According to The Office of National Statistics, 2.9 million people were employed in the retail sector in 2015. This is a sizable chunk of the UK’s working population, making standing out from the crowd and forging a successful retail career a challenge.
We sat down with Bill Richardson, the founder and owner of clothing retailer Kings & Dukes, and picked his brain for his top tips on building a successful career in the industry.
Getting on the career ladder seems to be getting harder and harder nowadays. What do you look for when you’re hiring someone for a retail position?
First things first: make sure you get all of the basics right when you’re applying for any job. If you haven’t taken the time to get your CV and cover letter up to scratch, then you’re making it hard for any employer to take you seriously. There’s plenty of advice on writing a great CV on the internet, so just do a bit of research and follow the advice you find.
As shop workers are customers’ main point of contact with our brand, I’m always looking for people with a confident and polite manner. If a candidate gets this across to me in their interview, then they’ll often go further than someone more experienced who lacks these qualities.
In your opinion, what can those in entry-level retail positions do to get noticed and take their career to the next level?
It’s all about attitude — come in to work each day with a genuine desire to help customers and you’ll soon get noticed within the company. Moreover, if you’re always looking to take on more responsibilities, you help new members of staff without being prompted, and generally make your manager’s life easier, you’re sure to catch the eye of your employer.
No matter what the sector, every employer’s ideal member of staff is someone who uses their initiative to solve problems before they snowball into something bigger. If you can be the solution to your employer’s common problems, then you’ll quickly find yourself rising up the ranks and making a great career for yourself.
With that in mind, what are some of the common problems employers have in the retail sector?
A big headache is logistics. We have to manage a constant influx of stock, keep our staff happy by giving them the number of hours they’re looking for, and maintain a close eye on our finances to make sure we’re always making a healthy profit. Any member of staff who can help streamline these processes and take the stress out of the day-to-day running of a retail store will be invaluable to their employer.
Remaining competitive in a saturated marketplace is another big problem in the sector, especially for retailers with an online store. Any employee with a knack for marketing or design is therefore a big asset for any retailer. If this is you, offer to take on any extra responsibilities you can.
It’s worth noting at this point that you’ll have a lot more scope for taking on these responsibilities if you work for a smaller, independent business rather than a big national brand. Keep this in mind when considering your career trajectory.
What should those looking for a successful career in retail avoid?
If you have ambitions of progressing in any sector, you should avoid simply putting in the bare minimum of effort. In retail, this means that you should keep yourself busy during periods where there are no customers by taking on any extra responsibilities you can find. You should also always make sure to talk to customers and your colleagues with a smile, no matter what kind of mood you’re in.
You should also avoid tardiness and generally being a negative influence on the rest of the staff, as no employer is going to reward you if you bring these qualities into their business.
Finally, what are your three top tips for people looking to build a successful career in retail?
My top three tips for anyone looking to stand out in the retail sector are:
- Come in to work every day with a genuine desire to help customers
- Be proactive in solving your employer’s biggest headaches
Never simply put in the bare minimum of effort. Set the bar higher for yourself if you are serious about progressing in your retail career.