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.
What are retail skills?
Retail skills are skills that allow an individual to sell products to customers. People who work in retail are expected to have skills in sales, product knowledge and business awareness to be able to perform their duties accordingly.
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.
10 retail skills that transfer to important life skills
- Time management.
- Interpersonal skills.
- Patience and Tact.
- Attention to detail.
- Cultural Awareness.
- Business Awareness.
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!
2. Time management.
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.
3. Interpersonal skills.
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.
4. 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.
6. 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.
8. Cultural Awareness.
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.
9. Business Awareness.
Having a great understanding of the business is essential since you're likely to represent its brand when selling a company's products as a retail worker. Excellent product knowledge and thorough understanding of the industry will help you flourish in your role since you'll be expected to explain the product's core features and benefits with confidence as a retail worker. Having business awareness can be a useful transferable skill to have outside of retail since you may work in a field like marketing where the expectation is to know about the business inside and out.
From stocktaking to calculating how much change to give back to a customer these are all basic but important mathematical skills to have as a retail worker. Having numeracy skills go hand-in-hand with excellent attention-to-detail, particularly if you handle the registers quite regularly and are expected to do checks on product quantities and bank balancing. Strong numeracy skills are transferable across any industry that regularly deals with numbers so having this as a retail worker can set you up well for your future career.
3 careers that retail skills can transfer into
- Administrative Assistant.
- Marketing Officer.
- Computer Technician.
Working in a busy retail environment can help you prepare for roles outside of the industry, since this field gives you the opportunity to gain transferable and people skills that may be useful in another position. If you're interested in stepping out of the retail sector and want to try something new, the following roles may be career options to consider since the skills you've gained from retail can be easily transferred:
1. Administrative Assistant.
From scheduling meetings to booking business travel, the work of an administrative assistant is fast-paced and a position well-suited for individuals who like to undertake tasks that are varied everyday.
Having excellent people and business administration skills contribute to the success of the role of administrative assistant, so it's important that you're switched on and ready to tackle any challenge that comes your way. Upskilled's BSB30120 - Certificate III in Business (Administration) is a course that can help you prepare for this role.
2. Marketing Officer.
If you want to enter the exciting world of marketing and communications, your skills gained from retail may be beneficial if you plan on making the transition in this exciting industry. The marketing officer is responsible for performing tasks that are related to the maintenance, establishment and enhancement of brand awareness.
Developing and implementing advertising campaigns is their bread and butter so coming from a retail background can help you apply the skill of business awareness in the role of marketing officer. The BSB40820 - Certificate IV in Marketing and Communication can equip you with the skills and knowledge needed for this career path.
3. Computer Technician.
Love coming to the rescue when it comes to people's tech issues? Then a career as a computer technician may be the role for you. Your customer service and attention-to-detail skills from retail can be applied to this position since you'll be tasked in providing technical support and troubleshooting services to end-users so that they're up-and-running again.
The ICT30120 - Certificate III in Information Technology can teach you the foundational skills needed to pursue the role of help desk technician. You'll learn how to provide ICT advice to clients, troubleshoot ICT problems, and install and optimise operating systems - tasks that are relevant to the position.
How can I improve my retail experience?
- Practise your customer service skills: Considering that this is a people-facing industry, it's important that you have a friendly, approachable manner when it comes to speaking to customers.
- Be interested in the business or organisation you work for: Having an interest in the business you work for can help you build your retail skills effectively. The more you understand a business or organisation, the better you are as a retail professional.
- Get comfortable when working under pressure: There will be challenging moments in retail where you may be thrown in the deep end and have difficult conversations with customers. Knowing how to work under pressure can help improve your communication and problem-solving skills.
Working in retail teaches you a lot about humanity, communication and hard work, lessons which are learned on the job. Interested in further developing your transferable skills? Enquire about an online course with Upskilled today.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in March 2018. Content has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.