Another open letter for all you lovelies this week. If you read my column regularly, which I trust you do, you will have worked out that I have been involved in numerous businesses over the years. The life of an actor is a transient and peripatetic one and you often find yourself working in an environment you know nothing about. Such was the case when I ran a wine shop for a while. Now, wine is obviously something I know a great deal about, from a drinking perspective that is. However, running a shop was completely alien to me. I soon got the hang of it though, as just like running a restaurant, you have to pick things up pretty quickly if you are to survive. So on that note, from what I have witnessed recently, here is my two penneth for those in the industry. As an aside, I am thoroughly enjoying this little series and am already thinking of future letters. Next one may be for Hula Dancers. Watch this space.

Dear shopkeepers,

I, more than anyone understand the importance of such terms as GP, RPC, PM and ADA, and I concur, they are important. But it is all too easy to get bogged down with numbers and forget that shops are about people, and essentially about making them happy. There is a reason shopping is referred to as retail therapy you know. Think about it. How good does it feel to strut along Sliema seafront proudly displaying that stunning new pashmina for all to see? And I cannot tell you how many times I have nearly been run over as I crossed the road looking down to admire my fabulous new shoes. 

People love shopping, it is a fact. One proven by the statistic that nearly thirty-thousand people are employed in the retail industry in Malta, no small number. Sadly, from personal experience, it often feels like roughly twenty-nine thousand of them received no training at all. So here are three simple pointers for those of you struggling with your keystone pricing. 

  1. Staff training. It has to be top of the list. If you want people to return to your store, the person selling to them has to know what they are doing. Good customer service and product knowledge are the two biggies here. Your staff may have a bad back or be preoccupied with the sequinned ball they have planned for the evening. But, if they cannot smile and give a customer their full attention at all times you have employed the wrong person, my dear. And for goodness sakes, take the time to inform them about the product they are selling. In detail. There is nothing more infuriating than hearing the three little words “I don’t know” when making a sales enquiry. Well, jolly well find out. People work very hard to earn their money, you ought to make it very easy for them to spend it. 
  1. This almost sounds too obvious to mention, but I feel compelled to say it. As I always told my staff, “A clean shop is a happy shop”. I cannot tell you the number of times I have walked out of a clothing store as it resembled nothing more than a jumble sale that had been ransacked by toddlers. And I am not just talking about the shop floor, your back of house area should be well-organised too. Staff need to be able to find a product quickly and easily to avoid a walkout. People are becoming more time conscious in Malta as the traffic worsens on a daily basis. Do not leave them standing like lemons, they will leave.  

3) Finally. Have some fun! Inject some of your personality into your store. Think about what your perfect shopping experience would be if you went into a store like yours and incorporate it. You love fish I hear you say? Marvellous. Install a tropical fish tank. Adore baking? Hand out complimentary cupcakes every Friday. Whatever it takes to make you stand out from the crowd. Shops these days have become interchangeable. Make yours a place that your staff are going to be happy spending the vast majority of their lives in, and your clients are going to want to return to, and bring their friends with them. Trust me, your KPI’s will shoot through the roof. 

I know how difficult retail can be. Long hours, frustrating clientele, (whoever coined the phrase ‘the customer is always right’ had never worked in a shop), the constant worrying about margins. But spend some time and money getting a few simple things right and everyone will be happy. Staff, customers, and more importantly you. 

On that note, I am off to find my wallet, as the silk dressing gown I saw yesterday in my favourite shop window is calling me.

All the best, 



Benjamin Milton

Benjamin is a writer and actor who spends his time pirouetting between London and Malta. He was inexplicably drawn to the silver screen at a young age, and has seen more films than have been made. He will talk of nothing else given half a chance, so be prepared if you bump into him at Geo F Trumper in St. James having his moustache trimmed. His biggest indulgence is his fine collection of New & Lingwood silk dressing gowns, which is growing at an alarming rate. He looks fabulous in them

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