SHOPPING: Staff skills could be key

I'm sure we all hope that Alnwick's shops are not devastated by the internet, new out-of-town stores near the A1 and all manner of other issues.

There is, however, one threat that is entirely under an owner’s control, namely a lack of basic retailing skills among their staff.

In the recent past, one Alnwick shop assistant told us they did not have what we wanted, but we then found exactly the same item on their shelf under a different brand name (checking the manufacturer code style on the packet gives it away – same font and the code had all but one letter the same).

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Worse still, an assistant in another store told me to go on the internet for another product on my shop local list, as ‘it was not worth the trouble of them getting it in for me’. Having done so, I discovered that the shop could have bought it online itself, had me collect it none the wiser and made £14 on the turn.

Although there are many Alnwick assistants who are invariably friendly and helpful, others seem unaware of the importance of building loyalty, how to up-sell, offer related items and all the other techniques that were ingrained into Victorian retail apprentices.

These are skills that could make the difference between survival and another empty premises.

Maybe the Chamber of Trade needs to offer evening courses.

Dudley George,