theo, paphitis, iaa, independent, achievers, academyShelfstacker is a pejorative word. Pejorative is an adjective that is used to indicate a word with a disparaging connotation. When I say that shelfstacker is a pejorative word, I am not saying that people should not stack shelves or keep stock keeping units free from dust. What I am saying is that no true retailer should ever wish to employ shelfstackers.

At the Independent Achievers Awards last week, Theo Paphitis, retailer and entrepreneur, asked the audience of local shopkeepers and trade suppliers who the most important person in his Ryman business was? “The customer”, said many. “My staff”, said Theo.

Retail is fantastic, he said. As a youth, Theo learned about life and about business by running his school tuck shop. When the teachers complained to him about crisp wrappers littering the playground, he paid youngsters in crisps for every 25 packets they picked up. Where did he get the crisps from? From his supplier, who provided free stock once it understood his purpose.

Retail is about working with your suppliers and keeping shoppers happy. It is not about stacking shelves. Mr Paphitis believes retail jobs are great jobs and he promotes them. “Retail is a career; we are NOT shelfstackers!”

We all know what the word means – staff who lurk around in the stock room or packing shelves when there is a queue at the tills. However, what sort of retailer would allow his staff to behave in this way. If they are behaving in this way, it is because the retailer has failed to share his or her vision with his staff – the “why” they are in business.

Why are you in business? What would your staff say if a stranger asked them? Or a friend? Great local retailers know how to answer this question. They love to be asked about what their shops do and how they help. They believe in the “why” local shops are better.