Valerie Kubala, senior brand manager at Wall's Pastry, jumped at the chance to work a shift in McColl's of Farnham, Surrey, and soon found out that the retail business is not for the faint of heart.

Store manager Liam Wagstaff started the training with a rundown of health and safety procedures. "Generally, I would spend three to four hours going through health and safety before a new staff member could start work. Then I go through the till with them and make sure they understand how to use it properly, before letting them serve customers on their own. This usually takes two or three hours."

He also places a huge emphasis on customer service training for all new employees. "All staff members must know how to treat customers properly before stepping out onto the shop floor. They're representing McColl's when they're dealing with customers and it's important that they do this properly."

Valerie has never worked in retail before so this was a new experience for her. "On an average day I would spend a lot of time in meetings and then working on the advertising plan for Wall's. My job is very busy, but I really enjoy it."

To get staff more motivated about their job, Liam posts the daily takings against last week's on the noticeboard along with key tasks that have to be completed on a daily and weekly basis. "I find that if the staff have something to aim for, they care more about what they're doing and it becomes more than just a job for them."

Once Valerie has familiarised herself with everything that needs to be done that day, as well as checking how the store performed on the same day last week, she sets out onto the shop floor.

Her first task of the day is to re-stock the confectionery shelves, and Liam doesn't make it easy for her. Space has to be found for some new lines that came in that morning and a new planogram has to be followed to make sure that all of the ranges are adequately stocked.

"Even jobs that you would think are straightforward, such as packing shelves, are actually quite complicated," she says. "It's important to get everything in its right spot and watch out for sell-by-dates. The planograms are tricky; a lot of the products look quite similar and it requires a lot of attention to detail."

Before letting Valerie loose on the till, Liam makes sure that she is aware of the company's policy regarding alcohol sales. "If someone doesn't show identification when asked by a member of staff then they are to be refused," he says. "It's important that the staff know this and make a note of any refusals."

Liam has recently branched out into food to go, so Valerie has the chance to show off her cooking skills while in the store.

"We've only had food to go for the past five weeks but it's been very popular, especially in the mornings," Liam says. "We're now looking to expand the range."

After putting some pastries in the oven, Valerie is set on her next task - merchandising the chiller. Even though she makes a beeline for the Wall's range to make sure that it's fully stocked, Liam isn't satisfied until she has given the entire chiller the care and attention that she gives the Wall's products.

When she has finished she goes back to the oven to make sure her food is cooked properly. Once this is done, Valerie lays her products out in the display cabinet where they are eagerly snapped up by hungry customers.

After her stint with an apron, Valerie returns to the shelves and starts merchandising again after the lunchtime rush. "This has to be done every hour-and-a-half to make sure that there's nothing missing on the shelves," she says. "It must be quite tough doing this during a busy period."

As her shift at McColl's comes to an end, Valerie expresses a new appreciation of retailers.

"It's a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. There's so much going on at the same time and you have to remember all the tasks that have to be completed over the course of the day. The staff have to make sure the store is clean and all of the shelves are merchandised. On top of all that, customers have to be looked after as well."

Despite being tired, Valerie has enjoyed her day's work. "I could stay here all week and work. It's interesting to see the industry from a retailer's point of view; usually I only see it from a manufacturer's viewpoint."

Liam is sad to see Valerie go as well. "We could do with having her work here full-time!"