By Karin Eldor
Monster Contributing Writer
Ah, working in the fashion industry: the glamour, the excitement, the clothing…
Okay, so I've painted a pretty picture - now how do you get your stiletto-heeled foot (or loafer, for the guys out there) in the door of a fashion retailer
’s head office? If you don’t have much experience or are a recent graduate, consider learning the ropes where the real magic happens: as a store sales associate.
Many long-standing employees or executives at fashion retailers
can say they cut their teeth at store level, before moving on to the respective company’s head office.
The Best HR Training You Can Get
For many fashion retailers, working in-store (even for a few days) is part of on-the-job training
and "onboarding". So it's no surprise that working as a sales associate is a valuable way to transition into a full-time corporate position.
Check out this list of soft and technical skills acquired while working as a store sales associate
, or as many companies put it, “in the field”.
Retail Soft Skills
You might be able to recite a company’s vision and mission by heart, but living and breathing it is an acquired and priceless asset. Sales associates are the ones interacting with customers daily: they know what the customer is looking for, what they aren’t looking for, and why. It's one thing to read a pamphlet or book about the brand's vision, but it's quite another to experience it first-hand and bring the theory to actual practice at store level.
Along the same lines,knowing how to deal with clients is priority numero uno when it comes to working in sales. And not only does mastering your customer service skills teach you exactly who the target customer is, but it’s also a skill that comes in handy when at the head office. Consider this: you have a marketing campaign to present to the Buying department, or a budget strategy to present to the head of Planning & Allocation. These become your customers at the corporate level. So treat them with care as you would someone buying goods at the store.
To be a successful salesperson, you need to know how to close the deal and be a master communicator. Being skilled at sales is a trait that any employee can make great use of while at the head office, especially when it comes to pitching ideas to team members and higher-ups (see above for more!).
How To Be A Team Player
Whether it means heading to the stock room to help make a sale or steaming new arrivals to make sure the store is in tip-top shape, knowing how to collaborate with your fellow sales associates and working towards the common goal is an important transferable skill that will help you shine.
Technical Skills - Get Ahead of the Learning Curve
Any new job comes with an expected learning curve, from learning the technical factors to all the inner workings of the company. Coming from store level helps you zip through these challenges at greater speed.
All About The People
As you’re not a newbie, you are already coming into the company with an understanding of the key people and decision makers. Use this to your advantage!
All About The Product
Knowing the ins and outs of a company’s offerings helps a great deal while working at the head office. Sales associates know the product first-hand: everything from the depth and breadth (the product assortment) to the SKU numbers of each product category (i.e. certain codes can refer to sweaters vs. outerwear, for example). No matter which department you are working in at head office, it’s always a bonus to know the product – a.k.a. the bread and butter of the brand.
All About The Materials
If you work in marketing or visual presentation, it helps to know that store posters come in different dimensions and materials (and this can differ when dealing with regular posters vs. promotional ones). It doesn’t even matter if you’re working at a different company; the specs and lingo for posters and marketing materials are often consistent among different fashion retailers.
Be a “Brand Ambassador”
The most important skill to carry forth when working your way up a company’s ranks is a positive attitude. Show that you are a brand ambassador in every sense: someone who understands the company culture and displays the necessary drive to contribute on a corporate level. If you want to make a great impression while working as a sales associate, ask your manager -- or better yet, the district sales manager -- questions to really see the big picture of the business, and suggest ideas based on what you’ve noticed in magazines, malls, or the industry in general.
Impress with your customer service skills, your motivated attitude and your passion for the brand, and you’ll be sure to stand out as a gem!See all fashion jobs on Monster.ca