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Christmas 2011 crucial for shopfloor staff

Shopfloor staff will be under increased pressure to offer the highest level of customer service this Christmas and ensure maximum takings over the next five weeks, a leading voice in retail training has said.

After a tough 2011 on the high street and with gloomy forecasts for the year ahead, retailers will be more reliant on strong sales this festive period to boost turnover and hit Christmas targets.

Jane Rexworthy, head of the National Skills Academy for Retail, said: “We are a country in a recession and industry itself has predicted it will be a difficult Christmas.  Because we’re coming out of a tough year the amount of staff retailers will take on is quite different from previous years.

“Consumers can go online and have it on their doorstep within a week so for retailers to be successful they must make sure their most important tool is their staff.

“There has never been a more important year to have absolutely the right people who can understand the products, consumer needs and can supply those needs.”

With the countdown to Christmas on, thousands of temp staff are being hired – many with little or no retail experience at the busiest time of year.  According to the British Retail Consortium, 54% of retailers plan to take on extra staff for the holidays.

Rexworthy added: “It may be easy for retailers to avoid investing in training for staff who will only be working for a few months, but customers expect a certain level of service in their chosen store.”

The National Skills Academy provides one day customer service training, covering everything from first impressions to complaint handling.

Heathrow Retail Academy trains staff to supply the airport’s busy retailers. Academy manager, Karima Sakhi, said they encourage employers to up-skill staff so passengers are left with a memorable airport experience. She said having the academy on site means employees can attend courses easily ahead of heavy trading periods like Christmas.

The Fashion Retail Academy offers on-site bespoke training in customer service to all retailers.

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