Investing in a leisure programme for staff may sound lavish but it can pay off

Retail is undoubtedly a social career. After all, a shy wallflower won’t make the most brilliant sales assistant and the best sales team will be made up of well-bonded colleagues that know other people’s strengths and weaknesses - a skill learnt both in and outside of work.

Yet for many retailers the extent of their social and leisure calendar for staff extends little beyond the annual Christmas party.

Loyalty scheme

John Lewis offers a social and leisure benefits policy that it knows helps its employees to achieve a good work/life balance, which in turn increases staff loyalty.

The retailer encourages and supports clubs and societies within its business from photography to sailing clubs and also allows groups of partners to apply for funds from the business to undertake once-in-a-lifetime trips, such as mountain biking across the Atlas Mountains or sailing in the British Virgin Islands.

Staff can also get half-price theatre, opera and concert tickets up to a maximum of £60 a year. The retailer also provides financial support for those interested in learning a new skill - whether work related or not.

Majestic Wine organises both formal and informal events that allow its staff to have fun and learn about the product. Majestic Wine human resources manager Rob Oxley says: “In July we appointed a team of regional tasting managers that is responsible for organising regionally based wine tastings and social events for our retail staff to attend outside work hours. This has been a big hit with staff,” he says.

A range of summer events held across the UK followed, including the charter of boats on both the Thames and the Forth, an afternoon’s punting on The River Cam and an evening with a comedy hypnotist.

Organising social and leisure events for staff not only helps bring the team closer but also helps with motivation because staff will feel their employee understands that their free time is as important as their work time. Investing in such programmes in cash-strapped times may seem a luxury that retailers can ill afford, but the benefits can be huge.

And it seems the office Christmas party isn’t dead yet either. “We also have a big Christmas party at a top London venue where we invite all our staff and their partners to thank them for the effort everyone has put into our success,” says Oxley. And this highlights the biggest overall benefits of investing in out-of work-events. As Oxley says: “We feel it is important to say thank you.”


The benefits of a good social and leisure programme include:

  • A better work/life balance for staff
  • Increased loyalty to the retailer
  • Reduced recruitment costs
  • Improved productivity
  • Reduced absenteeism