Five strategies to upskill your retail employees

Providing your team with the skills needed to succeed in retail.

The retail industry offers golden career opportunities for anyone, regardless of their level of experience. From the teenager seeking their first job and the parent juggling part-time hours with family responsibilities to the person with a long-term career goal of reaching and maintaining a management role, a job in retail is the ideal fit.

Who are the right people for the job? Here we look at the qualities and characteristics necessary to succeed in retail, whether it is a temporary position, a part-time job, or a long-term career path.

1. Communication

Strong verbal and written communication skills are essential for successful interaction with both customers and work associates. Staff at any level can use their communication skills to work effectively as a cohesive team and support a smooth and efficient working environment, where the customer’s needs are met. Senior employees, such as supervisors and managers, can build a strong, confident team, whose members feel free to discuss problems or challenges and even provide valuable feedback.

2. Customer service

Good customer service involves identifying the most efficient and cost-effective solution for the customer’s problem. This involves demonstrating strong listening skills, empathy, and focus, along with the ability to maintain the customer’s confidence. Customers won’t necessarily complain to management about vague inattentive service or incorrect information – but there is a high chance that they won’t come back.

However, they will come back if the retail assistant can knowledgably discuss the best options, give them accurate price information and for retail staff in higher positions, customer service is a more delicate operation, dealing with serious complaints by coming up with a solution that makes the customer feel validated and heard.

3. Product knowledge

Knowledge is one of the foundations of strong customer service skills and effective communication. In the retail world, product knowledge is essential. Customers will ask unexpected questions about a retailer’s products and service, and it is not possible to answer all these questions effectively without a thorough, in-depth knowledge of the items in question.

Read all the information, make comparisons, know the strengths and weaknesses of each product, and keep track of any changes to provide the right options for each customer. In a management role, product knowledge takes on new dimensions – how does the product compare to the competition, how does it answer changing market needs, how can it be improved or remarketed to stay relevant.

4. Team playing skills

There are many different aspects to retail service, and every individual in the team has their specific responsibilities. A team player understands the need to be prompt and reliable to contribute to the smooth running of the organisation. For senior staff, team leadership is a valuable strategy to ensure all staff feel valued for their contribution and retain their loyalty and enthusiasm for the company.

5. Motivation

The most important skill in any job is motivation – feeling a personal investment in supporting the company and seeing the job as more than just a way to earn money. A motivated staff member will take initiative and maintain enthusiasm, constantly putting in that little extra effort to keep everything running smoothly. However, motivation is particularly important in a customer-focused role because the retail assistant represents the company.

A salesperson who is bored or indifferent will give customers a bad impression. An unenthusiastic staff member will drastically reduce the energy and enthusiasm of the team. Motivation doesn’t just promote efficiency and prompt service – it also sets the mood to create a stimulating and cohesive work environment.

All these skills have a common basis of enthusiasm and commitment to doing the best for the customer and the employer. Whether a retail worker is planning to transfer to another field of work or wishes to move up the ladder into a retail management role, these five interlinking skills will be an enormous asset throughout their career.

The Australian Retailers Association’s Retail Institute is Australia’s leading provider for both accredited and non-accredited learning programs. For more information, visit



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