Many years ago, I was a manager in the children’s shoe department of John Lewis at Brent Cross. I was young and childless and couldn’t understand why we hadn’t trained our customers better! I was amazed that they all turned up to buy their children’s shoes and uniforms just hours before they had to go back to school.

Two decades down the line, the situation hasn’t changed, but I understand why. I have two small boys and their feet grow at a rate of knots. That’s why I, like many parents, wait until the last possible moment to buy their winter school shoes, to ensure they won’t grow out of them before they go back to school.

What has changed over the past two decades is our ability to handle a vast influx of shoppers in a short space of time. Fitting children’s shoes is a specialist job and requires one-to-one service. I can remember horrific days when we had customers waiting for hours. Now we have a sophisticated queuing system to give customers the opportunity to browse elsewhere before returning at the right time for their fitting. In the interim, they can shop, eat, or take advantage of the free services we offer during the back-to-school period, such as face painting.

We now train sales assistants from all over the store as shoe fitters. They can then be drafted into the department on a daily or hourly basis to make sure that we meet customer demand at the busiest periods. This takes a huge amount of organisation and has been really well managed by our sales assistants and managers in both shops this year.

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