Last week David Tustain was crowned the best sales assistant in the UK at Convenience Store’s Sales Assistant of the Year Awards. The judges were blown away by his confidence and efficiency, but it was the journey he has been on to get to where he is today that made his success so poignant.

Six years ago David was, in his own words, “going nowhere”. He had lived life in the fast lane DJing in London, but moved to the Norfolk seaside town of Mundesley in search of a new career.

With no job and no real direction, David took up a three-week unpaid work placement at his local Mace store as part of re-employment scheme Gateway to Work. He had no intention of staying on at the store, but passionate owners Derek and Lou Balding soon changed his mind.

By encouraging David and allowing him to take on new responsibilities as he progressed, Derek and Lou helped him to grow from a shy shelf-stacker to an award-winning sales star. What started with basic facing up and date rotation gradually progressed to category management, ordering, and even running the shop when the owners are on holiday.

And now David not only keeps the store ticking over, but actually comes up with his own ideas to increase footfall and sales, such as moving destination products, like newspapers, to the back of the store and moving more impulsive promotional items to the front.

His confidence has grown dramatically since joining the store, and David has built up a great rapport with all manner of customers. In fact, David racked up a total of 40 customer support letters when he was entering the awards. “Because we’re such a community-based store, the local people have been following David’s progress in the awards and they’ll be really positive about his win,” says store owner Derek. “We’re all really proud 
of him.”

And for David himself, the award has been extremely meaningful. “This award means everything to me, but it’s also for Derek and Lou. They took me on when I wasn’t going anywhere. It’s been six years of them banging their heads together trying to get me to learn things, but it’s been more than worth it. This is my calling. It took a while to find it, but now that I have, I’ll never leave.”