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Businesses not ready for Games, says retail expert

Olympic-preparedness workshops offered with 37 days left

It's high time local businesses shape up if they want to get maximum benefit from the Olympic Games -so says Christine McLeod who is offering a $30 workshop to as part of the Tourism BC WorldHost Training Services program.

With 37 days until the opening ceremonies, McLeod said she believes staff in the community are not yet at the level they need to be to welcome the world and put Squamish on the map as a welcoming place to visit, stay and shop.

In her effort to get the town's businesses ready, McLeod has partnered with WorldHost Training Services to bring a series of targeted customer service refresher courses to the area.

"The relationship was built because there was a need to educate staff in three areas," she said. "Customer service refresher, an ability to answer questions about the Games as well as accessibility training for assisting customers with disabilities."

McLeod's assessment of the town's general poor level of service comes from an experiment she held three days before Christmas.

Having been in the retail business for over 14 years, she knew that to maximize last minute Christmas retail revenue, these businesses would be at the top of their customer service game, so she popped into 19 locals stores as a "mystery shopper" during the holidays.

She said what she discovered blew her away. In more than half of the stores she was not even greeted. And in the ones where she was greeted it was simply a "hi" or "hi there," with no further conversation unless she initiated it.

In most instances, McLeod said she engaged staff and business owners in conversations about the Olympics, and was a surprise to hear that many businesses were not planning special training, staffing or opening hours for the Olympic period.

"'It's not really going to affect my business,' seemed to be the norm," said McLeod.

McLeod said she believes that while it's true that Vancouver ticket holders will bypass Squamish on buses, there are well over 2,000new temporary residents in the form of VANOC staff and volunteers that are going to be living in Squamish during the Games.

"The folks living on the cruise ship and in the Homestay program are here every day for an extended period of time," she said.

"They will want to go grab a beer at the pub, order takeout, get hair cuts, buy groceries, get gas, maybe buy a book or magazine or clothes. "We really seem to be completely ignoring the business opportunity in meeting their needs and generating incremental revenue for our stores."

To date, McLeod has marketed over 12 sessions in December and January, and Squamish businesses have been at the bottom of the list in terms of enrolling their staff, she said.

"Sechelt, Gibsons and Mt Currie have far outpaced Squamish for registration."

Workshops are being held locally on Wednesday (Jan. 13) 1 to 4:30 p.m., Sunday Jan. 17, 1 to 4:30 p.m., Wednesday Jan. 20, 5:30 to 9 p.m. and Saturday Jan. 23, 9:30 to 1 p.m.

Register online at http://www.impactpeoplepractices.com/pages/workshops.php or by email info@impactpeoplepractices.com.