the forum

To respond to the unanswered questions below, or to ask a reader's advice, simply e-mail:

Q I occasionally receive promotional merchandise from suppliers and cash and carries. Is it acceptable to use this stuff as incentives for staff if they hit certain targets?

A There's no harm, but your staff will probably work out that you're getting this stuff for nothing

so that's effectively what the gesture will mean - nothing . By all means share your freebies with your team, but don't dress it up as a bonus.

Carole, Hants

A We get so many baseball caps, bottle openers, T-shirts and what have you that it's sometimes hard to give them away! I'd be pretty offended if I was told to work extra hard to earn some promotional tat that my boss got for nowt!

Rob, Cheshire

Q If I offer baskets to customers as they enter my shop, will my average transaction value increase?

A In my experience, yes. Offering baskets immediately suggests to shoppers that they may need to buy more than they can carry with their hands alone. It also makes people more likely to make impulse purchases as they get near the till. My advice is to invest in baskets and to place them above floor level so they are less easy to ignore.

Graham, Cheltenham

A I would recommend investing in something classy rather than the moulded plastic ones you see everywhere. You want your customers to feel they are somewhere special.

Carole, Hants

Q Is it possible for a non-drinker to work in a wine shop? Could I be accused of prejudice by vetoing their appointment or is wine appreciation an essential skill for the job?

BF, London

Q How insistent should I be when offering samples - might I be accused, by the police, of forcing people to drink alcohol?

VS, Swansea

Q I'm thinking of buying a dog to keep me company in the shop - are there health and safety issues?

MT, Crewe