5 Soft Skills You Can Learn From Working in Retail…and Can Apply to Any Job

Author: Brett Pucino, Career Advice


Working in retail typically gets a bad rap. Before I met my career coach, I didn’t see the value of my five-plus years of retail experience working with three different brands at the Woodbury Common Premium Outlet Center.

Now I see that I’ve honed several soft skills that are transferable to any industry. I’m going to share five of those skills with you here.

1. Working in a Fast-Paced Environment
Before we go any further, I want to clarify something: there are varying levels of the retail industry. Retail in a small town mall is very different than retail in an outlet center that is an international tourist destination 40 miles north of New York City.

I don’t know anything but a fast-paced environment where I had to constantly bounce between selling to customers and maintaining visual standards. After working five consecutive Black Fridays, I’m confident in my ability to handle any fast-paced environment.

2. Verbal Communication Skills
There’s more to working in retail than just folding clothes. A good portion of a retail worker’s shift is spent having conversations with customers – especially when working on register.

The ability to have a conversation with all types of people helps you become a “people person.” If the thought of talking to strangers all day makes you nervous, then you aren’t a people person. I credit my first retail job at PUMA, which I worked as a senior in high school, with making me comfortable talking to strangers from all different walks of life.

3. Conflict Resolution Skills
According to Monster.com, conflict resolution skills are among the most desirable soft skills in today’s job market. Dealing with an irate customer, when you break it down to fundamentals, isn’t much different than dealing with an unhappy client.

Every time I turned an unhappy customer into a satisfied one, I increased my competency in conflict resolution.

4. Organizational Skills
When you walk into a well-maintained store, every single item is arranged in a very specific way. Items can be arranged by size, style and color.

I used to think of visual merchandising as a hard skill, but when I looked back upon that experience to create my current skills portfolio, I realized that visual merchandising is how one applies organizational skills in the retail industry.

5. Sales Skills
Last but not least, working in retail teaches you how to sell. During my three-plus years at PUMA I learned how to sell using proven company sales strategy. Although I dreaded those daily pre-shift role play scenarios, I look back and thank my manager for making them mandatory.

I was able to use the sales strategies I learned at PUMA to get, and excel at, a commissioned job selling DIRECTV, AT&T and Samsung products.

Have you ever worked a retail job? What was your experience? Let us know in the comment box below!

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