From Leisure to Retail: Lessons in Leisure

Carol Southall, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


If current shopping trips offer any food for thought, beyond that is “not just any food”, it is that retail has much to learn from the leisure industry in terms of how to treat their customers. Beset with the accessibility issues raised by Covid-19, retailers with a physical high street or retail park/shopping mall presence are having to rethink how they do business. The ‘new normal’ is a commonly used phrase and yet, to date, the ‘new normal’ has, in so many ways, been anything but new, and anything but normal.

Two of the key areas in which there are clearly lessons to learn, are those involving queuing, so much a part of life in the UK even before Covid-19, and provision of toilet facilities. Recent news has highlighted scores of people rushing to shops on their reopening, and the ensuing lengthy queues to access those shops. Additionally, there has been negative press around the lack of available toilet facilities in public space, with councils being urged to reopen any closed public toilets. The Government’s drive to reopen the hospitality industry will further reinforce the need for public access to toilets.

Most of us know how to queue, we understand the need to do so, even if we don’t always like it. Queuing in fact is a stereotypical British institution, much like eating fish and chips and discussing the weather, it’s what people do. Given this high level of queue awareness, we might be forgiven in thinking that the organisation of a queue system is almost embedded within our psyche, and yet the variety of queue systems on any given retail park, at any given retail outlet, anywhere in the UK, is astonishing. On a recent visit to a well-known retail park, there were at least 20 different queues, all snaking in different directions, for different stores. Some made good use of barriers, some offered marked walkways to which they anticipated their shoppers would adhere. Some required people to queue past the store exit, meaning that shoppers had to walk straight past people, within a metre, as they left the store. Some had security, some didn’t. The variety was endless. What was quickly apparent however, was that queue etiquette was unilaterally present in them all. We accept whatever queue we’re placed in and wait, not always patiently, to progress along the line.

Image source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53044826

The British have taken shopping tourism to a whole new level. Days spent at retail outlets are considered as a leisure pursuit in their own right. Overnight stays near shopping malls often combine retail ‘therapy’ with dining out, a visit to a cinema, and opportunities for a range of additional leisure pursuits, including bowling, skiing, swimming, indoor mini-golf, and a host of other leisure activities aligned to family fun. Whilst lockdown has prevented such activity in recent months, anybody venturing out to a retail park or shopping mall could be forgiven in thinking that nothing has changed. Except it has, as the queues and lack of toilet facilities show.

The leisure industries have much acquired knowledge to pass on to retail. From queue management, through experience design, to provision of necessary facilities. When asked on a radio interview what people really needed when they attend theme parks, the suggestion “a loo, a view and a brew” was proposed as fundamental to enjoyment of the experience offered by attractions. Having toilet facilities, something entertaining and visually stimulating to look at, and somewhere to eat and drink were suggested as necessities to a day spent visiting an attraction of any sort.

Rollercoaster Restaurant at Alton Towers.
Image source: https://twitter.com/altontowers/status/850770317299638272

When we go to a theme park, we understand that we will queue. The difference is that theme parks are designed with queuing systems in mind. Queue theory supports the argument that crowding and lengthy waiting times are major causes of visitor dissatisfaction. Enhancing the queue experience will encourage the customer to not only enjoy their shopping experience but will also increase the likelihood that they will revisit, which is particularly important if the high street is to stand any chance of a recovery, post Covid-19.

In the short-term putting more thought into the systems used to ensure shoppers are able to access retail outlets in more structured, better thought-out and even more entertaining way, will pay dividends, both in terms of visitor satisfaction and the ensuing profits. Added to this the installation of easily accessible, even temporary or portable public toilets, openly cleaned and sanitised at regular intervals, will help to ensure that the current economic recovery phase is facilitated and the transition to the ‘new normal’ made easier by this attention to detail, so integral to the leisure industry.

Melting the Cultural Iceberg: A Journey to Cultural Awareness

Carol Southall, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School



As tourists we are apt to display a level of cultural arrogance that is often not representative of the person we are in our daily lives. We make assumptions about a destination, its people, lifestyles and all the overtly obvious elements of culture to which we expose ourselves during a trip, such as language, dress, religion and food.

In 1978 Edward Said controversially identified ‘the other’ in reference to those with whom we are unfamiliar, highlighting the false cultural representations informing western preconceptions and subsequent imperialist behaviour. Often used to refer to people of ‘oriental’ (Middle-eastern or Asian) origin, Said’s seminal work focused on western perceptions of the ‘other’, and difficulties in integrating western and eastern cultures (Said, 2003).

When we are exposed to the ‘other’ we may display a level of cultural superiority in an effort to assimilate our environment. We consider our own culture to be superior to that which we are experiencing, as our own cultural norms may be our only reference point on our cultural ‘compass’. We thus demonstrate an air of arrogance in assuming this. In struggling to understand the cultural context in which we find ourselves, we revert to the relative familiarity of what we know and understand, assuming it to be superior to that in which we find ourselves. We fail to fully understand other cultures and thus respond inappropriately to them and do not engage with them, often preferring to find a familiar enclave and settle there in the relative comfort of a familiar environment, McDonalds, a British pub, restaurants serving English breakfast (in the case of English tourists) etc.

In today’s globally connected world there is an increasing call for global citizens, and yet the question is, what is a global citizen, how do we connect, and in a time of political turmoil and upheaval, for the UK in particular, how important is this?

A global citizen is someone who is able to demonstrate an understanding of the world and their place in it. The interconnected nature of the world as a result of globalisation means that increasingly there is a need for those who are able to demonstrate a high level of cultural awareness.

Cultural awareness is a result of immersion, culture shock and introspection, and even good humour plays its part. Cultural immersion requires time, effort, knowledge and understanding, but it is the key to cultural awareness and the ensuing cultural competence required for greater cultural integration.

There are 3 key ingredients in cultural competence:

  • Self-knowledge
  • Experience, not just in the form of books and films, but immersion in culture. Try it, touch it, eat it, make mistakes, apologise, listen, try again
  • Positive change

In 1986 Weaver applied an iceberg analogy to previous cultural literature (Hall, 1976) and subsequently identified the cultural iceberg, consisting of 3 layers:

  • Surface culture – including the more obvious elements of culture such language, food and dress
  • Unspoken rules – hidden below the surface and taking more time for an outsider to understand, these include business and social etiquette and symbolism of colours
  • Unconscious rules – the most difficult and yet the most important characteristics to know and understand. These are the things that people adhere to and believe in without conscious thought, including verbal and non-verbal communication, sense of time, physical distance and emotional responses.

So what can we do to become a global citizen? To melt the cultural iceberg and uncover and understand the unspoken and unconscious elements of culture that lead from cultural sensitivity to increased cultural awareness and cultural competence, and ultimately facilitate global interconnectedness and understanding? It is suggested that the only way to learn the internal culture of others is to actively participate in their culture. This takes time, commitment and an open mind.

We cannot judge a new culture based only on what we see when we first enter it. We must take time to get to know individuals from that culture and interact with them. Only through this can we uncover the values and beliefs that underlie the behaviour of that society and hope to make positive steps towards cultural understanding and integration. Consideration of all as equals is fundamental to progressing cultural awareness, argues Vaudrin-Charette (2019).

Only through cultural competence on the part of all groups in society can there be greater acceptance between and within groups of people, and, who knows, the world may just become a better place.

References

Said, E. (2003) Orientalism. London: Penguin Books.

Vaudrin-Charette (2019) Melting the Cultural Iceberg in Indigenizing Higher Education: Shifts to Accountability in Times of Reconciliation. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. 157, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com)

Weaver, G.R. in Paige, R.M. (1986) Cross-cultural orientation: new conceptualizations and applications. University Press of America.

For information on studying Tourism and Events at Staffordshire University click here

The World Cup: Sports tourism bringing Nations together?

By Carol Southall, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School

 

In recent years the phenomenon of sports tourism has grown in popularity, not least because of technological advances facilitating online ticket bookings and confirming event and venue scheduling. Sports tourism is certainly one of the fastest growing sectors of the global travel industry and refers to travelling to another destination, away from where the traveller normally lives and works, in order to observe or participate in a sporting event.

The Russia World Cup 2018 is an opportunity to bring people together from different nations across the world with a common interest…diversity, and of course football! Spread over 1,800 miles from Kaliningrad on the Baltic coast to Ekaterinburg at the foot of the Ural mountains, 12 stadiums across Russia will host the 64 matches that comprise the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, the largest venue and one of the newest, will hold the first game of the tournament on 14 June and also the final, 31 days later. England’s first match against Tunisia on Tuesday 18th June at the purpose-built Volgograd Arena, almost 600 miles south-east of Moscow, is likely to be a key draw for the thousands of football fans heading to Russia.

Covering over 17 million square kilometres, 11 time zones, and with a population of almost 147 million, Russia is the largest country in the World. With over 200 ethnicities and ethnic groups and more than 100 languages and dialects, plus 28 UNESCO World Heritage sites and several thousand museums, Russia is working hard to promote its tourism potential. Interestingly on the Russia Travel website, to which fans applying for a FAN ID are directed when they enquire about tourism opportunities during their stay in Russia, there is a reference to the ‘Miracles of Russia’ in the host towns and cities, and the fact that “all these have nothing to do with the habitual stereotypes of Russia”. This is evidently an ideal opportunity to debunk some myths surrounding perceptions of Russia as a destination.

Red Square, Moscow, Russia

Studies show that major events can be a positive force in bringing nations together and enhancing and strengthening national identity. Whether Russia needs to strengthen its national identity, or indeed which countries need to strengthen their national identity, is a moot point. What is clear is that any such tournament that brings the world together should only serve to strengthen national pride and identity and facilitate an element of cultural understanding.

As a traveller you often find that wherever you are in the world, the common language is football. You may not be able to hold a conversation in a native tongue beyond ‘hello’ and ‘thank-you’ but mention the relative merits of the better-known English football clubs and you can hold a conversation for the duration of a taxi ride.

Clearly participation in football, whether as a player or spectator, plays a major role in social and global cohesion, enhancing social capital. Football creates its own world order, deviating from the hegemonic power relations that characterise world politics. Conversely, the mutual respect and consideration that should be evident in all international sport tourism is sometimes overshadowed by political tensions, causing hostility where there should be empathy and understanding.

Since the selection of the host nation, 8 years ago, political tensions have certainly overshadowed the event. The BBC recently reported that England should wear black armbands during the World Cup to protest against the Russian regime, with a prominent MP suggesting that the FIFA tournament is a massive propaganda coup for Russia. Additionally the violent clashes between English and Russian football hooligans at Euro 2016 have led to concern of a repeat performance at the 2018 World Cup. Russia’s significant investment in the tournament, and the need to avoid any tarnishing of the event, has led to Russian hard-core supporters being contacted by police and officially warned to behave. Similarly local UK supporters have also been warned, and in some cases had their passports confiscated by police for the duration of the tournament.

The role and responsibility of football in the world is significant and its importance in social cohesion and nation building should not be underestimated. Conversely, we should also recognise the power of football to incite violence and xenophobia. Regardless of the political tensions that overshadow the tournament this year, it is hoped that the UK and international sports tourists travelling to Russia on their FAN IDs (a personalised spectator’s card – offering visa-free entry to Russia for supporter’s holding World Cup tickets) will take the opportunity and time to explore, experience and engage with Russia’s culture and people. Only then can there be any hope of the mutual respect and understanding that football has the power to facilitate.

Follow Carol on twitter @cdesouthall

FdA Visitor Attraction and Resort Management


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Key visitor information and recommended markets

If you are studying or living in Stoke on Trent  here are the key information sources for whats on and where to visit

Our twitter feed for all things tourism and events @tourismsu 

Visit Stoke and on twitter @VisitStoke

Visit Newcastle under Lyme on twitter @NewcastleBID they also have an app

Enjoy Staffordshire on twitter @EnjoyStaffs

Visit Peak District on twitter @Visit Peak District and has an app available

Visit Cheshire on twitter @Visit Cheshire 

There’s lots of farmers and artisan markets in the region – here’s four of the best

Stone – first Saturday of every month – very popular and great food, plus great places in the town to eat as well . You can get the train from Stoke in 5 mins or cycle/walk along the canal there.

Nantwich – last Saturday of every month in the town square – again good produce, nice independent shops in the town

Leek – Sunday supplement in the town centre– arts and crafts and food, first Sunday of every month

Rode Hall – first Saturday of every month

Details of our Tourism and Events courses here