What's it like inside THG, one of Manchester's biggest - and weirdest - companies?
'There was a DJ about three metres away from my ear playing house music and loads of 21-year-olds running around drinking prosecco'
Good afternoon Millers — and brace yourselves. Because we’re going into the strange world of THG, one of Manchester’s most successful businesses, an enormous online retailer that sells makeup and protein shakes.
This is a company whose CEO, Matt Moulding, used to post shirtless pictures on Instagram. Moulding is worth £700 million, which makes him one of the city’s wealthiest people and a stunning entrepreneurial success story. But get this: two years ago, he was worth £1.4 billion after THG became the largest float on the London Stock Exchange for almost a decade, with a market capitalisation of more than £5 billion.
The financial press has been awash with stories about THG ever since — breathlessly chronicling the stock’s collapse (Moulding’s empire has lost around 90% of its value) and the CEO’s sometimes-eccentric theories about who has been to blame for his undoing (journalists and hedge funds, mainly). Granted, things can be pretty weird at THG but the firm is still going, selling hundreds of millions of pounds worth of beauty products each quarter and employing more than 8,000 workers at its vast office complex next to Manchester Airport.
So last week, we started thinking: What’s it like to work for THG? Or, even better, what’s it like to work there on Black Friday, the biggest sales day of the year? To find out, Mollie spoke to former staff members and lingered near the company’s office chatting to staff as they left work. They told her about staff camping underneath their desks, choirs turning up at the office to motivate the troops and entire walls covered with screens showing the company’s sales figures.
Or as one person put it:
I was really trying to concentrate and there was a DJ about three metres away from my ear playing house music and loads of 21-year-olds running around drinking prosecco.
A spokesperson for THG said staff are not allowed to sleep under their desks and told us:
Black Friday is the busiest trading period of the year for the entire retail industry, THG included. We make no apologies for striving to deliver the best outcome for our customers, while providing a supportive culture for our colleagues.
As always, this edition is a members-only affair, but non-paying Millers can read the top of the story and will hopefully subscribe to read the rest and get all of our members-only journalism. Our members support our work, read all of our stories and get to ask us pointed questions at our members’ events, which will be ramping up in the new year. You never know, we might even persuade Moulding to appear…
We’ve welcomed more than 50 new members in the past week since publishing our investigation into Yale Housing Association, and on Wednesday they got a great editor’s edition from Joshi which included an update on local council finances, fantastic news for the Portico Library and a teaser from an expert on electric vehicles: Has Elon Musk chosen the Oldham/Rochdale Atom Valley for his new gigafactory? If you’re not a member yet, do subscribe to read all of that and today’s story.
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What’s it like inside THG on Black Friday?
By Mollie Simpson
“This weekend is our most hugest event, it’s our largest event,” says a web developer I bump into as she leaves work. English may not be her first language but who cares: you don’t need perfect prose to communicate just how big Black Friday is at THG, the online retail giant that employs thousands of people next to the airport.
The next day, it’s 10am on a cold, sunny morning and the sprawling business estate is swarming with young women with perfect hair and tasteful athletic clothing. Five of them huddle at petrol station M&S clutching tiny salad pots and talking about KPIs (Key Performance Indicators — startup jargon for targets you have to hit each month, and especially this month).
Inside the offices, extravagant office perks are being laid on to keep everyone motivated: DJs, a choir, free haircuts and arts and crafts. If the adrenaline rush of working at one of the country’s largest online retailers on Black Friday isn’t enough to help you hit your KPIs, you can get doughnuts delivered to your desk and free meals all day.
“The buildup is stressful,” a MyProtein employee tells me. “But the actual Black Friday is fun.”