In an era that is currently characterized by consistently rising living costs, the pursuit of affordable goods has become a financial challenge for many people.
Throughout history, there has always been an unfair stigma surrounding dollar stores, however, today even the most affluent households are beginning to reevaluate this perception. According to polling data collected by Morning Consult and reported by the Wall Street Journal, 45% of households with six-figure incomes now express a willingness to shop at dollar stores, an increase from the 39% reported one year earlier.
In Canada, investigations conducted in Quebec and Ontario have unveiled a surprising revelation: Dollar stores, with Dollarama being a prime example, offer incredible value over other retailers, often ranging from 30% to 75% less. While many shoppers may have been aware of this fact, there are likely many who were not.
A new concept with a focus on customer-centricity
Dollarama's history traces back to 1992 when Larry Rossy, a Canadian entrepreneur and third-generation retailer, opened its first store in Matane, Quebec. It was a relatively new concept for Canada; with products being offered at $1 or less to consumers, but it was clear after a couple of weeks, how successful the concept was.
In 2009, Dollarama introduced products at three additional price levels: $1.25, $1.50, and $2 and became a publicly listed company on the TSX. By 2015, Dollarama had opened its 1000th store and in 2019, Dollarama acquired a 50.1% interest in Latin American value retailer, Dollarcity, following a six-year commercial collaboration.
Today, Dollarama boasts more than 1,500 stores across Canada under the leadership of fourth-generation retailer, Neil Rossy. With the primary goal of providing customers with a consistent and enticing shopping experience at the best relative value in the country. Dollarama offers a wide array of general merchandise, consumables, and seasonal products, and in recent years, has moved towards a more digital future, in order to improve productivity and customer satisfaction
Nicolas Hien, Dollarama’s Chief Information Officer, explains: “We’ve seen a real technological shift over the years. We moved from highly manual processes to automated processes using cutting-edge technologies in very little time. The journey included Time and Attendance, POS systems & Cash Management, In-Store Mobile technology, Loss Prevention and many other processes. It had a significant impact on productivity.”
A technological approach to improve business practices
Hien, who joined Dollarama in 2012, first ventured into entrepreneurship when he partnered with a consulting firm. In his role as a partner and project director, one of Hien’s most prominent clients happened to be Dollarama itself. In 2011, the consulting firm was acquired by KPMG but Hien maintained his relationship with Dollarama as a client and, in 2012, officially joined with an initial focus on implementing a Project Management Office and spearheading the company's international expansion efforts.
As time progressed, Hien transitioned into a more IT-oriented role, and today, manages the IT department and the project management office, overseeing all major projects surrounding the organisation, from store operation implementation to supply chain, as well as all projects related to IT. Spending approximately 75% of his time in Montreal and 25% in Panama, Hien also oversees the Latin American subsidiary of Dollar City.
When thinking about some of the challenges associated with a growing company, Hien recalls: “We are a growing company in Latin America and Canada, and with all the cybersecurity concerns, you need to be more and more structured, but at the same time you want to stay agile and keep moving forward.”
Technology plays a vital role in Dollarama’s development, with the company trying to improve customer convenience and facilitate the job of the store management team and store associates. “For us, technology is really a tool to improve business practices and business needs,” explains Hien. “Over the years we've deployed technological innovations to facilitate and automate manual processes. And now if you look at AI, this is something we are really looking at to automate the back office processes”
Company culture, customer centricity, and combatting the skills gap
Company culture and customer centricity are crucial parts of Dollarama’s business strategy. Over the years, the organisation has built a strong team in a fast-paced environment, ensuring its family feel is retained, along with its commitment towards improving customer service.
“We're a public company, but there is a limited hierarchy - so it's easy to work with people,” he says. “And our customers are everything. We're living for the store, but we're also living for the customer, and the brand awareness in Canada is huge. Every year we are working to better understand what customers want, what they like, what we've done right, what we've done wrong, and what we can improve.”
When it comes to the well-being of employees and the growth of a company, attraction and retention have always been a point of focus. Today's workforce in particular is experiencing profound transformations in the digital economy, which is why Dollarama is partnering with AppyHere, a company that provides an end-to-end digital hourly platform, in order to implement a full hiring end-to-end life cycle to attract and retain top talent.
Founded in 2018, AppyHere provides a digital end-to-end solution that revolutionises recruitment and HR processes, ensuring companies stand out in the competitive landscape of hourly talent acquisition. Outdated processes and software can often lead to wasted time and the loss of promising candidates. Recognising these challenges, AppyHere crafted its platform and specifically tailored it to the hourly market, prioritising speed, candidate and hiring stakeholder satisfaction, compliance, predictability, and sustainability.
Hien explains, “We are basing a lot of our talent attraction on our brand awareness and the fact that we are a well-known, recognised company across the country. Our goal is always to attract top talent and retain them, so that's why we started working on this AppyHere project in order to facilitate the retention and attraction of store operation employees.”
“In a post-pandemic environment where it suddenly became very complex to attract people, we made it very core to the organisational strategy. So we started working on how we can improve our time to hire.
“We found out that ‘time to hire’ is actually almost as important as the salary because people want a job right now and if they are receiving an offer from a competitor faster than your offer, they might just accept it because they don’t want to lose the opportunity. I think technology and the way we'll be using AppyHere is a good illustration of how technology can support and help solve a critical business issue.”
The future of hiring and digital transformation
There are a number of advantages to expediting the hiring process which can have a significant overall impact on a business. In today's fiercely competitive job market, highly skilled candidates often receive multiple job offers, therefore by accelerating the hiring process, companies can secure top-tier talent ahead of competitors.
“We looked at our current internal process and we found our process flawed because it takes too much time to hire people, that we are losing a lot of people along the way,” explains Hien. “So we started looking into what we can do and how we can improve, and we started the discussion with AppyHere. We asked if they were willing to build with us a platform and a technology that would help us in hiring, and they were super responsive so we started.
“It's a new product concept. We move from a decentralised process where the store managers are hiring the associates, to a model where we need to hire several thousand associates centrally. So, we pilot a version that's trial and error, we get feedback from the ops team and we try to improve the next version. So far it has been very successful.”
Furthermore, a swift hiring process demonstrates the company's commitment to efficiency and respect for the time of both candidates and internal stakeholders involved in the hiring process. This favourable impression can enhance an employer’s brand and attract a greater number of high-quality applicants in the future.
Hien discusses that the needs of candidates are relatively simple, as most “just want an answer quickly”. Hien highlights how the process will certainly improve the way Dollarama answers to the candidate and how fast the company is willing to answer in a more standardised way. “Just from a brand perspective, I think having a full end-to-end recruiting process from the application tracking system to the candidate experience with the app, has many advantages.”
There is no doubt that technology will play a crucial role in Dollarama’s future, with the company focused on IoT, cloud migration, and cybersecurity. When it comes to AI, Hien believes that people are only at the beginning of understanding the true potential of AI and going forward it will be deployed and implemented into more business practices.
“From a store operation standpoint, we'll keep our mobile roadmap helping stores, improving their operational processes. From a back office standpoint, we'll keep improving our processes by doing more automation,” says Hien.
“On the hiring market, I think that the pandemic environment has changed the way candidates approach work and how they see remote work versus working on-site. So I think technology can definitely help to understand and match the needs of a company and candidate, and that's basically what we're trying to do.”
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