Skills Needed To Work In Retail

Like any other occupation, working in Retail requires skills. What irks many Retail professionals is the assumption that anyone can work in retail; that it’s a job for people with no experience or just looking to put in some time and make some easy money. To excel in the Retail field, you need these essential skills:

Initiating contact. There are two kinds of employees: one who waits for you to speak to them, and the one who approaches you and initiates contact. If you want to be successful, you must identify and acknowledge people as they enter your store, welcome them and offer assistance.

Be pleasant. Everyone enjoys spending time with friendly people. When interacting with customers, a smile goes a long way to demonstrating you’re approachable and happy to provide advice.

Look for work to do. Nothing is more of turn off to both employers and customers than see staff stand around doing nothing. No, actually there is something worse and that’s the employee standing around doing nothing while texting or watching a YouTube video. There is always work to do if you look for it. Dusting and tidying are two examples.

Math. Customers can’t always figure out how much an item will cost them when the signs say 30% off. They’ll often ask you the employee and so you’ll need some basic math skills – unless you plan on looking it up using the calculator app on your phone. Oh, but you can’t because phones aren’t allowed on the sales floor. No, it’s not your right to have your phone in your pocket while at work. Oh and if the power to the register is out, yes, you’ll have to have math skills to figure things out like making change manually. You can do that right?

Taking inventory. All retail stores have to take inventory so they can check what they believe they have against what they actually have. This is sometimes done after stores close, every employee is called in and is expected to take part. You need a good attitude too, because no one goes home until its done.

Product knowledge. “What does it do?” Your job is to know all about the features of the products you’re selling. A lot of stores have moved to self-service, where the staff in the store are good at taking your money but don’t know much of anything when it comes to the products they sell. These stores don’t typically last long. What’s the different between a Training shoe and a Running shoe? If you sell shoes, you’d better find out.

Marketing. Knowing your products is a good start, but now you have to be skilled at marketing that product to the potential buyer. Why do they just have to have one? How will they benefit from owning what you’re offering? Will it make their life better in some way? How?

Flexibility. A set schedule is a wonderful thing – when every employee shows up as scheduled. However, you might be called to come in with little notice. You might be asked if you can work late, You might find your employer wants you to take your vacation in February or March, work on long weekends and longer hours when the stores extend their hours. No flexibility on your part could mean no job.

Dependability. Showing up when you’re expected to work is pretty basic. People are counting on you to be at work when your name is on the schedule. It’s more than just being physically present though; you’ve got to do what’s expected of you when you’re actually at work. You could find a note telling you to unpack a shipment and check the inventory. You might find directives to change the location of items in the store or put together a marketing promotional kit that arrived just as the store closed the day before. Do what’s expected.

Listening. Great sales people are always listening to customers; listening for opportunities. As customers talk, good employees determine customer’s needs and wants, then produce goods that fulfill those needs. And the best sales people get customers to purchase and leave with products they didn’t even know they needed – until they were shown the product and just had to have one!

Know your policies. Nothing gets customers more upset than being told something by an employee that turns out to be false. Don’t tell people they can bring something back if all sales are final. Don’t promise you can order in an item if it’s being discontinued. Don’t say you’ll hold an item until the end of the next business day but then find out you’re not allowed to do that and it gets sold to another customer. You set people up to be angry with both you and the store.

Shrinkage. No not the Seinfeld episode. Shrinkage is when inventory that supposed to be in stock disappears. Don’t plan on helping yourself to the merchandise when no one is looking. That’s theft and it can not only get you fired, it could lead to criminal charges, a police record and make getting future employment extremely hard or even impossible in some cases.

While this list isn’t complete, it’s a great list of the essentials. You get to practice and improve your interpersonal skills, build self-confidence and assertiveness and if you’re lucky, get some employee discounts or bonuses on what you sell!

4 thoughts on “Skills Needed To Work In Retail

  1. These are very good skills to have. I found out in an interview and by doing some research that you also need to be very fast on your feet and very flexible. Retailers usually want people we can do all the jobs in a store . You might be on the till one day and stocking the next day or doing both or more in the same day. Also too, you every bit of work you do will be timed so you want to be able to do it very quickly. You will be expected to be able to work at any time the store is open. Also remember most of these jobs are part time and with very few hours.


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