5 Things I’ve Learned From My Career In Retail


When you read the phrase ‘career in Retail,’ your first instinct is to picture someone folding shirts in a clothing store, isn’t it?

Customer service roles only scratch the surface of the Retail jobs you can pursue. We’re all familiar with in-store positions such as Sales Associate and Store Manager, but what about careers that exist beyond the walls of a store? A lot goes on behind the scenes before products hit the sales floor, which means there are a ton of career options in Retail that you might not know about.

If you’re considering a career in Retail, here are some important things you need to know.

The Customer is Not Always Right


Chances are you’ve heard the expression, ‘the customer is always right.’ The phrase was invented in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London. Since then, it has often been used to reassure customers that they will get good service from a business, and that Sales professionals have their best wishes in mind. While it may be true that most Retail Employees have their customer’s best interests in mind, it is not always true the customer is always right.

Certainly there will be times when the customer is right. However, you will quickly learn that sometimes they are plain wrong – from simple misunderstandings, such as finding a new full priced shirt erroneously placed in the clearance section, to outlandish demands, such as claiming to be owed a free flight because an airline was out of peanuts. Nevertheless, if a customer is upset, it’s still up to you to think on your feet to remedy the situation or find someone who can.

You Learn By Doing

Watching someone perform a task versus doing it yourself are two very different things. For example, when you’re completing job training, you can watch someone else do inventory, but you won’t get the hang of it until you try it yourself. The key is to be observant and take note of even the small details. Once you’ve learned how to do it, you might even come up with a technique that improves functionality and benefits the company.

In a management role, learning by doing is extremely important. Even if you’re moving up within a company, you can still draw on your experiences as a Sales Associate or Stock Room Attendant. For instance, if you learned how merchandise was packaged or stocked efficiently in a previous role, that knowledge can help you quickly spot mistakes and instruct your team on the proper procedures.


Hard Work Gets Noticed

In a Retail position, your supervisor notices a lot more than you think. If you work hard to complete your tasks by the end of your shift, you will be seen as a good employee. But, if you go above and beyond your position requirements, you’ll be seen as a great employee who takes initiative.

Maybe you handled a customer concern in a polite yet creative way, or maybe you rearranged a display to maximize the space available in the store. Whatever the scenario, when you take initiative in these areas, your supervisor can then see your potential for different roles, such as a promotion to Assistant Manager, Store Designer, Buyer, or Merchandiser.

You Can Network and Make Contacts

Retail involves meeting people and making connections every day, which is something that you can take advantage of at each stage of your career. For example, in a Sales Associate position you will primarily interact with customers. This is the perfect opportunity to build a reputation for yourself, especially with repeat customers. Being present, helpful, and courteous only adds to their experience. Plus, happy customers tend to share their positive experiences with management, friends, family, and even on social media.

As you advance your career, you could be heading to trade conventions and industry events on a regular basis. These are your opportunities to spark new connections, meet new people, and ultimately grow as a professional.


You Have the Opportunity to Advance Quickly

Retail is unique in the sense that advancement opportunities can arise quickly. Granted, promotions depend on an employee’s ambition and performance, but if your goal is to launch a career in Retail, moving up from store level is an option available to you.

Within a store, for example, you could move from part-time Associate to Assistant Manager to Store Manager to District Manager. If you want to explore career options throughout the rest of the organization, there are a variety of departments to look into. Be sure to keep an eye on your company’s internal job board. Many companies like to hire from within, and if you know what characteristics and skills they value, you can use this knowledge to your advantage.

Retail Can Open Doors to Other Industries

You will gain a ton of useful and transferable skills in a Retail position, from sales to conflict resolution. Once you’ve learned how to soothe an angry customer, balance store finances, handle a supplier issue, and maintain a complex employee schedule, doors in other industries will open for you. So if you find that you want to make a mid-career switch to Banking or to even start your own company, the skills you learned in Retail will help you get there.

The Retail industry is comprised of multiple, diverse sectors with numerous career paths to accommodate any type of professional. Along the way you will be presented with endless learning opportunities that will only add to your skills, resume, and experience. Whether you decide to work your way up from the in-store level, or make your start in an entry-level job in head office, you can truly find your place in a Retail-oriented career.

Explore egg-citing careers in Retail with TalentEgg’s Retail Career Guide.