The Confidence Boost That Comes With Retail
Apart from the obvious factors that come with working within retail; kissing goodbye to your weekends, the odd shift patterns, a juicy staff discount - I wanted to have a natter about the (dare I say) slightly deeper factors that come with a working shop front & encountering more than a variety of different faces & personalities on a daily basis.
I've had my fair share of retail employers, from The Body Shop through to high street fashion power troupers such as Topshop & Allsaints & therefore feel that I dipped my toes in a variety of different products, policies & of course customers.
I also discovered that retail is a very peculiar world, as well as pretty weird & wonderful with of course one or two additional shitters thrown in for good measure.
When I say shitters, I mean the gross stock take that is dreaded for every single employee, replenishment hour (which always took stupidly longer than it ever should) & of course the sale preparation.. oh my god. SALE. How can I even describe the painful preparation that pottered along with the mid season sales?
.. & then of course there's the whole other ball game of keeping sale tidy, which is just too agonizing to discuss.
When I first begun my journey of a sales assistant, I always visualized a very glamorous, chilled working day that involved raking home the products/garments with a hefty staff discount & living a very comfy part-timers dream. I was also still fantasizing from my childhood about getting to grips with a cash register..
To be fair, I make it sound like it was the trickiest job role I've ever encountered but the work load itself wasn't too shabby. It was harder than I first assumed it would be but once you get yourself into the knack of where things are located in store, how the policies work & how the eff to use the blaaaady till, you're pretty much on track.
I always find myself very flustered & frustrated if I'm not 'good' at something, which is why I hate being the newbie in a job & so until I find my feet I really struggle.
I certainly had a better knack when it came to fashion brands over beauty because I felt like I was way more knowledgeable with personal style & I had a keen interest in fashion.
I'm so sorry if I ever sold you a product..
Working within retail is like squeezing into your very own dysfunctional family that is forever loosing & adding members on a frequent basis. But they are the most bright, loud, buckets of energy filled family you could possibly imagine & you wouldn't dare go a week without the cheeky Wetherspoons booth booze up. These colorful personalities really push you into becoming your own person, make social situations ever so enjoyable & push you to find your charisma. They're the OTT kind & you've just got to roll right with it!
The contrast from the trembling young girl who was convinced she had screwed up her initial interview to the mini sass-pot who waved goodbye to retailer life is just insane.
You learn that you have to grow a rather thick layer of skin very rapidly to survive within retail & it does you many beautiful wonders later in life.
Customers will scream at you, members of staff will probably scream at you (especially if they're toppling into an horrendous hungover state) & you in turn will scream back at them.
My confidence has sky rocketed within the 5+ years I've worked within retail & I've certainly gained an appreciation to make conversation whenever possible with a complete stranger. It's incredible how a little interaction can lift someones mood & create such a positive shopping environment (especially when it can be such a daunting experience for so many people).
You honestly are the eyes & ears for so many heart to hearts especially at till point & fitting room. I can't count on my fingers how many personal stories I've been told about death, heartache or how genuinely shit someones day has been.
It also makes me very conscious as a customer to be as polite as possible & to ask the recurring till point questions back such as 'how are you today?' because it always used to be such a rare & genuine surprise when a customer would ask back. I mean, the fact that you're telling a complete stranger his or her butt looks incredible in a pair of jeans they're umming & arring about in the fitting room, really is an incite into the confidence you've built yourself.
Not only have I grown in confidence socially, I've also become very comfortable & adaptable within my personal style. I know what I love & I know what works with my body shape & I honestly couldn't thank working within the high street enough for helping my find my way with styling.
When I first begun as a part-timer, working the majority of the weekends & being gifted with a uniform allowance, I had no clue what the hell I was doing. Jersey pieces became a fail safe because a white t-shirt works with everything, right? Well, honey - you don't need that £12 t-shirt in every single frigging colour.
I remember being in ore of my young, drop-dead gorgeous colleagues who looked so effortless 24/7 & picked out the most spectacular pieces I wouldn't dare to be seen in. My first uniform piece was a khaki military jacket, which I opted for after spotting one of the new seasonal graphic models sporting the very same one. Of course she was edgy, petite & perfect (& had a very talented stylist dress her from head to toe with some other insane pieces) so my military jacket didn't quite work with my current wardrobe, but my gawwwd did I wear that thaang to death.
Over the next 2 years I begun to drain out the Lauren Conrad inspired wardrobe, which was nothing close to that goddesses & began investing in pieces that I personally loved & felt fabulous in. I splurged a stupid amount over the years buying certain silhouettes, patterns & colours that were disgusting on me but part of journey of learning how to find my own style.
One of my demon pet peeves was purchasing garments in sizes that never fitted my body. My wardrobe was all over the place from size 8 through to the occasional size 18 & I was terrible at knowing what should hug what, where. I finally took the time to learn about how to find your perfect fit within jeans & what materials would 'give' over time so that I could nail my size & rifle through & condense my 'bit of everything' wardrobe.
I no longer wanted to 'fit' in with the crowd but in fact begun getting a little bit of a buzz when I would invest in such a unique piece. Or if someone were to comment 'oh that's a bit lairy', hell yes it is & that's why I'm owning it.
Since departing from my bubble of retail I've certainly adopted a confidence within my own personal style. I have a weird obsession with reliving the 70's/80's & I'm very content with my little odd time warp. I feel that I know what works with my style & I'm not continually purchasing garments because I see all my favourite celebrities/girl crushes & bloggers wear them (obviously from time to time I am influenced & a cheeky splurge is in order).
No matter how indulged I was within my little retailer haven I knew that there would come a time where I would need to experience other industries & progress in other aspects.
People come & go all the time due to other commitments & that's why you make an unbelievable amount of friends & memories all squeezed onto one shop floor. Sometimes you don't always keep contact with your ever growing retail family but the ones who do end up sticking like glue are a fine dandy bunch.
There are times I truly despised working within retail & loathed the daily repetitive tasks, but in hindsight it was certainly one of the best careers I'd taken on as a confused, not-sure-what-to-do-with-my-life, young adult who was lacking confidence & who was pretty damn bored with a part time college course.
It encouraged me to push my creativity, to dwell in a hobby that to this day I still dabble in (hello blogging!) & to be a little more daring with my choices.
It was also a rude awakening to how truly unfit you are when tackling a mannequin or scrambling up and down the stairs to the stock room..
Skirt- Daisy Street Jacket- Forever 21 Boots- New Look
T-Shirt- River Island