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The Ups and Downs of Working in Retail


Are you considering an entry level career in retail? Find out what you're getting into before you apply!

In today's economy, if you don't have a skill of some sort, you can't really afford to be too picky. But do you really want to be stuck in a job you absolutely can't stand? There are always perks and drawbacks to any job. Here you can learn about what to expect when working in your average retail environment! Not all of these points will apply to every retail job. Retailers can be quite different from each other. For example, if you prefer a calm, casual work environment, you would probably be better off working at a small store that is owned by a smaller company instead of a large corporation with stores all over the country. If you prefer a fast paced, busy and possibly more competitive work environment, you would do well as an employee of a large corporate retailer.

The Perks of Working in Retail

  1. One of the best benefits of working in retail is of course, the discount! This can range from 10% to 50% but in my experience usually falls around 20%-40%. That can really add up! Considering you probably won't be making very much money this can really help out depending on what your employer has for products.
  2. A discount isn't the only way a retail employee can save some money. When you work in retail you will usually be the one marking down merchandise on a regular basis. Therefore you will be the first to see the best clearance prices and you will know where to find them. Most retailers usually have plenty of fliers around with coupons as well. Or they may just apply the current coupon to every employee's sale.
  3. This is the perfect job for the style conscious person. This job allows you to keep up with all the latest trends without having to check the magazines.
  4. If you need a job with flexible scheduling this is a great way to go! If you work for one of the larger retail stores you will have many co-workers who are usually more than willing to take your shifts or switch shifts with you so you don't have to plan around your job. As long as you give enough notice, most retail employers will have no problem giving you certain days off as long as the day you are requesting is not a busy holiday or you can find someone to cover for you. Shifts are often only 3-6 hours long so you may find that even on days you work you will still have almost the whole day to do whatever you please. This is very convenient for anyone who is attending college and looking for a part- time job. Just let them know when you have class and they will only give you shifts that do not conflict with that schedule.
  5. There are plenty of jobs available! If you have been looking online for a job you have no doubt come across quite a few empty retail positions, although there are certainly not as many as there used to be. Many companies have eliminated several full time positions in favor of a part time position that will cost them less per hour as well as requiring fewer benefits. If this is what you are looking for you are in luck! There are also many full time positions but they will definitely be harder to find.
  6. You don't need any special skills to work in retail. This does not mean retail workers lack intelligence or ambition in spite of how they are treated from time to time. It simply means it is a great job for teens or young adults attending college who need time to learn skills they can take into other careers. It is also a nice position for older people who have retired but still need a source of income. Or as a second job for anyone who does have skills but may not be making what they need in their career field. No college is required.
  7. If you like talking to people and consider yourself a friendly person, you will find success in a retail career. You will meet all kinds of people and quite often you will meet a customer who just wants to talk to someone while they shop. Patience is required. You will encounter those who are unhappy with their shopping experience but if you can smile and treat them well they may say something to your supervisor resulting in recognition or a promotion for you!
  8. If you enjoy looking your best there are many retail positions that will require you to dress up. This doesn't always mean dresses and suits but a nice pair of dress pants and a professional looking top will do the trick. You almost never have to get dirty (unless you're talking about dust) so you can show up wearing your best clothing every day and you won't be out of place!
  9. You are getting great customer service experience! Customer service in some form is a part of almost every job out there. If you find yourself working as a salesperson making commission this is even better! The ability to sell products is a great skill to have for many professions.

The Drawbacks of Retail Work

  1. The most common complaint about retail jobs is the lack of hours available. With retailers trying to cut costs, you will probably only get 12-20 hours a week. If you are lucky you may find part time positions for 20-30 hours a week but this is less common at least in my experience. There is something you can do about this however. Always talk to your employer and let them know you are more than willing to pick up extra hours and ask them to give you a call whenever someone calls off no matter how short the notice may be. Also talk to your co-workers and let them know if they have any shifts they can't work that they can come to you for guaranteed coverage. If you do this and if you consistently accept extra hours when they are offered you may find yourself scheduled for more hours anyway!
  2. I'm going to be honest with you. Unless you are working full time, you probably will not be making much above minimum wage. Even if you have experience you may only get $8 to $9 dollars an hour as a sales associate/ cashier.
  3. There is a large amount of competition for each job opening. As I said before, this position does not require any real skills. Therefore, many people qualify for the job. You will have to have an outstanding interview in some cases to land the job. Always make sure to maintain eye contact and smile! Retailers are looking for friendly, enthusiastic sales oriented employee's.
  4. Your schedule will probably be all over the place. Most retailers I am familiar with will open around 8 or 9 and close around 9 or 10. They will also require people to help put away products that come in on trucks every week. This may mean that you will be asked to come to work at the crack of dawn or you may have to work some very late nights depending on when they receive their shipments. This is a good question to ask at the interview. You will almost never have a set schedule in an entry level retail job. You may work a closing shift one night and have to get up for the early shift the next day! While this can be a pain, hours are hours and the more you show you are willing to work any schedule the more your managers will use you.
  5. Working in retail may make you buy things you really don't need. You may laugh, but I have seen this become a real problem for some people. When you find yourself marking down a beautiful purse or an expensive shirt you may think to yourself what a great deal you are holding in your hands. You may start to think well... it used to be $60 and now it's only $10 I can afford that. You start to think about how great you would look with that product and how people will think you must be doing well to afford such nice things. Where it really starts to get you is when you don't know when to say no to a good deal. There will always be great deals somewhere in the store. But if you buy every single one you won't be saving money anymore! What do you really need with 20 purses or 50 pairs of shoes?
  6. The biggest drawback to working in a retail job is how you are treated by many customers. Many people seem to be of the opinion that because you are in a customer service position, that means they can treat you however they please. You can be the sweetest, friendliest, most helpful person working there and some people will just walk all over you. The problem is, many customers know that if they throw a fit, they can usually get whatever they want. They also seem to think that if you are only a cashier you must be lazy or unintelligent. So they will question everything. They will argue with you that $X is NOT 30% off of $X even when it clearly is. This is when you get out your handy calculator and calmly and sweetly show them they are being a complete fool. They will insist that although they don't have any coupons with them, you must give them any current coupons regardless of whether or not you are allowed to do so. They will try to tell you the item in question was on a clearance rack even though it is clearly supposed to be on a full price rack right next to it. Some customers will merely be annoyed and decide not to buy the items while others will scream at you and ask for your manager. Some might even throw the items at you. If you are unable to handle conflicts with others this is not the job for you.
  7. This drawback is very similar to the last one. You may not be treated the best by your managers. Being a retail manager can be stressful and they will sometimes take it out on you. Remember the scenario I described where a customer is irate and asks for your manager? Well don't expect your manager to take your side. They will inevitably come up and give the customer exactly what they wanted all while apologizing to them and telling them anything they want to hear. They can be power hungry and will not always treat you with respect because you are the lowly cashier. This can be the case in many types of jobs however. It really depends on the individual store and you might get lucky and have a great relationship with all your supervisors.
  8. You will most likely be required to try to sell a card of some sort. Whether this is a credit card or simply a club card, not everyone will want to sign up or even let you finish your sentence. Customers are often in a hurry and don't want to listen to a sales pitch about some card when they have a wallet full of cards for every store. You will have to deal with rejection on a regular basis but you can't stop trying. In many stores there is a goal for the number of card accounts an employee must get in a month. If you do not meet this goal you may be written up or terminated.
  9. You will likely have to stand for hours at a time doing very repetitive work. This may be a plus for some who just want a simple job that doesn't require much thinking or challenge but many complain of this. Often you will not be able to wear sneakers or casual shoes so you may have quite a bit of discomfort if you aren't used to dress shoes.
  10. Sometimes you will have to clean up after inconsiderate customers. This can wear on the nerves of some. Seeing people throwing clothing where it doesn't belong or tossing garbage on a display you just cleaned can be quite frustrating and you absolutely can not say a thing about it. Those who work in shoe stores can tell you stories about customers leaving shoe boxes and tops strewn across the aisles with all the stuffing spread out on the floor as well. If this makes you so angry you have to say something, you may want to look elsewhere for a career.
  11. If you acquire a job where you are working on commission you will have to compete with your co-workers for each sale. This can lead to conflicts over who should get the sale in question and you may find your co-workers resenting you if you happen to be getting the majority of sales.
  12. Most stores have a very unsatisfying way of dealing with stealing by customers. Even if you are positive a customer has taken something you may not be able to do a thing about it. Some stores require a manager to see the theft taking place before anything can be said. So as a cashier even if you saw it happen you are powerless.
  13. As I stated earlier, many retailers are trying to do more with less. This means you will probably not have as many employees working at one time as you would like. You may often be the only one in your department regardless of how much work there is to be done. You will be required to watch the register as well as any other tasks such as putting away products and marking down items. Sometimes you may be stuck on the register for hours at a time.

That is about all you need to know about working in a retail setting. If you have decided to go for it good for you! Many people find great success in this field. Remember every district or store manager had to start as a cashier at some point! Depending on how much you want to apply yourself you can go far. If you have a thick skin and a hard working attitude you can find a successful career in retail.

Good Luck!


This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Lola on November 28, 2012:

Retail makes me hate life

Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on September 23, 2011:

This is a very helpful hub. I'm glad you made it to the nomination. Congrats!

asmaiftikhar from Pakistan on September 19, 2011:

a useful hub keep it up

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Nova Scott (author) from Upstate New York on September 18, 2011:

Thanks for reading! Bwhite - I was a retail manager for awhile and I found it quite stressful as well. I think it wouldn't have been so bad if I had been making more money but even managers don't get paid much above minimum wage when they are starting out. Prektjr.dc - Thank you for the vote! I'm glad you got something out of it.

Debbie Carey from Riverton, KS, USA on September 17, 2011:

Nice hub giving both sides! Good job! congratulations on your hubnugget nomination! Voted up and interesting!

Brianna W from East Coast on September 17, 2011:

Your hub is point on! I have been working in retail for 5 years and been a retail manager for 3 years. Although it has it's fun times, retail can be very stressful. I used to be that cashier that the customer would scream at to get them a manager. Now I am the manager that comes out just to get screamed at even more! lol. But the customer is ALWAYS right. Atleast that's what I am told.

Nova Scott (author) from Upstate New York on September 17, 2011:

It is fun to dress up for work, especially when customers end up buying the same or similar attire simply because they liked the way it looked on you! Imitation is the highest form of flattery as they say. Personally I could never work at Walmart or similar retailers. I prefer a smaller company that will treat me more like a person and not just a number that can be easily replaced. Thanks for reading and for your comment as well!

FloraBreenRobison on September 17, 2011:

Thanks for giving both pros and cons to this job. I've never worked in a clothing store. I could certainly use the discounts and I work in a home office. I have no reason to wear these dress clothes in my closet that I would love to wear-but not so my cat can get fur all over them. However, I don't see any positives in working at a place like Wallmart-not only do you have the drawbacks you mention, your employers treat you badly too.

Nova Scott (author) from Upstate New York on September 17, 2011:

Thank you both for your feedback! Flagostomos, I'm glad you enjoy what you do that's something most people can't say. I don't mind working in retail most days but sometimes customers can make me wish I had a job where I didn't deal with the public directly. The good thing is that I used to be quite shy and now I've developed a thicker skin when it comes to "bad" customers and have become more confident in my dealings with strangers. And you're right it does feel good to help people find a good deal or the item they were looking for. Ripplemaker- thanks for letting me know about the latest hubnuggets hub! Its so nice to see that new writers can get some recognition like this. It's really been great encouragement for me on days where I receive no comments or experience low traffic.

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on September 16, 2011:

Hmmmmm now I have the wonderful insight into retailing. Thanks for sharing.

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! Follow that link and vote! Be sure to check your email too!

flagostomos on August 05, 2011:

I work in retail too, and I got to say that of all the jobs I've held, retail is the most satisfying. I don't know why, but there's something about it that just makes you feel good. That's a good pro if you ask me.

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