Theo Paphitis puts the focus on employee wellbeing with credit union for retail

Retailers including John Lewis, Ryman, Debenhams, Iceland and New Look have signed up to the scheme, which is supported by charity RetailTRUST and designed to improve long-term financial management and therefore employee wellbeing.

Former Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis is taking on payday lenders with the launch of a credit union to enable retailers to provide employees with “responsible and competitive” credit and savings options.

The RetailCURe offer, which is supported by the RetailTRUST, launches with retailers including the John Lewis Partnership, Schuch, Pets at Home, Debenhams, Iceland, New Look and Paphitis’s stationery chain Ryman, on board.

He hopes the move will give back control to individuals and change behaviour by providing an infrastructure that encourages saving, improving employee wellbeing as a result.

“A lot of people still don’t have a financial toolbox,” he tells Marketing Week. “When the financial crash happened back in 2008 a huge number of people were disenfranchised and that gap was very quickly filled by certain people [payday loan companies] which I can’t stand.”

READ MORE: Payday loan brands must prioritise emotion as ad scrutiny continues

By working together as an industry Paphitis hopes to provide a long-term, sustainable solution for employees, which in turn will have a positive impact on businesses.

“Lots of retailers give advances and season ticket loans, but this is something the industry as a whole can do a lot better together rather than individually,” he says.

If you can keep your colleagues happy I can guarantee they will keep your customers happy and your customers really will come first by doing that.

Theo Paphitis

Financial pressure has been identified as one of the major causes of stress, anxiety and depression in the UK and personal debt is on the rise thanks in part to the emergence of short-term loan providers, which have been accused of taking advantage of vulnerable consumers. Last year alone debt charity StepChange received a record 600,000 requests for advice, which equates to one person every 53 seconds.

Richard Boland Smith, CEO of the RetailTRUST and non-executive director at retailCURe, says: “We as a charity have historically focused on physical and emotional wellbeing but we realised there was a gap. Financial wellbeing is just as important, because actually a lack of physical and emotional wellbeing is often an output of financial stress.”

RetailCURe offers loans of £500 to £5,000, available over a 6-month to three-year period with interest rates close to 11%, depending upon personal circumstances. Meanwhile, for savings it provides 1% on instant access, 2% on 6-month accounts and 3% on one-year deposits, with a maximum annual saving of £15,000.

It is a not-for-profit financial co-operative so any extra funds the organisation generates will be returned to members.

Employee wellbeing is good for business

Employee wellbeing is high on the agenda for Paphitis, who also owns the Robert Dyas and Boux Avenue retail businesses, because it leads to better service and customer experience, and ultimately has a positive impact on the bottom line.

“For me, the customer never comes first in any of my businesses. My colleagues come first. The reason they come first is because if I keep them happy, they will keep my customers happy. People have enough stress in their lives without having to come to work and us heaping even more on them,” he says.

“If you can keep your colleagues happy I can guarantee they will keep your customers happy and your customers really will come first by doing that.”

Alongside his issue with payday lenders, Paphitis has also taken offence at comments politicians have made about employee wellbeing.

“Employers realise and understand the importance of their colleagues and the people they work with – irrespective of what some half-wit politicians keep saying,” he says.

“We know our biggest asset is our people. We don’t need to be told that by politicians. Businesses are already far more aware and communicative with their colleagues, not just in retail but in the business environment as a whole. We take our responsibilities seriously.”

Boland Smith adds: “There is more engagement now in terms of wellbeing than I’ve ever seen. Not just in retail – it’s top of the agenda for industry. Why? Because the wellbeing of your employees is the wellbeing of your business.”



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