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What working in retail is really like

What comes to mind when you think about working in retail? Having money to go on holidays, buying the latest trends in fashion, going out on nights out all the time? If only this was true. The harsh reality of working in retail is low pay, long hours and getting to spend little time with family and friends around national holidays.

Because I am a full-time student, I only work part-time but part time in retail can be taxing enough. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some parts of working in retail that are major positives. The skill of dealing with the public, for example, is a priceless skill and is something that every person should have under their belt. I believe working with the public makes you understand people better. While working with the public can gain you some excellent experience, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. All walks of life walk through the doors in retail and you have to be prepared for every type, some more challenging than others. Dealing with the public can vary from having a lovely conversation with a very friendly customer to having your ear chewed off by someone who insists they are right – and whether they are right or wrong, you must remember the ‘customer is always right’ and on many occasions, you have to just bite your tongue and keep quiet.

As a full-time student and a part-time sales assistant in a retail store, I’m not exactly rich. I have enough money to get me by for the week and for nights out, but holidays and bigger events require saving. As a result, earning my own money has helped me learn how to actually manage my own money. I remember when I first starting earning my own money, it was huge. I had money coming into my bank account every week and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I spent it. It was all a novelty really but soon became a reality when the money began to run out which led me to stop buying every piece of clothing I saw and liked. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted but I had to learn how to manage my money and save for bigger better things in the future. So instead of buying 20 tops in Penneys, buy a weekend Electric Picnic ticket instead. Trust me, it’s worth it.

While the money and experience are great, working in retail can be hard, particularly around Christmas. Christmas is a time you spend with family and friends and it can almost be like a mini holiday for some, but for people in retail, it means longer hours and less time spent with their friends and family. It can be very difficult in the run-up to see families coming in together to do their shopping and having a lovely time together when you are stuck behind a till trying to be “merry” back. It can take its toll on you emotionally because you will have people who are demanding the latest trends in fashion or toys and they scream at you when you tell them you’re sold out in what they want. We don’t particularly want to be sold out in what you want but please don’t yell at us, it’s not our fault. It’s not our decision on how many of one item is delivered to the shop, we just work there.

Although there can be challenges and obstacles to overcome, I must admit, I do love working in retail. I am very lucky in a sense that I get on very well with the people I work with – I wouldn’t consider them as colleagues, I’d see them as, close friends. Every day in retail is different, you never know who you’re going to meet on that day and that’s the excitement of it all. Yes, there can be long hours involved and while the pay may not be ideal, the experience is priceless.