The retail worker’s guide to surviving the holidays

Discussion
Dec 01, 2014

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail Doc blog.

The days prior to Thanksgiving are the calm before the storm. Your seasoned retail employees know what is in store; your newbies have no idea.

Here are 10 holiday tips for anyone who works retail:

  1. Get your own shopping done early. You won’t have the time or inclination to walk around the mall to try to buy something — you’ll just want to get home or get as far away from a store as you can. No one will blame you.
  2. Know where you are supposed to park. I can’t tell you how many employees I’ve had who had their car ticketed or towed by the mall because they didn’t follow the mall’s rules to use the shuttle.
  3. Know where all the supplies are — from register tape, to scissors, to gift card envelopes, even how to reboot the Wi-Fi system. The more prepared you are, the calmer you can be when others are freaking out.
  4. Know when to take a break. If you get overwhelmed, ask the manager if you can go in the back for five minutes to be by yourself. For me, it was shooting imaginary basketball hoops. You might choose to listen to a favorite non-Christmas song. Take care of your psyche before you reach the breaking point.
  5. Jump in when you can. If someone is slammed at the counter, don’t avoid it. See if you can bag or do something to make the line go quicker. Your co-worker will be inclined to do the same for you.
  6. Bring your own lunch. It will take you twice as long to get anything in the mall and, the less you have to go out into the chaos on a busy day, the less stress you’ll have.
  7. Double-check your schedule. People call in sick and schedules can change on a dime so, before leaving for the day, just confirm when you are scheduled. It will help avoid any misunderstandings.
  8. Footwear is key. You’ll be moving around much more than standing around and poor-fitting shoes can affect your posture, balance and back. Wear shoes with good support.
  9. Complaints aren’t about you — until they are. While you will be surprised by how many customers, if you treat them nice, will treat you nice, some customers will not be on their best behavior. Understand it and try to figure out how not to take their comments personally. If you do, they’ve won.
  10. Pay attention to your personal relationships. While your husband, spouse or girlfriend might say they understand you have to work, it doesn’t mean they like it. So when you’re with them, be with them.

What other tips would you offer retail employees on how to avoid getting over-stressed during busy holiday selling times? What steps should store managers take to support their staffs?

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8 Comments on "The retail worker’s guide to surviving the holidays"


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Chris Petersen, PhD
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

Kudos to Bob Phibbs for calling out these 10 tips for retail employees. In all the mayhem of the holiday season, the staff are faceless people who are often forgotten.

All of the deals and marketing in the world will fall flat without the most important asset of all—the people who make it happen on the front line.

Best wishes for all of those working retail this holiday season, whether it be in-store or online.

David Livingston
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

I’m not so sure what managers can do to support the staff, but I do know one thing not to do is say all the wrong morale buster things. My first job out of college in 1981 was with a large national discount retailer. The store manager was telling me after a long 80 hour week that my job was as important as a medical doctor that works 80 hours a week. Except I was salaried and getting paid for 48 and barely $5 a hour. Perhaps if I was being paid for my time I’d have more enthusiasm. My suggestion is to take care of the low-level salaried managers, AKA the managers who do all the work. We had minimum-wage staff taking home more coin that me during those weeks working 80 hours.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
6 years 6 months ago

If you an overstressed retail employee during busy holiday selling times, get out of retailing. Most efforts therein are designed to produce stress.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
6 years 6 months ago
Two very different questions. Concerning tips for retail employees, this is a great list of practical things an employee can do. The only one I would add would be: Find out what your boss thinks is the most important thing you should be doing and do it. Concerning how to treat your employees, here are two ideas from a list of 10 I did on a recent post on LinkedIn. YOU WILL SET HIGH STANDARDS AND HOLD YOURSELF AND YOUR EMPLOYEES ACCOUNTABLE … You shall be clear from the get-go about values, mission, duties and responsibilities. Your employees will know and understand why their jobs are important and exactly what’s expected of them so they can meet your standards and be stunningly successful. HONOR YOUR EMPLOYEES AND TREAT THEM WELL … Though it sounds simple, too often employers forget that employees represent more than a “one-time sale.” These “chosen ones” also represent the inner sphere of influence. They can raise the perceived value of your company or they can speak negatively and undermine your reputation.… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

Always try to be aware of how your shoppers are feeling. If lines are long, be responsive and sympathetic by walking the front-end of the store and chatting with shoppers to ensure they found everything and that you are stepping up the staffing to handle the increased traffic. Management needs to set the example for shopper engagement, by walking the floor constantly rather than hanging in the back rooms or their offices.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
6 years 6 months ago

Stores probably don’t pay much attention to the stress of their employees, to everyone’s detriment, but Bob has produced a nifty, logical, and very helpful list that every employee should put in their pocket and keep referring to. Nice one Bob.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

This information may be construed by most line managers as a rather lofty goal for the land of low pay, lower training and high employee turnover. But that’s just what I think.

Kimberly Long
Guest
Kimberly Long
6 years 6 months ago

These are great tips! And definitely very helpful; I wish I had known these when I was a “newbie.” As a former retail associate, the holidays could be very stressful, but a little planning ahead can ease a lot of stress for everyone.

Another tip: if you’re clocked out, and on the sales floor for whatever reason (doing your own shopping, walking through the store to leave or go to lunch), you will get asked questions! Even though this is your time, be helpful and polite, and if possible, hand the customer over to an employee that is clocked in. The customer will appreciate the little extra customer service; and if they don’t, just think of it as spreading a little extra holiday cheer on your part!

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