What it's like to work retail sales


  • Email

Madonna Flowers is a sales associate for a national teen music and clothing retail store in Manakota, Minn. She has also held the positions of both part-time and full-time assistant manager. Madonna took a moment to answer some questions for CareerBuilder about her role as a sales associate.

CareerBuilder: What are the general responsibilities of your job?
Madonna Flowers: As a sales associate, my general responsibilities include: ringing up customers on the cash register; providing great customer service to everyone by greeting, assisting and sparking conversation; housekeeping duties, such as folding, sweeping, washing glass displays and dusting; and merchandising, such as putting away new shipment and creating displays with new merchandise.
CB: How would you describe a typical shift?
MF: Right now, for Christmas, a typical shift is mostly customer service and cash register. I come in, get a short meeting from the manager on duty with any sales or information I need to know, and then get to work! I greet all customers, ring when needed, and try to keep the store looking nice during the shift. Because it's so much busier during the holiday season, however, most housekeeping duties are done after the store is closed. Helping the customer is more important.
CB: What kind of hours do you work, and how are those scheduled? Also, how are weekends and holidays handled?
MF: Right now I work once a week. I work a full-time job, as well, so this retail job works around that schedule. I work Monday nights only, except for a few exceptions, such as Black Friday and an upcoming inventory. In general, holidays and weekends are pretty much open for everyone to work during the season; this month is a black-out period for vacation, so if you ask for a day off, it is not guaranteed.
CB: What are the challenges of your job?
MF: As a sales associate, not too many! The biggest challenge is to keep up with housekeeping while the store is busy. If it gets too messy, shoppers won't even bother coming in. Also, if the scheduling is light on coverage, it's hard to constantly ring people up and help those who are waiting.
CB: What kind of advancement might there be down the road from your current role?
MF: I started as a seasonal employee over seven years ago and made my way up all the way to full-time assistant manager. I found that it was easy to advance as long as I worked hard, was fun to work with, had a positive attitude, and was willing to go above and beyond.

CB: Is there anything that has surprised you that you didn't expect before you started your job?
MF: One thing that surprised me was rudeness of some shoppers for no reason! Some people come into the store with their mind made up that they aren't going to have a positive experience. However, I was also surprised to see how much of a good difference I can make in people's lives just by selling them the item that they've been looking for forever.

Last Updated: 04/01/2012 - 11:58 PM

Article Reprints
Permission must be obtained from CareerBuilder.com to reprint any of its articles. Please send a request to reprints@careerbuilder.com.