Everything I Learned from Working in Clothing Retail

This summer, I was fortunate enough to work at a high-end independent boutique to broaden my resume while helping people with what I truly love, fashion.  It was a great experience: a fun one, but also an educational one.  Not only did I learn the ins and outs of customer service, marketing merchandise, and buying, but I also learned a lot about how I personally view shopping.  Globally, retail has been struggling for years due to the rise of online shopping.  The few “brick and mortar” stores that are thriving embody the concept of “fast fashion”, a notion that is also destroying the independent small store.  Younger generations, which includes me, look solely for convenience because we have been raised to believe that everything we could possibly want is available, always, just one click away.  I admit to contributing to much of this behavior, but after working a summer in retail, I have decided to change some habits.  Here are 5 things that I learned:


  1. Shoppers, especially those who are older than me, take a long time to contemplate items before purchasing them.
    • As I mentioned, my generation tends to be lazy and thus, impulsive.  When I shop, I don’t always take the time to try everything on since I’m lazy.  Even if I don’t love the item, I’ll still buy it if I think I like it right in the moment at the store.  I do examine prices, but not as much as I should since I’m impulsive with my purchases.  At the store I worked at, seldom would anyone not try anything on, and customers would always ask me my opinions.  They took their time to decide before purchasing what they were trying on.  Granted, the store’s expensive, so people will have to decide whether or not a purchase is worth it, but this common practice is something that my generation lacks.  I realized that I need to shop smarter in order to both save money and space in my overflowing closet.Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 6.04.40 PM.png
  2.  Trying on items is essential to making smart purchases
    • This continues with what I was saying above, but when you try items on before buying them, you automatically look for all of the flaws in the clothing.  Mentally, you will buy the clothes that fit “perfectly”.  Online shopping doesn’t allow you to do this which ultimately wastes money in the long run since you’ll end up buying “imperfect” clothes.  This is a significant flaw of online shopping which I’m only just now realizing.
  3. The rudest customers are the ones that try on a ton of clothes and don’t hang any of them up in the fitting room
    • While I wouldn’t say I’m really guilty of this, I had no idea how rude it truly is until working in retail.  It’s a total pain to pick up clothes, especially when customers end up not even buying anything.  That is obviously totally ok, but if you’re not going to buy anything, at least be nice about it.  Moral of the story: I now know to always pick up and put back any un-purchased clothes on hangers because it really is the difference between a pleasant customer and a difficult one.  Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 6.16.15 PM.png
  4. Small businesses are essential to the economy as a whole, including the retail market
    • I have always found it sad when stores close, but after having experienced everything that goes into running a small independent business, they really need to be valued.  The particular store that I worked at prides itself on a being a fashionable head-to-toe retailer.  The experience that you get in there is unlike any chain store, especially any kind of fast-fashion store. The store tries hard to support small scale up-and-coming designers, in addition to brands that are more ethically manufactured ( ie. made in the USA, or other developed European countries).  The freedom of the owners and buyers of the small business allows them to do this which then, in turn, fuels the industry from the ground-up.  More than ever before, I will try to buy smaller brands since they are truly the backbone of the economy.  Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 6.12.31 PM.png
  5. Customers value small businesses more than you’d think
    • While retail is definitely in trouble, I didn’t realize how there are people out there that do go out of their way to shop small and local.  At the store I was at, customers would come in just to request special orders for something they saw online, knowing that we would be able to get it through wholesale and, thus, make a profit.  It surprised me that people would do that since ordering online is the much more convient option.  However, it did make me see that retail has hope, and that people do value it.  It also, frankly, made me feel lazy about both my shopping habits, and my generation’s.

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