One thing which hasn’t changed much over the past three years which I have been here are the shops. Well the outward appearance at least. Inside I must confess that there are signs of more choice, especially with items which might not perish in our warm temperatures here.
McVities Chocolate biscuits and Gingernuts have been very thin on the ground but recently we are seeing good supplies of them albeit at around 30% more than the UK prices.
Buying anything perishable is a lottery anywhere in the world.....but buying perishables which have to sit in the hold of a ship for up to 8 weeks is even more so. The local food stores do their utmost to keep up with demand and seasons but with only one ship a month its touch and go. One year the Easter Egg delivery arrived in July!
Because of this and the small population here, shops have a hard time making a good profit, just like the hospitality sector, they suffer from low customer numbers, many of whom have a very low income. This will obviously change with the times although I think its going to take another year or so.
Outside, the shop appearances could be mistaken for something from another era with many of them taking the names of pubs for some reason. In Jamestown there are three main “supermarkets” The Star, The Rose and Crown and the Queen Mary. There is also a DIY store which has a trade section at the back to assist the many building projects going on at the moment.
We also have one food store which specialises in health food items and UK branded products such as Yorkshire Tea and Wessex mill bread flour.
Out of town there are dozens of small stores which look after those who don’t want the trek down ladder hill to Jamestown. These are usually people’s homes and so unless you know where to find it, you can drive right past!
Fresh vegetables, meat and fish are purchased in the local market which is looking forward to a massive face lift over the next few months in the form of new shopping area with new lighting and refrigeration.
One of the big advantages of shopping on St Helena is that all parking on the island is currently free! How long this is going to carry on for who knows.
Disadvantages include the fact that sometimes we run out of things and the time to get something sent from the UK is in the region of 6 to 8 weeks. This is especially difficult when thinking about car parts as there is probably one of every car in Britain on this island.....Oh we have no Mercedes yet!
The past months have been pretty frantic with the whole team assisting anywhere on the island where there are people who are willing and able to be trained. We have covered many subjects; some practical and others more legislative, such as fire training and the food safety training which eventually saw over 200 people successfully achieve accreditation.
I have been focusing on training customer service via the world famous “Fish” training programme.
Having now run this training more than 25 times I am forever surprised by the fantastic response this training gets from all levels of staff. Another thing which I love about the sessions are that they never follow a set pattern as the sessions are about getting as much participation from the group as possible.
The training hinges on a film of a group of workers at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle and how their business thrives. They do this by making sure the day is fun packed and customer focused by following four principles: Play, Be there, Make their day and Choose your attitude.
The training is fast moving and participative which means that interest levels remain high and we have commitment to continue with the principles once out of the classroom.
125 customer facing staff have completed the training in July and August. Now comes the follow up which will mean checking standards within the workplace.