The Truth About Working In Retail

retail-workAt one point or another, all students have to get a part-time job to support themselves through their studies. (Unless your parents are millionaires or you’re from Made In Chelsea – in that case, lucky you!) Retail is a very popular option with students, with the industry employing 2.77 million people in the UK alone. But do you know what you’re getting yourself into? If you’re thinking of applying for a retail job and aren’t sure what to expect, then look no further! Based on personal experience, one retail-working student (who will remain anonymous!) gives us the truth about shop work…

Smiles All Around

It’s exhausting having to be nice to people all day – but you have to do it! The second I started my job, I learned just how rude customers (and sometimes co-workers) can be. But you’re not in high school anymore, folks. If a customer shouts at you, if a colleague gets on your nerves, and if your manger is being unfair… all you can do is smile. Retail is all about good customer care and communication; if you can’t swallow your pride and be nice, then perhaps it’s not the right job for you.

People Look Up To You

I work in a popular, big brand clothes shop (I won’t name names). Before I started my job, my knowledge of fashion consisted solely of my collection of Glamour Magazine, and the contents of my own wardrobe! So it came as a shock when people suddenly treated me like an expert. You’d be surprised by how many customers have approached me and asked “Do you think this looks okay?” or “Which one do you prefer…?” At first I was startled. I thought: “Why are they asking me? I’m an eighteen year old student, what do I know?”

But then I realized something. They hired me for a reason. I may not be the next Vogue Editor, but I know a thing or two about fashion. And that’s exactly it – to know something is better than to know nothing at all. If you’re asked for advice, just go with it. Believe in yourself – the customers already do!

Stress, Stress, Stress

If you thought professional, white-collar jobs are the only ones that involve stress, then think again! Most people think working in a high street clothing shop would be a piece of cake. They only see the fun side of it: where turning up to work in a pretty dress counts as “uniform” and the delusion that there are lots of mirrors, so of course you’ll get to stare at yourself all day. This is a very naïve way to look at things.

I work in the fitting room, which involves walking each customer up to a changing area, fixing unwanted clothes to go back on to the shop floor, dealing with customer requests (“Could I get another size in that, please?”) and looking out for shoplifters – all at the same time!

Most days, I get treated like an octopus, or a magician, or a robot … But other days, when I help customers find exactly what they need, I get treated like a fairy godmother – one who’s learning tonnes of important skills that’ll help me in my future career. And that makes all the stress worthwhile.

Image: Thinkstock

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