and dancing to a live performance by the Sugababes.

Grocery warehouse before and after transformation

Image of daytime conference and Sugababes in the evening

2008 This year the grocery warehouse wasn’t available so a huge marquee was erected in the head office car park. The daytime conference included a game of Family Fortunes with all the directors, and the playback of video clips from a Big Brother-style video diary room which had been set up in the Roxy restaurant for the previous week.  In the evening a quiz night hosted by Gabby Logan and Phil Tufnell saw the head office departments competing with each other for free Christmas party tickets.

Images of head office conference

2009 Some might have thought that Iceland was skimping on the head office conference when they saw the simple marquee erected in the car park for the afternoon presentations by Chief Executive Malcolm Walker and Managing Director Andy Pritchard.  But any such thoughts were blown away when the 550 guests reached their evening’s entertainment in the grounds of Malcolm Walker’s own house.  In fact, the conference budget was bigger than ever before.  Even this could not guarantee good weather and, in the finest tradition of English outdoor events, it rained.  But the head office team were still able to enjoy walking around the beautiful gardens to the music of a jazz band, keeping up their energy levels with refreshments from numerous bars and a barbecue.  Then it was into the warmth of a gigantic marquee for an evening of fine food, music and dancing, including a performance by Abba tribute singers the Fabba Girls, with the night rounded off by a fantastic musical firework display.

Images of fireworks at Broxton Old Hall

Images of people dancing at 2009 conference

2010 The 2010 Deeside Live conference was held in the head office itself, with colour co-ordinated cheerleaders leading staff to five different meeting rooms around the building.  Here everyone was linked together electronically for a combination of a live Question Time and Iceland’s Got Talent in the form of a series of hilarious videos – written, directed and produced by each department. 

The traditional evening celebration took place in November in Liverpool, where the head office team marked Iceland’s fantastic 40 years at an extravagant black tie Decadance dinner show featuring over 40 dancers and cabaret performers lead by Jason Donovan.

2011   The 2011 conference for head office staff was held at Chester Racecourse in December and featured presentations on Iceland’s innovations in both products and customer service, together with the presentation of awards to high achievers in every department.

In the evening the head office team celebrated at Iceland’s traditional Christmas party, featuring dinner, live entertainment from Stacey Solomon and The Overtones, dancing and all the fun of a snow globe and bucking rodeo reindeer.


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