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Q&A: Tarah Cunynghame

Friday 10 July

We recently chatted with MCC's Head of Retail and Tours Tarah Cunynghame about her role and how the Club will adapt to the "new normal".

As Head of Retail and Tours for MCC, what’s a usual day like at work?

One of the great things about my job is that each day is different from the next. Along with the usual meetings that I attend for both match and non-match day activities, I am always trying to think ahead and improve both businesses in a way that is unique to them. That could could be enhancing the customer experience or implementing a new process or procedure that saves the team time and unwanted stress. 

I am ideas driven, so I love thinking about new products, revenue streams and initiatives. I can often be found hashing out an idea with my team or other great minds from around the Club. 

I am also a bit of an I.T. enthusiast and love my Excel spreadsheets! With perseverance, I have turned what used to be a weakness into a strength which has in turn helped both businesses significantly. 

MCC Head of Retail and Tours Tarah Cunyngham

You have a diverse team, with many different areas of expertise. What are your top tips for maintaining the team’s morale while we have been away from the Ground?

Communication is key (whether dealing with a worldwide pandemic or not). I try to adapt my style of communication based on who I am speaking with and to treat everyone in my team as an individual. It is also important for me to ensure they are all kept up-to-date with wider Club issues, not just the general ‘day-to-day’ so they understand the importance of the roles they play within the Club. 

I am a strong believer in giving my team responsibility, and the confidence to make their own decisions, with appropriate training and support. They are the ‘experts’ in their field so I let them get on with it. It is a very rewarding part of my role when I see my team develop and progress.

My last tip is to always remain true to yourself and to your personality. I believe it is wonderful when an employee is working to promote their abilities that they take inspiration from others, but I would always encourage them not to simply mimic someone else.

How do you think Retail will change as we adapt to the “new normal”?

I think Retail has, and will continue to, change radically as we adapt to the world as it continues to evolve. We are all consumers. We all Shop online and on the High Street, and we understand and appreciate that expectations have changed drastically in the past few months. The Retail industry has been dealt many blows over the last few years so will have to be one-step-ahead to ensure that it keeps the confidence of consumers. 

Ensuring safe business practises and processes have been implemented is key. From the people in our warehouses, to the consumer walking through the doors, to the teams serving customers at the till, it is imperative that safety is not compromised. Customers are savvy, they will know if this has been skimped on or not. 

Further, consumers will continue to demand their products come from sustainable sources and may decide they would prefer to purchase less, but pay more knowing it has been responsibly soured. 

Having a clear, relatable brand story that connects to our customers is also essential. Earlier this year, MCC launched its new brand and it is exciting to see how this will translate across our product lines when we do return. 

We need to challenge our beliefs that just because something worked well in the past, doesn’t mean it will continue to work when we return. I think we will also see a lot more app-based selling, click-and-collect will become the mainstream and High Street shops will continue to evolve into more interactive and versatile spaces. 

Lord’s Tours are incredibly popular with a normal day welcoming hundreds of visitors through the gates. How do you see the Club modifying its Tours with social-distancing and other guidelines in mind?

Lord’s Tours are unique in the sense that they are all fully-guided by our fantastic Tour Guides and Tour Stewards. This will make it easier for us to monitor and maintain the required social distancing levels, and ensure that personal service and support is available. 

When Lord’s re-opens, I expect we will likely run a smaller number of Tours per day with fewer customers. We can stagger start times and we could consider extending our operating hours to ensure that customers don’t miss out on a visit to the Home of Cricket. 

We are also thinking about ways to engage younger audiences and turn a once-in-a-lifetime Tour of Lord’s into an opportunity to come back time and time again to experience something even more special than their last visit. I believe it will also create a new opportunity for us to launch smaller, faster and more bespoke Tour types, so watch this space!

What life lessons have you learnt from this experience?

Oh, there are so many! However, one of the main ones is to be kind to yourself and let yourself have a bad day if you have one. Tomorrow is another day and we can only control the controllables at the moment. 

I have also learnt to cherish the small things that I am often ‘too busy’ to appreciate. I am communicating more creatively with my family in Australia, I’ve spent quality time learning how to bake and have even shared some of my triumphs with my neighbours (who I barely knew prior to this experience). I’ve learned how to not kill my house plants and have discovered some stunning parks and shops in my local community. In addition to the usual texts, I have sent and received postcards, letters, flowers, cookies and whilst I know these may seem simple, they are meaningful gestures that will stay with me for the rest of my life.