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The Rest of the Story

Our next speaker, Laura McHarrie’s maiden name was Richardson. On the 21st November 1984 (almost 34 years ago), Ray Dukes, a Debenham’s employee wrote …

“In response to your request for information about the above, I should say that Miss Richardson joined the Worthing Store as a Department Manager during the period in which I was Store Director of that store.”

With The Rest of the Story please welcome Laura McHarrie

The Rest of the Story

My first business mentor went onto become a spaceman.  I know thats impressive for a retailer.  He was and probably still is a small wiry man with a twinkle in his eye, especially for the ladies.  He took several of us under his wing.  Dianne, Sue , Debbie and probably many more.  There was nothing official about us being his protégés we just knew we were.

When I left Debenhams he wrote this testimonial for me.  I treasure it still.  

Fellow Toastmasters … this is what he said …

“I was impressed from the first with her enthusiasm for the job, which was her first management appointment.  She combined this enthusiasm with a surprisingly serious approach to her responsibilities for both the development of her staff and for sales promotion.”

I have to be honest.  This is a testimonial and is glowing in good light.  I did get into trouble on many occasions, usually for being a tad cocky with the senior team. He set the bar, when, on a Friday night after work drink, I said to Mr Dukes, “Hey I don’t know what to call you outside work”, he quipped “Sir will do”.  Sir is was forever more.

I got hauled over for eating toffee on the shop floor, having coffee with the Estee Lauder rep and wearing tinsel in my hair on Christmas Eve. Thought most of those were a bit unfair.  

But ringing the back door bell, then running off, knowing the senior team were working late, and would have to run down three flights of stairs was definitely a fair cop!  It seem like a funny thing to do after a couple of sherbets with the Friday night gang.

“At first she met with some considerable resentment, due largely to her youth and comparative rapid promotion.  She quickly over came this by displaying a very mature approach to her responsibilities, not only on the sales floor, but also in less formal situations.”

I distinctly remember Lorraine stating … “We heard you were a right old crow but you’re alright really!” when passing a Christmas card signed by my ground floor sales team.

“She established herself eventually as a natural spokesperson for the very group of department managers who had shown resentment, and this, in a way was her most notable achievement.”

On one such occasion, I organised a SUNDAY booze cruise to Dieppe.  It was a bargain, £10 for the return ticket including a free litre of spirit.  In 1983 we didn’t trade on a Sunday! Those were the days! Anyway we went out to France with 105 employees or plus ones.  We returned with 103.  I never did find out what happened to the missing two but I acquired a couple of extra bottles of whisky for my troubles.  Bonus!

“She took every possible opportunity to learn about aspect of more senior management roles and would independently buttonhole various members of the senior team to find out about their roles and the skills they had.”

From being a fairly shy, non academic teenager, I found a passion and huge interest in the complexities of retail.  The leadership of people to get things done, the operational management of ensuring efficiency as well as effectiveness and of course space management.  

That is .. getting the right stock in the right place at the right time to maximise the volume of sales from the space available.

“Latterly this desire to for additional responsibility led me to discuss various new plans and ideas with her. During these sometimes intense and complex discussions, she produced carefully thought out arguments and would often support these arguments with many detailed  plans and figures which she would work on in her own time.”

Sadly, Ray Dukes my retail mentor, left the Worthing store to head up the space management team and I lost contact with him.  I wish that was not the case as I think we would have made great friends and sparing partners.  He was always  friendly yet professional, knowledgable yet challengeable, demanding yet encouraging.  A fine mix of inspiration … that worked for me.  To Ray Dukes, … fellow Toastmasters, my mentor.

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