Thursday, December 07, 2017

This one’s for, My Peers Working Retail: Escaping the Stigma: You Can Be Successful and Happy Working Retail.

That’s the goal, isn’t it? success and happiness; having a job that is gratifying in all aspects. For some, working retail provides that gratification, but the rest of society has a hard time believing that one can be successful and happy in such an industry. I have worked in retail for a few different companies and from personal experiences, I have seen it all, the good: the bad and the downright ugly. Starting as a sales associate for a small mom-and-pop clothing store seven years ago has led me to work for one of Canada’s top luxury retailers. 

When I had decided that this was the field I wanted to build my career in, the reactions were usually, all the same: squinted eyes, a slightly tilted head, sincere look of confusion followed by one of two responses: “Are you sure this what you want to do?” “Don’t you think you have more to offer than just working retail?” Those were the moments that forced me to accept that the stigma is present and it does not look like it is going to be broken anytime soon. But like always, I am here, along with someone who is such an inspiration to me; Rita Stillo, General Manager for Gucci at Holt Renfrew Bloor Street to provide you with guidance and reassurance that retail is a thriving career choice, which will lead you to success and happiness.

It is crucial to address the issues and understand why there is such a stigma. Besides the personal jabs I have taken about my commitment to retail I wanted a closer look at what societies views are on the industry and those of us who are apparently “suffering.” My search began on the World Wide Web to see exactly what entitled arrogance was circulating towards people in retail. Every article during my search was closely linked with negative presumptions as to why retail could not provide you with a successful career. I stumbled across articles titles like, “ The 30 Worst Things about Working Retail”,13 Things no one understands About Retail”, “25 Reasons why you shouldn’t be Working Retail” The negativity is so real! Yes, the facts are true: retail hours are long; most of them spent on your feet running around, and dedicating yourself to providing the best customer service all day long can be exhausting, but the fact of the matter is retail plays a prosperous role in the economy. Consumer spending is beneficial to the economy; the more the consumer is willing to spend the better sustained the economy will be, and that begins with a small interaction between customer and associate. Not to mention it is one of the few industries that provides countless jobs and is evergrowing. We acknowledge that those who work in retail are not paving the way to solving world hunger, but our impact is nothing to shy away from. Retail workers, assist in the fluctuation of the economy every single day and that alone is something to be proud of.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with one of retail’s finest, Rita Stillo, General Manager of Gucci inside Holt Renfrew Bloor Street where we discussed all things about the industry. During our time together we honed in on the reality of working retail both positive and negative. “The relationships I’ve built over the years is also a huge positive aspect, some of the customers I was serving when I started out in beauty still shop with me today at Gucci.” She then continued to explain that the only negativity she faces is the term “real job”. “I think the worst thing about working retail is that other people have this preconceived notion that you couldn’t find other work or a “real job” so you decided to work retail. People often forget that you can be extremely successful in retail.”
The question we have been hoping to answer all along is how do we escape the stigma of working retail? How do we inflict success and happiness while trying to be respected by society? By the end of the interview, Rita and I were able to agree that success in this industry stems from patience. We are told that success is a virtue and just as in any other career, the growth in retail takes time. One must be patient and earn their stripes to climb the ladder.

In contrast to all of this negativity, there are many pros to having a career in retail (not that I am trying to sell you on anything). For starters, you have full career control: you have the power to begin at entry level and work with mentors who can help you grow into the next steps in your career within months. There is constant room for growth and countless roles that you can obtain, given the right guidance. Since you will encounter hundreds of people a day its very important to make sure that you are in fact a people person, change career paths immediately if you struggle prioritizing the needs of others. Being genuine and passionate will take you places in retail; if you build strong relationships with your customer’s the possibilities to network are endless.  Most importantly, you are a part of a community that is encompassed by fashion, leadership and the opportunity to create an impact. To have a career in retail you are in the best position possible, your career is your own, and you can develop on your terms.

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