This month the Great British high street has taken another thorough beating. After weeks of negotiations and speculation, retailing giant GAME and it’s subsidiary Gamestation both collapsed under the weight of the company’s debt, forcing hundreds of stores to close across the country, and sending a large percentage of their workforce back down to the job centre.
GAME’s troubles seemed to spiral out of control in a fairly short space of time, with major publisher EA’s refusal to supply them with stock leading rapidly to store closures. It would seem that the company’s ambitious expansion plan for the past few years has also been to blame, with their huge debts contributing significantly to EA’s decision and GAME’s eventual dip into administration.
From ‘troubled to closing’, the whole sequence of events has taken around a month but what struck me was the uncertainty and confusion that emanated from every one of the chain’s stores. No member of staff that I talked to knew what their fate was going to be, nor what problems their employers faced. Obviously the company’s efforts would be focused on crisis management, but surely there should have been an strong of internal communication as well?
Internal communications can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. At it’s heart it’s a way of making sure all of the publics involved in the running of the business are singing from the same hymn sheet, pulling in the same direction and generally behaving in such a unified way as to inspire the use of even more tired teamwork clichés. Obviously this includes the standard strategies such as corporate literature, bulletins and meetings (either with groups or individuals), whichever methods are best to reach all levels in the most effective way. Unfortunately for all involved, the GAME situation was largely played out in the trade media, with MCV.com providing a large amount of breaking news whilst the staff were kept in the dark, still unsure of their fates the day before the store closures were announced.
It goes without saying that in a perfect world such confusion and uncertainty would have no place in such situations. Aside from reinforcing key messages and promoting brand ideologies, internal comms is meant to deal with mergers and closures but in such rapidly changing circumstances is there really any point in pretending that comms teams can adequately equip all publics with up to the minute knowledge? And more still, have strategies in place to deal with every eventuality? I suspect not.
In such a rapidly deteriorating business it would be naive to expect any large organisation to be holding near constant cascade meetings with all of it’s staff. Internal Comms then is as it’s best when planning and implementing strategies for the longer term. One would hope however that those at GAME, and other struggling retailers, will have treat this past month as a learning exercise, and one that will better equip them to act in the future. More importantly though, I hope that GAME’s internal comms doesn’t forget about the 40% of it’s workforce that were lost in the aftermath, if they were kept in the dark during the uncertainty then they surely deserve to be enlightened now.