The retail sector in the UK accounts for 11% of the total work force. In numbers, that’s approximately 3 million people employed in various positions in retail. While there’s plenty of opportunity for career advancement, most senior positions will go to applicants with experience in the sector.
How do you get experience under your belt?
You start your career as a retail assistant. To make a success in this job though, there’s some essential qualities employers will need from you, so they’ll know that you’ll be good at your job and meet the company and customers expectations, by providing a first class service every day.
One thing that you will find in this career is that there’s no 2 days going to be the same. That’s because you’re meeting new people every day on the shop floor. You might be working in a shoe shop or a garden centre, but the one thing that remains the same in any store, is that you’re the first person in face-to-face contact with the customers. You’re going to be the face of the business, and that means you’ll need to smile. Happy staff is what contributes to a good atmosphere and a friendly store.
You will be working with a team of retail assistants, therefore, a friendly manner will be essential. So too will a fun, outgoing and vibrant personality. Without further adieu, let’s delve into the real life skills and attitude you’ll need, so you can be a superb retail assistant.
As the first point of contact on the shop floor, you will need to be well presented. Some stores will supply company uniforms, but dependent on the size and nature of the business, you may need to supply your own work wear, and whatever it is, you’ll need to be well turned out.
Shorts, t-shirts and sandals, aren’t appropriate dress code for this line of work, so be sure you dress appropriately, or you’ll run the risk of being sent home from work, without pay.
In a sports shop, the staff may be required to wear sporting clothes as that’s the nature of their business, while in formal fashion stores, you may be required to wear business dress. You will also need to be tidy in your personal appearance too.
As you’ll be working on the shop floor, even when you aren’t dealing with customers directly, and perhaps chatting with one of your co-workers as you do some tidying or stacking the shelves, you need to speak with suitable vocabulary.
You can’t be swearing on the shop floor, as it will offend customers, and affect their experience. Same with slang words too. Try to avoid them when you’re in within hearing distance of customers. It’s professional etiquette and manners are an essential part of your responsibility.
As a retail assistant, you’re job role isn’t dedicated to one area of the store. As an assistant, you need to assist. That could be anything from ringing the cash register, mopping a spillage, or helping to take stock of a delivery.
Whatever tasks need doing to help the store run efficiently, then that’s what’s expected of you. There may also be certain tasks that require training, such as taking inventory of stock, so part of your job may require you to undertake some on the job training, so you can assist in other areas of the business.
As the first line of contact, you’re in the direct firing line here when things go wrong. There are going to be times when customer services slack and the customer is left feeling unhappy with the quality of service. As you’re going to be on the shop floor, visible to customers, people will approach you when they want to make a complaint.
Good people skills here are essential here as it can mean the difference between smoothing things over quickly, or ending up with a formal complaint being made and an unhappy customer leaving.
There will be times when you have difficult customers to deal with as well, and no matter what you try, it won’t seem to be helping the situation. You have to maintain control at all times, and when needs must, consult with your shift supervisor or store manager, in order to assist the customer, reach a satisfactory response.
One thing you must have to work in the retail sector is trust. Some stores may require a criminal background check before recruiting staff, whereas others may use character references, but management need to trust the staff in their stores. There’s a large amount of cash going through the register each day and every penny of it needs to be accounted for. Being good with money and working out the correct change is also going to be required. While there may be instances when you perhaps give out too much change, or overcharge the customer, it can’t happen consistently. If it does, management will start to question the trust of their staff, and that will affect morale on the shop floor, not to mention hinder your career progression.
If you’re interested in becoming a retail assistant, or starting your career in the retail sector, to eventually progress into more demanding roles, then there’s one key area to look at.
You need to be happy in this line of work and love meeting and greeting with people. You will meet different people every day you’re on shift. If you’re not good with people, with a friendly and outgoing personality, then you will struggle in this line of work. Good people skills are essential and the better you are with people and get along with both your customers and your co-workers, the better you’ll be able to deliver a quality service to the business you work with.