Schoooooooool’s out for summer. Summer is here which can only mean one thing. We’re all packing our bags, getting a change of scene and heading out into the sun… and then back indoors to our retail jobs where we’ll be spending nine hours a day selling other people holiday clothes, sun cream and other fun essentials whilst they talk about what nice weather it is outside and their upcoming trip to Barbados. Forget holiday season, it’s returning to retail season.

We know working in retail is tough, and we also know that trying to translate the skills you use everyday in a retail job into something relevant to other job applications can be even more difficult. So we decided to round up seven things you only know if you’ve worked in retail (and the skills you might not realise you’ve gained).

1. The complexities of deals and offers

maths equations

It’s a sandwich, a drink and a snack. Who knew a meal deal could be so difficult?! Customers often find it hard to get their heads around deals, especially when there’s no such thing as a free lunch and you’re trying to tell them that buying a drink could actually mean they spend less on the sarnie and chocolate bar they were already buying. Repeating the details of a deal fifteen billion times a day can feel infuriating, but this is a perfect way to work on your communication skills. Being able to clearly explain a process and how it works is something that will come in handy in any job, we promise.

2.The pain of standing up for nine hours a day


You’ve done the shift from one leg to another, the casual lean on the till, and the walk around the shop to check everything looks tidy (and secretly sit in one of the quieter aisles for a bit). Standing up all day is not as easy as non-retail people might think. But, it is a great example you can use in an interview to prove that you’ve got the power of positivity. Nothing demonstrates that you’ve got a great attitude better than being able to say you went three floors upstairs to the stockroom at 5:59pm after a long day of being on your feet, just to make one more customer happy.

3. The stress when someone gives you change after you’ve already typed the amount into the till

sheldon cooper stress

“I have 30p if that helps?”. Six words which strike fear into even the most experienced customer assistants. They think they’re being helpful, but when the total’s £34.72 and a customer has given you £40 and then says ‘ohhh I have 30p if that helps’ but you’ve already pressed the £40 button on the till, the pressure is on. Does it actually help? No one seems to know, but it’s your job to work it out so this is the ultimate mental maths test and a great example of times you have thought on your feet.

4. Self checkout hell

its calling for help gif

Nothing makes time fly like a chorus of self checkout machines saying ‘please place your item in the bagging area’. We joke, it’s the worst. Customers love to hate self scanners, and yet continue to use them when there’s no queue at the normal tills and you’re standing RIGHT THERE, an actual human they could talk to! Next time a flustered man starts complaining about the 5p bag charge and starts huffing and puffing because the self checkout is flashing and shouting ‘help needed’ and there’s no one to ID him for his bottle of sauvignon blanc, just remember this is a perfect example of when you’ve stayed calm under pressure that you can use in your next job interview.

5. The awkwardness of when a couple come to pay and are having a huge argument

don't know how to act normal

If you’ve not tried to serve a couple when they’re mid-argument over something super trivial like photo frames, you don’t know what it means to experience social awkwardness. Do you acknowledge it? Do you interrupt them to ask if they’d like a bag? Do you say ‘have a nice day’ as they leave or is that just sassy? A key skill you can gain here is conflict resolution. We’re just kidding! Don’t get involved. Even if Sandra asks you to tell Rodger which of the photo frames they are bickering over is nicer, and she’s CLEARLY got it wrong, stay welllll out of it. This is your chance  to gain some skills handling difficult or heated situations and remaining professional.

6. The rage when someone walks in with a huge list five minutes before you shut

shut door

It’s 5:59pm, the shop’s been open since 9am, you’ve got all the stuff you need to cash up ready to go, and then in wanders Doris with a huge list of things to buy, a massive trolley, and no sense of urgency whatsoever. This is when you put your efficiency into work. How can you get everything in this lady’s basket as soon as possible, whilst still being super polite? Maybe it’s team work, maybe it’s great customer service. Come up with a plan to save your Friday night and you’ll also have a brilliant example of problem-solving for your next job application.

7. How it feels to listen to Christmas music in September

wallow in self pity grinch


When it comes to playlists in retail, they can either make you or break you. Nothing gives you patience like listening to the same ten songs on loop day in, day out. Apart from when they decide to start playing Christmas music in September. The only way to get through is to embrace it. Not only will you be blessed with the powers of patience, you’ll also have a killer karaoke routine in the bag too.

If you think you’ve got what it takes to make it in the retail industry, why no check out this chance to become an O2 Guru Apprentice, and this apprenticeship with Sky.

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