Tina Jackson is a people person. In fact, the manager of Tates Spar in Grantham, Lincolnshire, is so friendly with each and every customer that C-Store has its work cut out trying to tear her away for a few minutes.

"One thing I pride myself on is customer care," she states. "I need staff to be happy and friendly so that customers come back. When..." She's mid-sentence when a new mum enters the store with a small bundle and makes a beeline for Tina. After a few minutes cooing, she tells C-Store: "When there's a rush on then we work quickly to avoid queues, but when it's quieter it's nice to have a conversation with customers and get to know them."

So good is the service that it's even received a royal nod of approval. "Prince Harry came in with his minder and bought a magazine and some gum," grins Tina. "It was a great surprise! I burnt the CCTV footage on to a disc to show [area manager] Dave Parry and [regional manager] Chris Bacon."

And it's not just the likes of Prince Harry who get treated like royalty. Grantham's staff do everything they can to make all customers feel welcome, including helping elderly customers around the store and taking their shopping to the car. "We've even stood outside looking after people's dogs while they shop!" giggles Tina.

Top-notch customer service doesn't just pay off with increased sales; it is also an excellent crime deterrent. "We had a problem with shoplifting when I joined the store three years ago," explains Tina. "At one stage we were having up to three incidents a day. Sometimes it was just a can of beer, but on other occasions it was a bag full."

She set about putting a stop to the problem. "I had several meetings with staff telling them to make sure they say hello to each customer as they come in," she says. "If there was someone they were unfamiliar with, all they had to do was follow them down the aisle and greet them, saying: 'Alright there, can I help you with anything?'." It might not sound like the most obvious way of stopping a shoplifter, but it has done the trick. "Greeting people made them realise they were being watched and put them off trying anything," says Tina.

She also trained staff to be extra vigilant. "I told them to watch out if anyone came in with a big bag and to ensure that they faced products up regularly. It's important to do that so that you notice straight away when things go missing."

Team spirit

To start with, not all employees were prepared to follow Tina's guidelines, even when it came to basic rules such as allowing only the supervisor to cash up the tills. "Quite a lot of staff left when I joined because they weren't prepared to change," says Tina.

Although Tina is determined her staff play by the rules, she is always ready to get stuck in with them. "I wouldn't give my staff any chores that I wouldn't be willing to do myself. They know that they can ring me whenever they need to. I'm very proud of my staff - they would do anything for me and I them."

Tina is especially pleased with the hard work her team have put in to making the food-to-go area a success. "The store was just starting up that side when I joined," she says. "It was doing okay, but there was more potential there, so we really worked on it. We took out the slow-moving lines and ensured that food was always fresh."

Her hard work clearly did the trick. "We're in competition with the McDonald's next door, but customers say they like our products because they aren't processed," explains Tina. "Year on year food to go has traded up 70%."

Regional manager Bacon is so impressed with her efforts he put her up for a Tates Spar award. "I've just won an internal award for being the most supportive manager of the food-to-go section," beams Tina.

It seems that her desire to be hands-on started from a young age. "When I was little me and my sister used to play shops a lot and I always fancied working in one," she laughs. "My mum works for Melton Mowbray Spar and I started off doing a couple of nights a week on the tills there. Before I knew it I was a supervisor, and here I am now as store manager."

With a Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Asda nearby, competition is stiff, but the store is trading up more than 18% year on year. "The store has gone from strength to strength and I'm proud to say it's a real team effort," says Tina
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Tates Spar Grantham,

Bridge End Road, Grantham

Opening hours: 6.30am-11pm, seven days a week

Services: ATM, food to go, Payzone, National Lottery, photocopying

Floorspace: 2,000sq ft