Every role in every industry has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, rewards and challenges; the retail sector is no different, but some of its challenges are unique to its particular flavour of customer service.
The benefits to working in retail vary as much as your daily routine. Customer interaction can result in the most gratifying of feel-good situations. Working the retail floor is a busy endeavour, the constant movement helping the day to pass by in what feels like no time. More flexible scheduling allows you to structure your week to allow time for activities a regular nine-to-five may not.
Retail isn’t always sunshine and roses, however. From cantankerous customers to seasonal schedules, retail professionals also face a host of unique challenges that can frustrate to no end if unprepared to deal with them.
Don’t be dismayed! We’ve accumulated below four of the most common obstacles faced in on the retail floor, along with a few tips on how to deal with them.
1. Caring for customers
The classic hair-tearing scenario for a retail professional is, of course, the unhappy customer. In any role entailing “customer service,” you’ll find yourself regularly dealing with dissatisfied individuals, for any number of reasons. Retail etiquette requires your pleasant demeanour to remain unshaken even by the most unruly of clientele, and this can be one of the most difficult, but also most valuable, skills you’ll acquire.
But never fear; even the most disgruntled customer can be appeased, and often the solution is more easily arrived at than you’d expect. The important thing to remember is to stay calm, listen carefully to the customer, and take nothing personally.
2. Handling holiday fever
While retail offers more flexibility in its work day, there is one definite sting felt by retail employees everywhere: the holiday sales. As a retail professional, you will find yourself working through most major holidays and long weekend sales. The times of year the rest of the working world usually has a few days off is likely to be your business’s busiest period, often requiring you to put in longer and more hectic hours – but not without reward. Holiday hours often mean holiday pay, which means a little extra in your pocket for your own holiday shopping. And just think: when everyone else is slouching back to work the following week, you’ll be kicking back your heels on a well-deserved day off.
3. Smoothing out your schedule
Still on the subject of scheduling, another challenge in retail is again its irregularity. The holiday season is one aspect; retail jobs are also somewhat seasonal in the sense that the number of hours available to employees fluctuates depending on the time of year. Maintaining a balanced schedule that allows for both work and other activities can be quite an adventure. As a new or soon-to-be grad, however, this actually works to your advantage, as you’ll be able to customize your schedule to fit in work with classes, studying, volunteering, and any other extracurricular activities, which a regular nine-to-five wouldn’t allow. But be wary of the temptation to sneak in extra shifts at work — you’ll want to leave yourself some well-deserved time off to relax!
4. Going the extra mile
Promotion is more than possible in retail: numerous retail success stories often begin with “Jane Doe began her career on the store floor before working her way up to such and such prestigious position.” That could be you! But especially in larger stores, promotions can be a competitive business, with only one or two new positions up for application at a time. Retail’s main goal is providing quality customer service — because that’s what keeps customers coming back. Adding value to the store is the best way to grow your own career. If you want to stand out to your managers, focus your efforts on providing customers with the best experience, and challenge yourself to think of new and creative ways of doing so.