How to survive working in retail this festive season

How to survive working in retail this festive season
5 November 2020    Donnay Torr    0 comments
Supposedly, it’s the most wonderful time of the year – unless you’re working in retail, in which case it’s the most exhausting, stressful and crazy time of the year. But fear not: these survival tips will help you make a success of working in retail this Christmas.

First tip? Remember what the holidays are about – friends, family and loved ones. You’re helping all these random people connect with theirs, and soon enough, you’ll be spending time with yours as well. Hold on to that thought!

(Also, remember to wear a mask, practise social distancing and use ALL the hand sanitiser. You’re gonna get through this. Bonus: masks mean you don’t have to smile all the time...)

Customer Clashes

Customers come first. Yes, unfortunately. Even when they’re downright nasty grinches. No matter how horrible and wrong that Karen getting in your face right now is, hold your pose. Be the Queen: nod, smile and wave. Inside you may be screaming, but try not to stoop to the level of some of the Christmas-crazed shoppers that are going nuts about a 2% discount on an ornament that only costs $5. You don’t need your blood pressure to go up.
Take things one customer at a time. If someone has really gone out of their way to make your life miserable, don’t assume that the next will be a monster, too. Treat each one as an individual case, keep smiling and be as kind as you can. Remember: you might be dealing with all of them, but they’re just dealing with you once – and will remember the interaction.

Well, it is hard. But you can do it. Just cry on the inside.

Wear comfortable shoes

You’re going to be on your feet for hours, and the last thing you need is to lose feeling in your toes because your cute-but-crazy Steve Maddens have effectively amputated your ankles.

Pumped-up kicks.

Smile like you mean it…

…even when you don’t. You never know when a nice customer might come by, the one in a million who’ll tell your boss you’re awesome, and come back for more because you were kind to them. (And sometimes, it might even be an actual boss that comes around – just one you haven’t met yet… Pretend they’re all possible future employers, and that you’ll have to face them in an interview situation soon.)

Customers who look like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson = Merry Xmas to us!

Be nice to your co-workers

You don’t have to be besties, but communicate and be kind to them. You might need them to have your back if your nerves frazzle out and you really need to disappear for a minute or two, so have their backs, too. Stress makes us all miserable, but it becomes easier if the burden is shared.

Think of the skills!

When the going gets tough, just focus on all the interpersonal skills you are perfecting: how to deal with tricky conversations, not sweating the small stuff, becoming resilient, teamwork, patience, helping people, communicating in a clear way, dealing with conflict… All of this is setting you up to become a kickass future CEO!

Bouncing back from retail like...


No, we mean water. Keep hydrated throughout the day: it keeps your energy up, deals with stress-induced headaches and practically keeps you alive.

Use your break times

Make sure that you know what you’re actually entitled to! The General Retail Industry Award 2010 says if you’re working in a retail store for over five hours, you get one 10-minute break and one 30-60 minute break. If you’re working under five hours, you get one 10 minute break. For 7 hours or more it’s two 10 minute breaks and one 30-60 minute break.
It’s better to stay in the break area than brave the chaos of the food court area – bring food and drink with you, and use the break to just relax away from the crowds.

Take a moment to breathe

Whenever the crowds die down or the store gets quiet, take a moment to breathe deeply, calm your nerves and restore your focus. Check in with yourself: are you okay? What do you need to recover?

Take me home, country roads...

If you need to, try this easy mindfulness exercise

Find a quiet place to sit. All you need is five minutes – time it. Close your eyes, regulate your breathing (four seconds deep in, four seconds deep out, and guide yourself through these steps while continuing with deep, regular breaths, “speaking” them in your head as you go:
  • Find a balanced position for my body
  • Clear my mind of thoughts and concerns
  • Let my body be still
  • Become aware of where I am now
  • Feel the weight of my feet on the ground
  • Feel the weight of my body sitting on the chair, from my feet to how my head feels on my neck
  • Be fully here
  • Become aware of the touch of my clothes against my skin
  • Become aware of the movement of air against my skin
  • Become aware of my sense of smell
  • Become aware of my sense of taste
  • Be fully here
  • Now, become aware of sounds: embrace them all without comment
  • Let my ears roam out to find even the smallest of sounds
  • Come back to where I am
  • Open eyes and say: this is good.
It might be challenging to empty your mind the first few tries, but doing this regularly will really help you to calm down and refocus.

The extra mile

These extras will help you perfect your retail technique:
  • Know your product and company policies – and if you can’t answer a questions, find someone who can.
  • Be polite but firm when dealing with customer queries. Offer them as much help as you can before calling in a shift supervisor.
  • If you’re being earwormed by a Christmas Carol you particularly hate, try to distract yourself by humming a few bars of your favourite metal song. Rob Zombie’s Dragula does the trick for us!
  • Think about the money you’re making, and the goals it will help you reach. (No, don’t spend your entire paycheck in one go!)
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells...

When you get home…

Take a long shower or bubble bath, put on your comfiest pyjamas, eat something healthy and give yourself some TLC (like, wearing a face mask, getting a foot rub or watching your fave Netflix show), and go to bed early – you need your sleep to deal with the crowds of shoppers, trust us!

Main image by Alexandre Godreau on Unsplash.
Gifs via

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