Published on 31st July 2013

A business owner from Cheltenham has been shortlisted in the ‘Retail Learner of the Year’ category of this year’s National Skills Academy for Retail’s Rising Stars Awards.

She will now get the chance to meet Theo Paphitis, long time star of the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, Chairman of Ryman Stationery and Robert Dyas and founder of the lingerie brand Boux Avenue, at a star-studded ceremony in central London.

Sam Malvern, 25, runs ‘Inside Out’ a gift shop on Bath Road that she bought from her Godmother in August 2012. But despite a successful background in marketing and studying Business Management at university, the challenges of running an independent retailer in a difficult economic climate meant she sought the retail management training that would make Inside Out competitive.

Signing up with Acorn Skills Shop, Sam began WorldHost customer service training and The National Skills Academy for Retail’s Guide To Successful Retailing courses. The benefits were immediate: “Good customer service can be the difference between making a sale or not. Now I go the extra mile for my customers. They remember this and return. I’ve seen how customers are becoming loyal, saying how friendly and helpful we are,” she says.

“As a relatively inexperienced business lady taking over a retail business at a struggling time, I grabbed every opportunity to learn and improve the way my business works. And thanks to the training I’ve received over the last ten months, customers have noticed the changes and it has reflected in increased sales,” says Sam.

All the training and support has been funded by Cheltenham Borough Council, thanks to a grant from the Innovation Fund. From the grant of £100,000 a total £20,000 has been put aside for the training programme. Cheltenham Borough Council has now rolled out the training programme to other independent and small retailers in Cheltenham through trading associations including the ones in Montpellier and Bath Road areas of the town centre.

Speaking about the development programme, Martin Quantock, Manager of the Cheltenham Business Partnership, who initiated this project said:

“We want to help small businesses in Cheltenham’s shopping district to have the same access to high-quality customer service training which is offered to the bigger retailers. We hope that by creating an environment of exemplary customer service, we can increase both footfall and profits in the area and we can add to the vitality of the town centre. Sam has embraced all the support on offer and I am delighted that Sam has been nominated for this award. Sam is a young, enthusiastic business woman who has a passion for what she does. Sam is a great ambassador for the training project, her business Inside Out Gifts, Bath Road Traders and the overall retail industry in Cheltenham.’’

As a reward for all her hard work, Sam is now a finalist in the National Skills Academy for Retail’s Rising Stars Awards, run by Retail Week.

The awards recognise and celebrate talent in all areas of retail, from apprentices just starting out in the industry to buyers, marketeers and managers at the top of their game. All must demonstrate the outstanding aptitude and initiative in their roles that singles them out as ones to watch for the future.

The ‘Retail Learner of the Year’ award is a special category, open to learners from The National Skills Academy for Retail’s network of skills shops that have completed or embarked on a retail qualification, training programme or workshop.

Sam will join other finalists at a black tie ceremony at the five-star luxury Grosvenor House Hotel in London’s Mayfair. This year’s event will be attended by top names in retail, and hosted by Theo Paphitis, who said: “Retail is a talent-filled industry and it takes commitment, passion and hard work to reach the finals of the Rising Stars Awards. I congratulate Sam on a fantastic achievement so far and am looking forward to meeting her on the night.

“The Retail Rising Stars Awards are a fantastic way to unearth and reward the best talent and Sam has proved that she can go on to have a great future in the fast-paced world of our industry."

The ceremony, held on 12th September, will see winners walk away with one of 17 prestigious Rising Stars trophies. The category winners will then all be in with a chance of being named the overall ‘Rising Star of the Year’.

Jane Rexworthy, Head of The National Skills Academy for Retail says: “Being shortlisted in this category is a fantastic achievement and Sam fully deserves it. There is wonderful breadth of talent throughout the retail sector and these awards are a fantastic way to unearth and reward the best.”

For more information on the National Skills Academy for Retail’s Rising Stars Awards, please visit or contact Kerry Burgess on 0207 462 5073.

Notes for Editors

National Skills Academy for Retail

The National Skills Academy for Retail is a wholly owned subsidiary of People 1st and delivers skills solutions for retailers across the UK through a network of retail skills shops.

These retail skills shops:

§ Provide access to world-class skills and business support for retailers whatever their size, wherever they are located

§ Lead the drive for professional, rewarding careers and skills development for everyone who works in retail

§ Create a consistent national approach for training and skills in the UK’s largest private sector employer

§ Attract talented people into the sector