According to statistics released by Service IQ, the retail industry has grown from 259,000 people in 2012, to nearly 300,000 people today. This huge percentage of the population is responsible for keeping our retail industry up and running, performing a multitude of tasks with tolerance and a positive attitude. Bella Pierce is a gorgeous 21 year old working in one of Auckland’s on-trend high fashion stores. We sat down with her to find out a little bit more about what it really takes to be a retail assistant.
What does a typical day for you include?
Well, I suppose every day is pretty similar. Before we open the store we have to vacuum, write up daily tasks, float the till and check the stock. Once the store opens, serving customers is obviously our main priority, but if we are having a slow day then there are a number of things we do in order to keep ourselves busy. By this I mean cleaning. You don’t understand how many different ways you can clean a floor until you work in a retail store! We dust the jewellery stands, tidy up the mannequins and vacuum vacuum vacuum! Sometimes a fun thing we do is try on the cool clothes and take photos of ourselves wearing them for the company’s social media pages. That’s my favourite job!
Tell me an awesome story about your job. Have you ever had a cool celebrity come into the store or received a huge tip?
I honestly wish that I could say yes. I seriously do, but nothing overly cool has ever happened to me in the store. I suppose the best thing I can say was last year when Erin, the third finalist for The Bachelor 2015 came into the store. How boring is that!
Have you ever had any bad in-store experiences?
One morning I went to vacuum the changing room, note that I am vacuuming AGAIN, and there was a dirty g-string hanging from the hook! Maybe the woman didn’t want to wear underwear that evening, but whatever her reasoning was, I was the unlucky retail assistant who had to move them from the hook into the bin.
What skills do you think are required as a retail assistant?
You definitely have to be good with people. That’s the most important thing in the world. You have to be confident, approachable and engaging. Customers generally want to talk to you, so you have to initiate the relationship and find common ground with them, making them feel comfortable in your store. I also truly believe that customers pick up on phony behaviour. Honesty is key as a retail assistant. You don’t have to tell people that they look awful in a certain piece of clothing, but instead try something like suggesting a different piece that could be more suited to their body type. It feels so good to be honest, and customers really appreciate it as well.
Do you think that CEOs of the company and people in executive positions would be able to work your job?
I think that would all depend on their skill set with people. Working in retail requires tolerance and patience on another level. You have to be passionate about people if you want to succeed. I think it would really benefit CEO’s and higher powered people within the company to trial our retail assistant positions so that they understand what we endure on a daily basis. It’s important that they understand their company on every level, even if it is the lower levelled ones. As retail assistants we are walking mannequins of the brand, and I think appreciation for what we do is vital within a company.
What are the perks of being a retail assistant?
The people. I love the people. The discounted clothing is also awesome but I perform this job because I love interacting with and being around people all day.
Does your pay check cover your day to day life?
Not. At. All. Absolutely not. Retail is a hard industry to be in. We perform really enduring tasks all day every day with a smile on our face and we get paid the bare minimum. I think it’s really unfair and the only downside to my job. I am still living at home with my parents, so luckily I don’t have to cover rent, but if I had to pay rent there is absolutely no way that I could live without getting another job.
Have you noticed any interesting quirks in the job?
Yes. No one ever sits down. I find that really strange. People in office jobs spend all day sitting, receptionists don’t stand up when we approach them, so why do we have to spend all day on our feet? I would love to be able to spend even just a minute or two sitting down. Also, we aren’t allowed to eat on the shop floor. I can understand why in terms of etiquette, but I think that there is a stigma surrounding eating that shouldn’t exist.
Do you see yourself being in retail for the rest of your life?
I definitely think it’s a younger job. I would like to get into a more personable form of fashion such as styling. If the pay was better for retail assistants then perhaps I would consider it a career path, but at this stage I want to be able to afford to live in Auckland, and that’s something I won’t be able to do working at the store.