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Staff passion makes retail extraordinary

The British Shops and Stores Association (BSSA) is constantly reminding government of the importance of retailing to the UK economy. Of the UK population, 11% work in retail and associated distributive trades, and the industry contributes about 8% of GDP.

For too long there has been a perception that retail is a ‘career of last resort’. For anyone watching the television programme on the phoenix-like reopening of the Dorchester branch of Woolworths as Wellworths in Dorset, that description seems inappropriate. Here was a close-knit team determined to resurrect the business because they had self-belief and the courage of their convictions.

Not only was I struck by the team spirit, but also the retail disciplines and standards in such areas as visual merchandising that were second nature - second best was simply unacceptable.

While passion is no sinecure for running a profitable operation, I suggest that however good the retailing attributes and skills of your team are, without a passion for the art of retailing that elixir that transforms the ordinary into something special and memorable will always be
missing. The assortment of shops today is predictable and dull.

What a delight it is to enter a shop that shows itself off with pride, where you feel all the staff could be shareholders. This is not only the preserve of the very best independent retailers - there are also some outstanding brands out there that possess that same electricity.
It shows that despite its demise, the heritage of brands such as Woolworths can live on in their staff, and there must be many of them seeking employment right now - that is both a tragedy and an opportunity.

  • John Dean is chief executive of the British Shops and Stores Association

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