5 Things I Learned While Working Retail



For the last two and a half years I have worked as a salesperson at Nordstrom. I started working there right after college; starting as an intern with a Retail Management internship. As far back as I can remember, I had thought this was the career path I wanted to go down, so I pursued it with all I could in college, and was very proud to land that internship!! Over the last two years or so I have grown, been pushed out of my comfort zone, and learned a lot about what it means to work in retail. Ultimately, I learned what really hard work looks like; even though from the outside I think most people just think of it as glamorous and easy work.

I am sharing with you all 5 things that I have learned while working for Nordstrom, all which could be applied for anybody working in a retail job, as well as anyone who shops & considers themselves a customer. 

1. Always show your appreciation

As both a customer and salesperson, you want to feel appreciated. I sometimes forget that feeling that way comes from someone GIVING out appreciation. And when I am wanting to receive, but failing to give it.. I gotta learn to change my heart!

It is the greatest feeling when a customer is appreciative & thankful of my time and effort.

I work in the Lingerie department, so it’s a really interesting department because I am always invading people’s personal space – it’s part of my job. To fit someone for a bra is probably one of the most awkward and interesting experiences haha, honestly! It’s just me and them, and I know how I feel about MY own body, so asking one of the girls on my team to fit them takes courage. I know that. But my actions don’t always show that.

Every day I am learning to be gracious and appreciative for each customer, whether they by a lot or nothing at all, they should be thanked the same. And same should go for the customer; when I shop I am going to remind myself to always say THANK YOU, because it goes a really long way.  

2. Working retail doesn’t just mean easy work
& shopping on your lunch break

Ouch. Who would ever say that? To be honest, that was my thoughts exactly before I started working for Nordstrom. And if I am being truly honest with you again, it CAN sometimes be that (literally whenever a customer returns something we all try it on and oogle over it haha) , but not often.

Working retail means working HARD, working nights, working weekends, always giving your best service, keeping up on product knowledge, teamwork, and so much more, all with a smile on your face.

Sound like your job, even though you don’t work retail? Interesting. Like I said, it is hard work when it’s done right. My manager is one of the hardest working people I know. She puts in so much time and thought into what our floor looks like, who is on our team, scheduling, products, and making our day.  

3. You never know what someone else
is going through

This, out of all my points, applies to both parties the most. I think this also goes along really well with showing your appreciation, but even more so. It’s a funny thing that can go on in a small little dressing room. Whether the customer feels like she trusts me, or maybe she just has nobody else who will listen, more often than not there is a lot of truth-telling and openness in that room. I have heard things about people you wouldn’t believe: good things, bad things, things that almost bring me to tears, and things that make me deep belly laugh.

I like to think I’ve maybe made a deep impact on at least one customer over these years.

We can connect with people on different levels when we are willing to come to where they are; to feel their hurt or joy, and then offer up an ear or a smile.

And there are days when that person is me. I need a smile, a friendly customer, a fellow coworker who brings cookies in on day I need them most. That is all of us at some point!

4. Match the highest mood in the room

When I walk up to a customer and offer my service, with a smile on my face, I sort of expect that same reaction towards me. When they don’t reply with the same tone & excitement I get frustrated.. pretty easily. I make a mental note to not let it effect me, but it does. I can tell when a customer walks into the department with a purpose & long stride, that she probably is on a mission. I try and imitate that to match her mood. If she is in a hurry and needs quick assistance, but doesn’t want to try anything on, I will quickly explain the best product and make it easy for her to get on with the day.

Other customers walk up to us slowly, dreading their whole day, especially this part of it. It knocks my high mood down pretty fast. But I have learned it’s so much better to just smile and keep that mood up than to bring it down.

Two bad moods don’t make for a great time. Chances are, if you are able to keep your mood up (as a customer or employee), it will rub off on the other.

5. Be confident in yourself

When I first started at Nordstrom I was pretty intimidated by my team. They were all veterans, meaning they worked at Nordstrom pretty long, and were all amazing at what they did. I thought I was never going to be able to compete. I realized that it’s not about competition, or really who can sell more. As I became more comfortable with doing bra fitting and learned the product really well, I also learned that I should just be myself & that would be just fine. I don’t need to be anyone else on my team, just me. I add laughter, good conversation and kindness to the team, and I work hard to make the floor look nice, and try to be friendly to customers, and that’s me! And being me is enough!

All that to say, I hope you can relate to someone in this post; whether it be the customer or the employee, and I hope it encourages you to be thankful and empathetic & maybe also gives you a different look on what it means to work in retail.

I am thankful for the two and a half years I worked at Nordstrom, and I am so excited to take what I have learned and apply it in my next job!