How To Actually Survive In Retail (And Do Well)

Whilst it’s a career for the brave and the hardy, it’s undeniable a very rewarding one too. Competition is also a staple so if you want to move up the chain of command, this is your guide.

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Retail is a beast with many, many heads and you, much like heroic Heracles battling the Hydra, must battle the beast often by overcoming a head at a time. Heads that yell things at you such as “is this on sale?” and “I know consumer law” or “can I speak to your manager.”

Whilst it’s a career for the brave and the hardy, it’s undeniably a very rewarding one too filled with some amazing employees. Competition is also a staple when working in retail so if you want to move up the chain of command, you have to be prepared for some hard work.

There are ways to get ahead though, so if you’re considering a longtime career in retail, think of this guide as your trusty handbook.

1. “Yes we’re technically closed but you can still browse.”

Picture it, you’re in the store but you were supposed to shut 10 minutes ago, the music is still playing, the doors are open, and there’s still a few stragglers. Whilst it can be tempting to kill the lights and start vacuuming over people’s feet to make the shopping experience thoroughly uncomfortable, that doesn’t make a good impression. What your managers want to see is you closing the day in an efficient and non passive-aggressive way. Clean up, dim the music, help the last minute shoppers and they’ll (hopefully) get the vibe that you’re closing. If not, make sure you tell your regional manager how much extra time you worked so you’re compensated.

2. “Head office visits are a breeze.”

The dreaded head office visit. Marked in the diary and with many an employee praying they aren’t rostered on during the visit. Well, that’s for the apathetic worker, you know, the one that doesn’t actually care about their job. The head office visit is your chance to make a positive impression on the crew that decide whose name to pull out when a prime position opens up. Introduce yourself, ask them about their role and show genuine interest.

3. “Oh, anyone can work in retail.”

This one’s a classic. Said often with an air of condescension and a healthy dose of arrogance. Wrong, only a small number of people can thrive in retail. If you’re serious about it as a career choice then there’s a lot to learn about management, organisation, et al. Like anything career, the best way to get those skills taught is through a course. TAFESA’s nationally accredited entry-level courses in retail provide a practical pathway for potential work in specialty retail outlets. So, whether you’re getting yourself job ready or looking to hone your existing skills, specialised courses can really help you with management and organisational skills and even a bit of math. More info on that here.

4. “Yes I will cover that shift that’s across the city, I didn’t have plans already.”

Dedication reigns supreme in retail. I’m not talking about being dedicated to your max number of toilet breaks. But dedication to the company and that sometimes is only evident when you accept that shift thats across the city. Yes, it’s a Saturday morning shift, yes you were asked the night before, yes you’d like to go to brunch that morning. Pick the shift, you’re getting paid but you’re also showing that you’re reliable.

5. “The customer is always right, even when they’re wrong, they’re right.”

The biggest myth in retail is that the customer is always right. Literally anyone who has ever worked in retail can tell you that’s a lie. But what you have to remember is that customers feel informed and the best way out of a situation is to actually educate them (and save another retail worker out there from potential abuse). Don’t agree with them if they’re wrong, for fear of the issue getting raised further. Treat the matter delicately but don’t be afraid to push back. If you’re unsure, then definitely ask someone because that’s sort of consideration managers are looking for. Taking the initiative is the right path, don’t forget that as an employee you have authority.

Go forth and rise in the ranks.

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