Shop managers from charities Rennie Grove Hospice Care and Willen Hospice have spent two days at John Lewis High Wycombe as part of a six-month course designed to expand their business knowledge and skills.
The course, developed by Bucks New University, The Clare Foundation and John Lewis High Wycombe, is aimed at ensuring shops belonging to the charities are as effective as possible, and focuses on aspects including leadership skills, managing volunteers, and visual merchandising.
Called The Voluntary Academy for the Retail Sector, the latest aspect focused on merchandising and customer service, with course attendees learning about all areas of the discipline with Dee Siberini, Visual Merchandising Partner, Ollie Kerner, Section Manager at John Lewis High Wycombe, and colleague Kate Knights, a Sales Assistant.
Dawn Stokoe, Community Liaison Coordinator at John Lewis High Wycombe, said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to share our expertise in merchandising and customer service with an enthusiastic and responsive group of shop managers and staff from Rennie Grove Hospice Care and Willen Hospice.”
Delegates learned about colours and their associations, as well as the importance of using depth and height to best effect in window dressing. They created their own displays as talking points before touring the shop floor to find examples.
Shop managers said the session gave them the confidence to be adventurous with colour. Claire Fazekas, Manager of Rennie Grove’s Tring shop and bookshop, said: “We enjoyed learning about the colour wheel and the colours which go together.
“John Lewis did a really good job in adapting their customer service training to make it applicable to our charity shops. It was great to see that, whether you are serving a customer in John Lewis or Rennie Grove, it’s all about interacting with the customer, finding out how you can help them and making sure the customer has a great experience in your shop and hopefully ends up purchasing lots of things!”
Director of Retail & Trading at Rennie Grove, Deborah Gould, added: “From my point of view the whole training has been a fantastic experience, getting the managers out of their shops and often out of their comfort zone too. They’ve also had chance to meet and work with like-minded people from another charity, sharing ideas and experiences. Managers go back to their shops with added confidence and enthusiasm as a result.”
Rennie Grove’s 24 shops and other retail initiatives are tasked with bringing in over £2 million every year towards the charity’s unique 24/7 responsive nursing service in patients’ homes.
“The Academy has provided an excellent opportunity for our shop managers to maximise the income-generating potential of their specific shop, added Deborah,” which will be crucial in helping us reach our target.”
The Voluntary Academy for the Retail Sector is funded by Health Education Thames Valley and supports work in the private, voluntary and independent sectors.
For more details on becoming involved with The Retail Academy for the Voluntary Sector email Dr Rebecca Chandler-Wilde of Bucks New University at firstname.lastname@example.org