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About Bells Stores Ltd

Shop staff are sometimes a little eccentric — but Bells Stores positively encourages its workers to be mad. That’s MAD, as in the “Make A Difference” scheme that rewards innovative ideas from the 890 staff at the northeastern supermarket chain with a monthly cash prize.

Curious initiatives at the chain, which has its head office in Skelton, Cleveland, include donating 2,500 lollipops to nightclubbers on their way home last Christmas, to make them sweeter on the roads.

The family firm has grown steadily from humble beginnings. Les Bell, the company chairman and a former milkman, started Ellbe Newsagencies in 1968 after being inspired by American convenience stores during a holiday. This became Bells Stores in 1980, and by 1997 there were 33 stores across the northeast; now there are 54, with a target of 70 shops by 2006.

“Enthusiasm is what we’re all about,” shouts the company statement, and staff agree in their passion for their employer. The firm does well on creating a relaxed but caring atmosphere. More than five in six staff say their team is fun to work with, only 20% are under so much pressure they cannot concentrate and only 17% have suffered stress-related symptoms from work in the last year — the fifth-lowest score.

Steven Bell, the son of the founder, who has been vice-chairman and managing director for the past 18 years, is well praised — 78% of staff say he and other senior managers truly live the company values.

Direct management is appreciated too: 73% of employees say managers care about how satisfied they are, 80% feel their judgment is trusted and 68% say managers use all of their talents — all top 30 scores.

With average annual pay of £9,470 for sales assistants, people are less happy about pay, and just under half do not feel fairly rewarded for the jobs they do.

Most employees are evening sales assistants, but there are strong training programmes for those who want to develop their careers. Eight out of 10 board members were promoted internally, and there is a “lifelong learning curriculum” offering 25 in-house courses for qualifications such as NVQs, as well as an impressive induction programme.

Everyone has a 10% discount in store — which is doubled at Christmas, Easter and for their birthdays.

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  • Under 35 to Over 55 Ratio:

    No employees under 35

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