A job in retail involves a lot more than just folding clothes. Retail stores come in all shapes and sizes. The Australian retail sector is as wide and varied as the Australian population, supplying individuals and businesses with a huge variety of goods, which means that a job in the industry will teach you a huge variety of retail skills.
Taking a job in the retail sector doesn’t mean labelling yourself as a salesperson forever, in fact most of the skills you pick up in retail are highly transferable. Transferable skills are skills which can be utilised in a variety of contexts, across industries and sectors. For instance, numeracy skills are desirable in an employee in the retail sector, as well as hospitality and business sectors.
A retail job looks great on a resume, because retail experience immediately indicates to a potential employer that the applicant has a specific set of knowledge and skills. Keep reading to discover just how many transferable skills you’ll gain by working in retail, and if they catch your attention, you may wish to peruse potential courses of study.
A key retail skill is the ability to multitask. A proven to think on your feet, juggle and prioritise a list of jobs and manage several tasks at once is hugely appealing to potential employers. In a busy retail environment you’ll soon learn how to do two, if not more, things at once!
Often at the beginning of a workday in retail, you’ll establish a long list of things that need to be done. Sorting stock, placing orders, taking inventory, managing retail displays, cleaning and much more needs to be achieved. This list can become pretty hefty, and that’s without the added consideration of serving customers. Your major responsibility in-store is to provide customers with a high level of service and attention, but quiet moments need to be capitalised on. As you become more experienced you’ll learn to manage your time and prioritise your to-do list. This will teach you how to power through each day of work, no matter the job or the industry.
The most valuable skill you will develop working in retail are your interpersonal skills. It requires a lot of energy, positivity and emotional intelligence to provide skillful customer service in the retail sector. It is your job to help a customer find what they’re looking for, even if they don’t know themselves. You’ll learn how to make customers feel at ease in-store, and to gauge how much chat they’re up for - we all know there’s nothing worse than a sale assistant glued to your side when you’d prefer to browse quietly.
Patience and Tact
It’s the same in all service industries: The customer is always right. That being said, sometimes they’re wrong. It can be frustrating dealing with a conflict that you perceive to be unjustified or misinformed, but it’s always better to remain amicable with customers than it is to express your annoyance. For example, if a customer wants to return an item that is not covered by the returns policy, you need to find a friendly but firm way of informing them about the terms of the returns policy and the reason why you’re unable to complete the request. This tactfulness will improve not only your work-life but your personal life, and is highly attractive to all sorts of employers.
The ability to work in a team is a must in retail. Teamwork means accepting constructive criticism, distributing the workload evenly, helping your co-workers when you can see them struggling, and accepting help when it’s offered to yourself. Eventually, a good team player may even assume a training or leadership role.
Attention to detail
Successful employees in the retail sector are those who maintain strict attention to detail. Strive to achieve consistency, cleanliness and take pride in the appearance of the store. It’s hard to think of a career path where attention to detail isn’t important.
When work gets super busy, no matter how many retail skills you have, things can become very stressful. There might be a long queue at the registers and change rooms, a multitude of customers needing help with sizes, questions about garments and displays getting messy, but you won’t work any better or faster if you’re super stressed. The ability to maintain a level-head in a high intensity situation comes with practice and perseverance.
Any and all kinds of people will walk into your retail space and it is your job to treat them as equals, and provide every person with friendly, respectful service. You’ll quickly learn that different customers have different needs and expectations, and how to best cater for them. A career in retail doesn’t just provide you with transferable skills but also with invaluable life experience and an understanding of cultural similarities, differences, and respectful communication.
A job in the Australian retail sector can become a career in a diverse, ever-changing industry or a great gateway to different opportunities. After you gain experience in the industry, you can update your CV to include all the transferable skills you’ve gained by working in a retail space, which include the eight I’ve mentioned and many more.
Working in retail teaches you a lot about humanity, communication and hard work, lessons which are learned on the job. But if you’re keen to learn more about the nuts and bolts of a career in the retail industry, you can read about our online courses in retail management and leadership here.