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Lake District specialist retailer crowned best in the UK
Mark Barnes (left) receives award from OIA chairman, Frank Bennett (centre) with his shop manager, Joseph Cowell (right).
The Climbers' Shop, Oct 2008
A retailer from Ambleside has beaten off competition from around the country to win a prestigious UK award. Mark Barnes of The Climbers Shop in Ambleside has been named as the Outdoor Industries Association's (OIA) Retail Employee of the Year.
Mark, who is deputy manager of the store, was presented with his award during the Outdoor Trade Show (OTS), a trade event for outdoor brands and retailers. Along with the trophy, OIA chairman Frank Bennett presented Mark with a cheque for £1,000 and a holiday for two.
Mark Barnes, 40, is a passionate outdoor enthusiast, with a particular interest in ultra-distance running and mountaineering, and he has worked in the The Climbers Shop for six years. The store was established in 1959 and sells a range of specialist outdoor clothing, footwear, rucsacs and other equipment.
The Retail Employee of the Year award is the brainchild of leading outdoor magazine OCC Outdoor and in 2008 attracted a record number of entries. Retail sales staff were nominated by reps and agents across the country and 40 were selected for a 'mystery shopper' stage. OCC news editor Alistair Phillips co-ordinated the process he and his team covered almost 5,000 miles as they assessed each of the candidates and whittled the list down to three finalists. In the final analysis, Mark Barnes came out on top.
It was tough enough to select the three finalists from the many we visited. What our search has confirmed is something that we already knew, that the standard of service the British public gets in independent outdoor shops is of the very highest standard. There were hardly any candidates who fell sort of being excellent, but Mark was truly exceptional, a worthy winner and The Climbers Shop is lucky to have him.
It's a real honour to receive the OIA Retail Employee of the Year Award. The outdoors is my passion and I try to reflect that in my work, passing on my own enthusiasm to The Climbers Shop's customers. Where I can make a real difference to our customers is by first and foremost listening to them. What I find is that many think that they need a certain type of product for their chosen activity, but something else is actually more appropriate. Because I have developed a good knowledge of kit during my time in the industry, I am able to offer considered advice and steer people in the right direction. I get a lot of satisfaction when those same customers return at a later date, because they appreciate the high level of service that they get here.
The role that frontline staff play is fundamentally important to all retail businesses, so the REYS award is very important to outdoor industry, as it celebrates real excellence. Mark Barnes is an outstanding and very deserving winner, while The Climbers Shop is a shining example of how an independent outdoor retail store should be run, right at the heart of England's outdoor community in the Lake District. These are challenging economic times, but more than ever our industry needs to strive to offer the highest possible levels of customer service, which is why the OIA is delighted to support the REYS.
Congratulations to Mark and to the team at OCC Outdoor for championing independent retailers in our sector.
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