While there are many topics filling my head, one that has stood out recently is the lack of prestige that a job in the retail sector commands.
Why is it that an increasing number of customers ask for a discount on multiple purchases and quibble about alteration charges and postage costs, and yet that same customer will go into an average restaurant, receive average food and poor service, but will pay a 12% service charge that is added to the bill without complaining. For what? For someone to stand and tell them the specials of the day, write down an order and deliver it.
The staff in my store spend hours, and in some cases lifetimes, getting to know a customer, to identify her needs and nurse her through a shopping experience and follow it up with whatever the sale demands, only to be asked at the end for a discount for all of her efforts.
One recent example that really stuck in the craw was when a customer asked the sales assistant for a discount because she knew me at school, as if that was qualification enough.
In these days of tight margins, tough sales and credit crunches, we cannot afford to sell for less. We must not cheapen our offer and we must stand firm.
There is always that very real fear that you offend more customers than you please as she tells her friends of the wonderful deal she struck, and anyway, what is the definition of a good customer? One who shouts the loudest twice a year and demands a discount off her purchases, or the one who comes in religiously every week and buys all of her season’s wardrobe from us?
Hilary Cookson is the owner of womenswear store Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire