Why is it important to take time out from your store?

Bob: Taking time off refreshes you it's as simple as that.

Saqib: I find that when you return from a holiday you look at things differently. For example, if there's a fault with something I've put off fixing, then I'll sort it out in that first week back. It's a good time to get things done because you feel more positive.

Kathryn: It's really a chance to recharge your batteries.

Lesley: When you come back from holiday you see everything with fresh eyes and pick up things such as gaps in stock or areas that need cleaning. Also, if you holiday in a new area you can take a look at other c-stores and pick up any good ideas they may have.

Do enough retailers take holidays?

Bob: No, I'm sure that they don't I don't take enough time off myself.

Saqib: I don't think enough store owners go on holiday, but that's often because they can't find anyone to look after the store for them.

Kathryn: Not all of them. In the past, we haven't managed to get away ourselves because we couldn't find the cover.

Lesley: I think a lot of retailers are in a position where they can't take holiday because they can't get cover.

How often do you take a break from your store?

Bob: I tend to go on one main holiday for two weeks and then a few long weekends.

Saqib: Every three or four months I have a long weekend break, and I take a longer holiday of between one-and-a-half and three weeks annually.

Kathryn: We'd had one weekend away in the past two years, so this year we were determined to have a proper break. It's great to get away for a fortnight.

Lesley: We haven't had a proper holiday for eight years! My husband does our newspaper deliveries in his van and it's very difficult to find someone to replace him as he covers a wide area and people wouldn't know the route.

When is the best time to go on holiday?

Bob: From my point of view it's best to get away between May and August because we employ a number of students and that's when they're usually available to work.

Saqib: January or February are when I tend to go away as it's generally a bit quieter after Christmas. The bank holidays are also a good time. Although the store side of things is busy then, the post office is closed and there are no deliveries or orders to be done.

Kathryn: Either early or late summer is the best time for us to go away. It's too busy to leave the store in July and August when the kids are off school.

Lesley: If we were to go away, then February would be a good time for us because it's a quieter month.

Who do you get to cover for you when you go away?

Bob: I'm very lucky as my sister Margaret helps run the store and she's very capable. If she isn't available for any reason, then I make a list for the other staff of everything that needs to be done each day and who needs to do it.

Saqib: I get my younger sister and my dad in to help. They have a daily list of jobs to work through, which also tells them things like what time each member of staff's shift ends.

Kathryn: We have an assistant manager and we provide her with bullet points on what we would normally do throughout the day.

Lesley: We have someone who can cash up in our absence and we used to write a rota of responsibilities for staff, but most of them have been with us for quite some time so now everyone knows what to do. We just leave them a sales target and let them take care of it.

Would you ever use a stand-in manager?

Bob: I've never needed to consider it as I've always had long-term staff members to cover for me.

Saqib: I wouldn't trust someone I didn't know. With the post office we have relief when we go away the people come recommended so I'm happy to use them. If there was a good system set up like this for c-stores then I might consider using it.

Kathryn: Everyone's shops have different systems, so I'm not sure I'd be happy to use a relief worker.

Lesley: We've talked about it, but the newspaper deliveries are always a stumbling block. However, we are talking about going into relief work ourselves when we retire.

Do you check up on staff to make sure they are doing a good job?

Bob: I'll speak to my sister every day when she's left in charge, partly for a chat and partly to make sure everything is running smoothly at the store.

Saqib: I normally log in to our computer system via remote access to see what's happening.

Kathryn: My assistant manager calls me every couple of days, just to reassure me that everything's okay and to run through any queries.

Lesley: I don't check up on staff, but I do leave my mobile on just in case anyone has any issues.

Have you ever returned from holiday to find any problems?

Bob: No we've got it off to a fine art! Lots of my staff have been here a long time, so everyone knows what they've got to do.

Saqib: There are usually a few issues, such as if a member of staff takes ill, or shortages on a delivery, but nothing major.

Kathryn: The last time we came back, Londis had put in a new flow through system for our fresh category and it was chaos because it crashed. But it wasn't our assistant manager's fault at all and she coped really well.

Lesley: My staff tend to deal with any problems.