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Friday, 25 April 2014


From my book Retail Confidential (available via Amazon, etc), a little tale of how I got my hands dirty.......

"Before long, I had entered British Home Stores as a Trainee Manager in Belfast.  In the early 1970s, BHS was seen as the slightly poorer relation to the mighty Marks and Spencer, but still a force in its own right in fresh food and clothing.  After my nine-months training apprenticeship, I was appointed department manager of menswear as well as being becoming the security coordinator, for these were dark days in Belfast, riddled with terrorist incidents including bomb scares and, worse, occasional explosions.  Stores employed security guards at entrances to search customers for incendiary devices and anything else threatening, and it was part of my job to look after this team.  It was a pretty ineffective way to stop terrorists but it was the done thing to give customers the impression that we were thinking about their safety.  It brought a whole new dimension to customer care and it was an experience that helped me to see the humanity necessary for a successful business life.  Tending to customers rigid with shock and bleeding after a bomb exploded outside our shop one afternoon was an extension of customer service that I hope I never have to get involved with again. 
But there were lighter moments.  In fact, to be coarse for a second, I can honestly say that I have shoveled shit for my employer.  On one of the many evacuations we endured following a telephoned bomb scare threat, the police and army contingent brought a sniffer dog to roam the store in a bid to detect explosives.  As the brave dog scrambled around and over the top of counter displays, it decided to stop on my department and do its business.  After the all clear, I grabbed a bin and a shovel and scooped the poop before customers were allowed back in.  So, whenever anyone talks about rolling up sleeves and getting hands dirty, they are talking to an old campaigner here."

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