How to Become a Top Performing Retail Employee

My first job out of college was in retail, and it was a humbling experience for me. As a confident new grad with my fancy bachelor’s degree, I didn’t expect to find myself folding sweaters full-time. But I ended up gaining a lot of skills during my time in the retail world. I uncovered the abilities that I needed to succeed in my role as a front-line retail worker, which are valuable to any occupation and position. Whether you’re a student going back to school and looking for a part-time or seasonal retail job, or you’re already a retail employee trying to get promoted, these are the essential habits of top-performing retail employees.

Keep on top of product knowledge

If there’s one skill you need in retail, it’s a thorough understanding of product knowledge. How can you sell something you know nothing about? Remembering products, their materials, qualities, store availability, alternative products and complementary products is essential. Many sales associates are assigned to a section, division or type of product. Study the products you sell. This not only makes your job easier, but it boosts confidence with customers who ask you for help. It bodes well with management, too. If you can market your products well, it says that you are knowledgeable and hold yourself accountable.

Use your tech savviness

We are no longer in the Stone Age. Today the average retail worker is equipped with many tools, from walkie-talkies to the point-of-sale system to the inventory software program. Learning these technologies makes you both an efficient employee and a well-rounded one. You present yourself as reliable for a variety of tasks, from ringing up customers to assisting the store manager with inventory management. What is the best way to get promoted? Go above and beyond to learn all the tools.

Keep track of the schedule

It’s foolish for a student or working professional to not keep a calendar of deadlines and top priorities. The retail employee would be careless to ignore store events and company announcements such as the introduction of new products, inventory deliveries and layout changes. You may not be involved in all of the store changes, but you want to be aware of them. Knowing what happens around your store allows you to understand where products are or have moved to, what promotions are happening or have expired, the stock levels for various items and when to expect new inventory. Tracking store happenings makes it easier to know your priorities as well as serve your customers.

Read and react to customer behavior

Body language, expressions and tone of voice are all indicators of what your customers are thinking. If you can decipher these clues you can know your customers. You’ll know which ones don’t want to be helped or which don’t mind assistance when offered. You‘ll be able to identify which can be upsold and which can’t. Look at your customers’ body language and pay attention to the tone of their voice when they speak to you. Attention to body language also can prevent a situation from escalating.

Keep up appearances

I’m not just referring to proper attire and hygiene. It’s about serving that customer who insists that you check the inventory for an out-of-season item. If there’s one thing a customer can’t forgive, it’s poor customer service. Even if you know that a color is no longer in stock, or if you’re positive that store policies state no refunds without a receipt, you still want to go through the motions as if you’re going to check the stock room or confirm the policy with the retail supervisor. If a customer doesn’t see you take action on a request then they assume you don’t care. So put your attitude away and replace it with a smile. If you can win customers over, you can win extra points on your evaluation.