By Heidi Omar, Commercial Director & MD
I have had a lot of experience working on the shop floor with luxury brands, as well as climbing the retail career ladder, I understand the pros and cons of a retail career very well. As it’s always good to go into a new job with a good understanding of what it will be like, and what is expected of you, so here are my tips about life on the shop floor.
Firstly, when thinking about working in this sector, it’s important to realise that everyone is different, and what some people will see as a positive aspect of the job could be seen as a negative by others. A lot comes down to your own personality, drive and determination.
So I’ll begin by outlining the pros and cons that will apply to everyone. Then I’ll talk about the ones that fall into the grey areas, and it’s up to you to work out whether you consider them to be a pro or a con!
Qualifications help but are not always necessary – However, a customer service online course will help! We are launching an online training academy which will help you nail your dream retail job. With many professions, you have to spend years studying with no pay, but in retail you can earn as you learn – a definite plus.
It’s a career! – Many years ago, retail wasn’t really seen as a career, but things have changed. There are now lots of opportunities in the sector for people who are looking for a serious career. It’s not unusual for candidates who got their first temporary retail job through Artisan People to go on to do so well, they have flourished in their retail career and have even gone on to be senior managers within the sector. Artisan People can give you an opportunity to try the industry before fully committing.
You’ll get training – It’s very likely that the brands and retail stores offer on-the-job training in product knowledge, selling skills, the brand heritage and story so you’ll be improving your career prospects at the same time as earning.
Rewards for success – Most brands will offer a financial reward for star performers. Such as paying commission based on sales, or a bonus for smashing your retail target. So the more you sell the more you earn. If you’re a good seller, it’s a definite plus!
Discounts and freebies – A lot of the makeup brands, for example, will give you a starter pack of products as well as seasonal products for you to wear at work that will reflect the brand. You’ll also get brand discounts, and if you’re working in the department stores, you’ll probably also get a store-wide discount too.
Teamwork – A retail team needs a range of skills, and no one individual is expected to have all of them. To work well, a team will obviously need people who are great at selling, but its success also relies on people who are good with numbers, planning and working out targets. You’ll rarely find someone who is good at both aspects, so a manager will need to employ a team with the right mix of individual skills.
Hard work and commitment are key – You’ll be on your feet most of the day which can be tiring for some people, but if you have energy in abundance this won’t bother you. You’ll also be expected to merchandise, manage new deliveries etc. On top of this, you must be as fresh and lively at the end of your shift as you are at the beginning – which takes stamina and a high level of customer service.
The pace is ever changing – The number of customers you get will fluctuate, particularly the contrast between December and January. In the run-up to Christmas, it’ll be really busy, and you could be serving up to 50 customers a day – great if you enjoy meeting people and the time just flies by. However, in January, things will quieten down considerably, and footfall is a lot slower. You therefore need to be self-motivated and able to use your initiative to maintain energy levels and optimum service for your clients. If you are a self starter then this will not be a problem.
Customers – Expectations are at an all time high for our customers, they know what they want and have already researched online before they even get to you, so you will be expected to deliver an experience that they won’t forget and keep coming back to buy from you rather than someone else. Some customers can be challenging and demanding but as long as you have at the forefront of your mind that the customer is always right, you won’t go wrong.
Colleagues – You will meet lots of people with different personalities and behaviours. As you will be working with each other for most of the day, it’s key that you try to get along and have a flexible attitude towards building relationships with colleagues. After all, in a full time retail role you will probably spend more time with work mates than your family.
Targets and KPIs – You will be challenged to reach targets on a daily basis – sometimes on an hourly basis. While this is hugely motivating for people who thrive on targets, it can be an added pressure for people who are not natural sales drivers. If you want to be successful in this field, sales ability is essential.
Unsociable hours – Shops are open long hours and seven days a week, so you will be expected to work at weekends, which are the busiest times of the week, as well as evening shifts. However, the hours can suit you if you want to get work that fits around other commitments such as studies or family.
The social distancing measures that have been introduced in the retail environment have fundamentally changed the nature of the job. Customers cannot try clothes on, nor are they allowed to test fragrances, beauty products and makeup. It is therefore necessary for sales staff to become more creative with their body language in order to attract customers over, as well as their verbal language abilities when it comes to talking about products. Customers will be buying products based on talking to you about them, so you must think creatively about how you ‘sell’.
The new restrictions have also made it more important than ever that you have the ability to multitask. Before lockdown, counters with a team of ten were commonplace, but now, that team has had to be reduced to just two staff members who will need to take care of everything.
If you don’t have retail experience but want to learn, watch this space. We are about to launch the Artisan Training Foundation – an online learning portal offering retail-related courses such as customer service, makeup, fragrance and skincare training. For a small fee you will be able to demonstrate how serious you are about a retail career and shine above other candidates by proving you are job ready.