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Online training keeps c-store employees in the know

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Ensuring all employees meet the letter of the law at all times can be a major challenge for busy retailers.

Sajid Mahmood manages two Quickie Convenience Stores in the Ottawa, Ont. area, and between these locations, he has 17 employees. For him, easy access to standardized staff training is essential to ensuring his stores operate within the law.

Because of the challenges of staff training, he’s thankful for the Responsible Retail Training program offered by the Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA). This online training course, offered free to convenience retailers across the country, was developed to help c-store owners and their staff understand their responsibilities as community retailers.

With just a few clicks of the mouse, Mahmood’s employees take part in online training modules, like the well-known We Expect ID program, which teaches them about provincial and federal laws for selling age-restricted items such as tobacco.

Why should you care about training?

Selling age-restricted items to underaged customers is of major concern to Canadian retailers. Failing to comply with the laws can result in severe fines for staff and owners, and can even mean losing the right to sell the products that make up the majority of sales in many convenience stores.

Mahmood agrees that the issue of training is imperative to his store’s sustainability in the future. “It’s very important to train employees properly because tobacco represents a significant portion of my overall sales,” he says.

On top of these legal issues, though, it’s really about being a responsible retailer. “We are the corner store,” says Mahmood. “We are participating in the community. It’s our responsibility not to sell tobacco to underage people.”

From the chain’s perspective

The Quickie Convenience chain employs 300 staff members in 50 c-stores across Ontario and Quebec. “The We Expect ID training has been an invaluable tool,” says Chris Wilcox, Quickie’s vice president and general manager. “For Quickie to invest in a similar online training program would have meant a huge investment that would be difficult for an organization of our size to absorb.”

Now, every store in Quickie’s chain has online access to training, testing and certification, and all in-store team members must successfully complete the program and pass the testing before they can start training on the register, explains Wilcox. The online format helps with efficiency, too. “Being online means we can get new team members trained and tested more quickly than we ever could in the past,” he says.

From the association’s perspective

The CCSA has been offering this training program since 2007, and as Alex Scholten, president of the CCSA says, the benefits for the community and the industry are paramount.

“The primary concern is always that retailers are not selling tobacco to minors. That always needs to be in the back of their minds,” he notes. “It’s their legal obligation, but it’s also their social obligation.”

The Responsible Retail Training course has recently undergone some changes that will allow the association to focus on two key issues in the industry. As of April 1, 2013, only two courses are offered: We Expect ID, which has been updated and freshened, and also a course on contraband tobacco, which will identify what contraband tobacco is so retailers understand what to look out for.

As Scholten says, responsible retailing through training should be every retailer’s focus. “We’ve got responsibilities as community retailers to make sure we’re part of the solution and not part of the problem.”