If you’re looking for a part-time job, it’s important to ask yourself: what is it like to work in retail?

The retail industry is a huge one and one that you’ll likely encounter at some point during your part-time job hunt.

This article aims to explain what it’s like to work in retail based on my own experiences.

From my limited experience (and for the purposes of this article), I could divide my job into three main areas of responsibility: working stock, assisting customers, and working on the tills. Some companies may prefer to have dedicated staff for each area, others prefer more well-rounded staff. Again, this is based on my experience. I have not worked in every major retail chain on the planet, and the one I did work in was a fairly unusual one regarding its practices.

Regardless, my main priority was stock. I was only working on the tills if there weren’t enough till staff to handle all of the customers.


A little tip to those of you who are looking to work in retail: check the websites of local supermarket chains. They tend to have a way of finding out if there are any job openings in your area.



Working Stock

This was the most important part of my job. I was given a load of stock that needed to go out onto shelves and I was expected to put it out. Because the store I worked at was fairly large, there was a lot of stock that needed to go out. Whether or not the job was easy varied from day to day. Some days, all the stock would be out by lunchtime. Other days, it could take upwards of 9 hours to get it all out. Often times, there wouldn’t be sufficient room to get stock out without having to move other stock. This was the hardest part of the job by far. If you got unlucky with the stock you were given, sometimes it could take an extremely long time to put out.

In terms of training, some brief common sense training was given when I first started the job. I don’t really feel that there’s much training necessary. It definitely seemed like the job had been overcomplicated when I first started.

This part of the job is physically challenging. I almost enjoyed getting paid to work out for 8 hours.


Assisting Customers

In 99/100 cases, all a customer would want from me is directions to a product. Our store often gets rearranged, which means that it can be difficult for customers to find what they’re looking for. I would say that this required intricate knowledge of the layout of the store. That would be a lie, however. I mostly just guessed at where things might be and then I offered to help the customer look.

The other 1% of customers would usually get swiftly directed to a manager. This is purely because the chain I worked at didn’t give much power to the regular employees. This is unusual for most retail chains, where the employee may get a bit more power to assist customers.


Working Tills

The tills at most major supermarket chains are typically extremely simple devices. Because there’s no need for fancy features, you’ll typically just be stood/sat in front of a cheap 16 segment display. The steps for the extremely simple procedure were as follows:

  1. Take an item from the belt on my left
  2. Scan it
  3. Place it down on my right
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until close

Granted, there was a little more to it than that. I’d have to ask each customer if they wanted any bags and I’d have to call down a manager if I accidentally scanned an item twice, or someone wanted to do a return. However, part of that is purely because the cashiers at my chain had little control over anything other than the scanner.



The short answer to the question “what is it like to work in retail?” is: simple and sometimes physically demanding.

If you’re looking for your first job, then it’s definitely one of the easiest ways to get hired. The job itself is relatively straightforward and you’ll pick it up in a matter of weeks. However, it can be quite physically demanding and that can put a lot of people off.

Should You Work in Retail?

So, should you work in retail? I’d say that it’s an experience that’s worth having, if only so you can benchmark every other job you have against it. I can’t say that I’d like to work in retail again. Although, I’m not much of a people person. Your mileage may vary.

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