A new wave of highly qualified job applicants is providing independent retailers the chance to fast track training op­portunities and responsibilities.

Economic uncertainty during the Covid-19 pandemic has led to hundreds of thousands of redundancies across the UK, making existing vacancies much more competitive. Explaining the impact of this on the convenience sector, Sun­der Sandher, of One Stop working with Royals in Leamington Spa, told RN he has seen more applications from former office workers.

“Many people are seek­ing jobs where available now. There is an oppor­tunity to utilise them in roles that require more initiative, such as stock management. My concern is that they might leave after six months when a job in their previous industry becomes available. I’d rather employ someone who’s passionate and likely to stay for the long-term.”

Amit Puntambekar, of Nisa Ash’s Store in Fenstanton, Cam­bridgeshire, added that he had received more applications from 16-to- 17-year-olds with high academic grades. He said: “There is an opportunity to give these applicants a chance to manage their own section of the store, but in my experience, those with high academic grades don’t necessarily have the initiative to work in a convenience store. I employ my staff based on their character.”

To increase the likeli­hood of retaining these employees, retail expert David Gilroy advised: “You’ve got intelligent and talented people, which is good, but you need to challenge them intellec­tually. Retail is physi­cal, but also give them challenges such as how to market the store. Trust them with your profit and loss figures as well, so they can suggest how to improve your overheads. They’ll stay if you chal­lenge them like this.”

The University of Surrey has a course on convenience retailing in partnership with the ACS, covering modules such as store manage­ment and wholesale sup­ply. Explaining the boost in job applications to convenience stores, course leader Sabine Benoit said: “If there is a silver lining of the pan­demic, it is that the past couple of months have been a tremendous boost in reputation for the con­venience retailing sector.

“This has led to a shift in the attractiveness of jobs because in insecure times, people tend to prefer stable jobs to retain their living standards in case things get worse. Therefore, it is under­standable that we see a spike in the applications to the convenience sector. I hope that during this crisis, people will experi­ence how exciting con­venience retailing is and what a great career one can make in retailing.”