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What Does a Supermarket Trainer Do?

I meet with business owners both locally and internationally and share what I learn to help readers generate more income.

A supermarket trainer helps coach excellent customer service skills to new employees.

A supermarket trainer helps coach excellent customer service skills to new employees.

Trainers in Supermarkets

As a customer, you'll rarely see a supermarket trainer, but the results of their hard work are evident when your experience in the supermarket goes smoothly. So what exactly does a trainer in a supermarket do? I'm glad you asked, and I have the answer because I was a trainer in the UK.

If you're thinking I showed people how to operate the cash register; I only rarely did this as it was normally left to the managers of that department. Although if asked to, I could and did on occasion. This was below my pay scale, so my manager didn't want me doing this unless no one else was available. My role involved health and safety training, new recruit training, and generally making sure managers were keeping up with the training of the staff in their departments. A store trainer works as part of the human resource team or, as they used to be called, personnel.

I worked for one of the major supermarkets in the UK and in our store we had two full-time trainers. Both of us were multi-skilled in the store and had worked in several different departments and, if necessary, could fill in if required. Between the two of us, the only departments we hadn't worked in were the gas station, the cash office, and the pharmacy.

Teaching Customer Service Skills

We all know when we get poor customer service but do you stop to think about how often you get good customer service? I was hired as a trainer because my customer service skills were excellent. I put this down to growing up in the USA, where customer service is or was very good. When I arrived in the UK in the early '80s, customer service was nonexistent. They would merely ring up the purchase and put their hand out for the money. It was shocking.

One of my roles as a trainer was to ensure the staff always provided good customer service. I was often seen discreetly near a checkout or around a corner with a clipboard ticking off a form for all the team who had contact with customers. At the cash register, this is always checked as well. Besides remembering all the codes of various fruits and vegetables, the attendant should be able to ring through 19 items a minute while being pleasant and carrying on a conversation with the customer.

The information I gathered on the employee for their customer service performance went into their folders for the twice-yearly performance report, which their manager does. Often it was the manager who would request a check. This could have been from a telephone complaint, or they felt the employee wasn't working as well as they could. If this was the case, their manager sent them to the other trainer or me for a refresher course.

New employees must be competent in a number of areas in order to deliver positive results for the store.

New employees must be competent in a number of areas in order to deliver positive results for the store.

Training New Employees

With new recruits, there were four 4-hour sessions in the evening to train them. The first night was a general introduction as to how the store works and having these new employees sign papers, and ease them into the company. The next two nights were health and safety training. Although specific departmental safety procedures would later be given once they began working. The final night was about merchandising, which, believe it or not, included things such as how to stock shelves. You might think, 'what's to know?', but you would be surprised how many people put a can on the shelf with the label pointing the wrong way. There are also rotation issues which, of course, have to be followed to make sure the customer gets fresh food and nothing is left behind, which may be out of date and cause a loss for the company or a hefty fine.

During the training sessions, the recruits are asked to sign a lot of forms confirming they have been trained in certain procedures. This shows due diligence on the store's part that we have trained them; it is covering the company from potential problems, including litigation. Also, training about age restrictions on products as everyone is expected to be able to use the cash register if called upon. Some of these restrictions are on products you know and others you may not be aware of.

The chart below shows the age restrictions for the UK.

ProductMinimum AgeOther Notes






Including alcopops




Aerosols and paints






Lighter refills



Magazines, video games, DVDs

Age restrictions on packs


Christmas crackers





no more than 16 aspirin, unless at a pharmacy then it's 32

Lottery Tickets



New Employees

The new recruits we saw ranged from 16-year-olds who just wanted to work a few hours after school and people in their 50s who had been made redundant. There were also mothers who wanted a job now that their kids had gone to school and others who just needed a second income to make ends meet. In other words, anyone and everyone. Some were grateful to have been hired, and others felt working in a supermarket was beneath them and weren't slow to tell people sitting near them.

On the first night, the people were all given uniforms which they were to try on and bring back the following night if they needed a different size. Keeping everyone clothed was also the role of the trainer. The uniform included shirts/blouses or polo shirts. Women could choose trousers or skirts. Hats and shoes (safety shoes) were also provided. Items specific to the department, such as aprons, gauntlet-styled oven gloves, or coats, were the responsibility of the department but had to be ordered by us.

Our clothing supply was large, so if someone needed something immediately, we normally had it. We had to keep records of who had what because some people would want more than their fair share. We always had to have the uniform or shoes returned to us to send back to the company. In fact, there are stories around the lunch room table that someone was watching a documentary about Africa, and lo and behold, some people were wearing used store uniforms in that remote village. The reason these are sent away or destroyed is someone could put on one and enter a store as an employee.

A view from supermarket security cameras

A view from supermarket security cameras

Checkout Staff Training

If employees were working hours when the store was open, they all had to know how to work the cash register. Many of the department managers hated this because their staff could be called away at any time. Although a customer just wants to get through the checkout quickly, there is a lot of politics that goes on behind the scenes of which department the checkout staff would headhunt. It never led to physical fighting, but I can tell you there were strong words spoken in the personnel department regarding this.

A cashier is the last person you'll probably see at the grocery store. If the customer's experience wasn't a good one, or they are generally having a bad day, the cashier will usually hear about it. Don't get me wrong, most customers are okay, but some are just disagreeable.

A cashier has the right to refuse service to anyone and is taught about calming a potentially volatile situation. The cashier also has security buttons they can press, and not only will security be there but also most of the male staff. The cashier can press these if they feel threatened or feel there is a potential for robbery.

A cashier can also refuse to serve people who are drunk or under the influence of drugs. Also, if they have sores around their mouth, they will not be sold any aerosols as this is one of the signs of aerosol abuse. I personally know of a cashier who refused to sell five cans of hairspray to a teenager. She exercised her due diligence and was right to do this. The teenager's mother telephoned the store angrily as she was a hairdresser and needed those cans. The staff explained why and she understood and came to purchase them herself.

Fire safety training

Fire safety training

Fire Safety Training

During the initial health and training lessons, the recruits are required to watch a video about fire safety. It is quite a dramatic one as it shows one of our stores on fire. Then it discusses the role they have to play to get the customers and themselves to safety. This includes securing the cash registers before leaving. They are required to watch this video and go over the fire safety lessons at least twice a year. This is a necessary part of the trainer's role, to show that we have performed our due diligence to keep everyone safe in the event of a fire.

It isn't just fire safety, though; the staff is also trained on what to do in case of a robbery or bomb alert. During the time I worked there, the preparation for a bomb alert was only for management and office staff (letter bomb training).

You might think that after people have been there for some time, they would know automatically about safety procedures and be alert to hazardous situations. Alas, this isn't so. I had one incident where a man, I'll call him John (not his real name), was standing with one foot on the ladder and the other on the racking getting something from a top shelf in the storeroom. I walked over to him, as I didn't want to call him and make him fall. He was approximately seven feet up over a concrete floor. Only when I reported this to my superior, the head of human resources, did I learn this wasn't the first time. He had fallen doing something similar and had tried to sue the company. His father, who also had worked for the company, did the same thing. Needless to say, John was brought back in for further training, and all of this was added to his files.

Staff Theft

At various times, the staff would be searched. This was done normally when they had finished a shift. A minimum of two people, one being a part of the management team, would ask them to remove everything from their pockets. Sometimes these were random checks, but more often than not, it was when theft was suspected. Although the employees were told about some of the cameras in the store, some people forget. For example, there are cameras in the alcohol aisle, health and beauty (think how expensive makeup is), near batteries and razors, the meat aisle, cigarettes, and pharmacy. A cashier may be suspected of being light-fingered if their register comes up short repeatedly. They are placed at a certain register which has a camera directly above. When I worked there, the camera was so good you could read a label on a package from the monitor in the store manager's office. When working, the employees were only allowed to have a pen, a cutter (for opening boxes), and tissues in their pockets; everything else was kept in a locker.

Career Advancement

Besides the day-to-day paperwork, I would organize training for staff which might be held at different stores all over the country. The departments had to keep up with their training, and I would book them onto various courses. These could include training specific to their department, first aid training, or training for those who wish to advance in their career with the company.

I did this job for 18 months and enjoyed it, but at times it seemed more about watching that everyone was following the correct procedures to keep the company from being sued than training. For me, I missed the interaction with the customer and being out on the floor. When there was an opening for a department manager in the restaurant, I applied and got it. This was the next step up in the hierarchy of the company.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do you develop a supermarket employee?

Answer: Ours began with a four-day training session. All new employees had to have health and safety training, there was also marketing training and customer service. Then once that training was completed they would have training specific to their department. That was continual. There was also the option to have training in multiple departments. For the eager employee, that could mean more hours.

© 2016 Mary Wickison


Mary Wickison (author) from USA on November 05, 2019:

Hi Oya,

Many times the training is done within the company. In the organization I was in, they were willing to send people on training courses to help them improve their skills.

Some of these were specific to the business and others were courses in first aid.

Oya Torum on November 05, 2019:

i would like to learn employee career deveplopment to obtain retention

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on November 03, 2016:

Hi Nell,

I was hoping to shed some light on the role as so many people don't even realize there is such a position.

Lovely to hear from you.

Nell Rose on November 03, 2016:

Great info and interesting too! this is going to be so useful for anybody looking to start this job!

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on October 27, 2016:

Hi Dora,

I think the same could be said for many unseen occupations. Although our contact may be with just one person, the team behind that person can be large. When everyone pulls together, things can run smoothly.

Thanks for your support.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on October 26, 2016:

Hi Bob,

I couldn't agree more, although it has been some time since I have been in the US. I have had good customer service in the UK, and when it happens you notice it because its a rare occurrence.

Thanks for reading.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 26, 2016:

Thanks for walking us through the training process. Trainers ought to be commended for the hard work they do to make the customer's experience pleasant.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on October 25, 2016:

Hi Marlene,

Yes, unless someone has done the same role, they have no concept of what is involved in any line of work. When people speak badly about a manager or superior, they don't know the bigger picture of what the role entails or why certain decisions were made.

When something as simple as a trip to the store goes smoothly, it is because everyone is following the procedures and working as a team.

Thanks for your visit.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on October 24, 2016:

There is always more to a job than we could ever imagine. I'm tired just reading about a day in the life of a supermarket trainer. I think I'll just stick to shopping at the supermarket. But, now, I have a feeling I will be more aware of the trainers, cameras, etc. Great article. I enjoyed learning what such a position entails.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on October 24, 2016:

Hi Bill,

I enjoyed the time I spent there because I felt I made a difference. For many people, going to the supermarket is their only contact with people during the day. Many of the customers we knew by name and they came in daily.

How can you not love a job when the people you serve, leave with a smile?

Thanks for reading and your continued support.

diogenes from UK and Mexico on October 24, 2016:

Shopping is a much nicer experience in the USA!

Interesting article


Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 24, 2016:

Another side of you, Mary, I did not know. You have lived a full and interesting life, my friend. I've worked retail many years and the job you describe is a very important one . . . customer service, in my mind, is crucial for success.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on October 24, 2016:

Hi AJ,

That is true, when we leave an establishment after having great service, we feel special. Imagine the power that customer service reps have to make people feel like that.

Thanks for reading.

AJ from Australia on October 23, 2016:

A nice reminder that we should be grateful and kind. Excellent service can make your day, just as poor service can break it.