If you happen to pop into card, gift shop and coffee shop, Papilio at Heritage in Thornbury, Bristol don’t be surprised if you are served by a plucky eight year-old, or spot a nine year-old dressing the window or catch sight of a ten year-old proudly pricing up the cards in the stock room. This is all part of Junior Retail, an innovative ‘young apprentice’ scheme developed by retailer Tabi Marsh, who is now offering the programme out to other retailers to adopt too.
Junior Retail is a training programme that Tabi has created specifically for 7-11 year olds to not only teach them the rudiments of retailing, but also to help youngsters (and their parents) to view retailing as a credible career choice.
Having been involved with running children’s events and Sunday schools for years, and with her mum being a teacher, Tabi was not daunted by the challenge of maintaining the interest of youngsters and encouraging them to learn.
At the start of last summer, having tentatively posted her idea for Junior Retail on Papilio’s Facebook page, the interest was immense, “Over 15 times our normal average engagement. So I had to do it then!” said Tabi.
“I had initially planned that four children between the ages of 7 and 11 would each come in for four hour-long sessions over the summer holidays to learn about different aspect of retail. However, as so many children and parents were interested I increased it to eight children, and had to turn others away. I doubled the kids up for some sessions and for some they were alone. In total I ran 20 hours of sessions across the summer,” says Tabi.
The ‘curriculum’ encompasses four key topics: customer service, the stock journey, business finance/forward planning and marketing.
In the Customer Service session the children put their learning into action by using the till and serving real customers. “They absolutely loved that they were being trusted to do this (obviously we were there guiding them). Customers were very co-operative, impressed that that kids were learning and engaging with a workplace,” explains Tabi.
Greeting cards played a starring role in the Stock Journey session which saw the children learn how to read a delivery note, check the delivery before pricing the cards and then either putting them out on the shopfloor or on the shelves in the stock room. “They loved using a pricing gun as well as bragging afterwards that they had been working in a staff-only area where parents aren’t allowed,” shares Tabi.
For the Business Finance/Forward Planning session Tabi taught them about all the different things businesses have to pay for and the idea of a mark-up. “I think they also left this session with a much greater appreciation of what their parents have to pay for at home too,” she suggests.
As well as creating a window display, the Marketing session saw each child either write a blog or recorded a vlog about their favourite product in the shop, with Redback’s Shine range, Jellycat plush and Brio wooden toys coming in for some special praise. “As part of this the children had to think about what information customers would need to know and how we would photograph the product”, explains Tabi.
At the end of the ‘Apprenticeship’ the children each received a certificate which included a photos of them in action in the shop.
Tabi now hoping to encourage other retailers to instigate similar schemes in their shops.
“It was when other shops, hearing about what I was up to, expressed interest in the scheme that led me to develop the Junior Retailer programme, with its own branding and website (www.juniorretailer.co.uk) that provides session outlines, alternative activity ideas, worksheets, certificates and social media templates are also included,” explains Tabi, who is making a nominal charge £40, but retailers can use the programme as many times as they want.
Top: Tabi Marsh in Papilio’s card department.