Staff recruitment and retention is the biggest challenge facing all those operating in the small store sector, according to Newshops chief executive Jeremy Symonds.
Speaking at the first Grocer4Independents roadshow, held at the Bristol Hilton earlier this month, Symonds said: "The number one focus on my agenda is our people."
And having the right staff in stores was the most critical factor in successful convenience retailing, said Symonds. He explained that surveys show most customers put friendly service at the top of their list of criteria for what makes a good store.
Speed and efficiency of that service was the second biggest priority, availability was rated third, range rated fourth, and price came in fifth. Symonds told an audience of local manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers: "Most convenience shoppers are in the c-store for less than a minute. In that time staff are the critical factor. A good manager makes a good store."
Such issues are more acute if, like Symonds, your business operates more than one shop. He said a key part of Newshops' personnel strategy was to make sure staff were well trained, with all new starters taking part in the same comprehensive programme.
The Bristol-based chain also has a policy of promoting from within where possible, with good staff climbing into supervisory and management positions. It also offers staff inhouse training, as part of a lifelong learning programme, and the option of taking part in NVQ courses.
n All retailers are focused on ways of growing same store sales, Symonds said. Newshops was suceeding, with like for like growth of 3% in the past year, thanks to its focus on category management, particularly in the areas of news and magazines, and confectionery, he added.