So it's been a while since I've talked about my adventures as Shopgirl.
From April to June this year I worked in a town centre store, a 60 mile round trip from my home, just for the sake of (a) having a job and (b) finally finding a job that I genuinely enjoy.
Having spent the last 19 years working as a training officer, then personnel officer (as it was in "those days") and more recently as a freelance human resources/recruitment manager, I gradually became disillusioned with my work and the so called credit crunch has forced me to evaluate what's really important to me.
I worked in retail from the age of 16 to 21, starting in the lingerie department of M&S, several times during my career in HR, and now as Shopgirl, right back where I started....the lingerie department.
The people with whom I worked for twelve weeks this year, were the most amazing, funny, inspirational and kind people I have met in a long time.
The store was a small town centre store with about 40 staff. This meant that everyone,without exception, multi-tasked and pulled together to make the store run efficiently.
In the first week of the job, I was involved in a minor car accident and the staff couldn't have been more supportive. Fortuantely, I only had minor whiplash but being on my feet for 12 hours a day, fours hours a week, was tough on my knees for the first two weeks!
By chance, I happened to pop into the store in which I worked last Christmas, for a bit of sale shopping, when I met one of my old supervisors who informed me that there were vacancies. Only a few hours, early mornings, closer to home. I was given the weekend to decide what I wanted to do and the following Monday I rang the store to arrange the transfer. I was quite taken aback, the reaction of my manager at the small store. "Is is it anything we've done?" she asked.
I just decided that, much as I loved the role, the long days and 60 mile round trip to work was getting costly and tiring and the opportunity to work 15 mins drive from home was just a bit more appealing.
I felt bad about transferring but the offer of a permanent contract, my first permanent job in eight years, was too good to turn down, albeit on fewer hours and less money.
As it happened, the week before I transferred, I was offered a role with more hours, still with early starts but only 3 days a week.
My first part-time job for 2o years.
It's in a fabulous out of town store, about 300 staff and lots of great stock and customers.
To be honest it doesn't feel like work, I don't have any real responsibility and I can't take the job home with me. Plenty of time to do other things. (More about that some other time).
I joined my new(old) store three weeks ago. I'm part of a team of sixteen. All women. All ages. All part of a shop within a shop.
To be honest, I don't like the clothes I'm selling (and neither to most of my colleagues) but I have embraced the job with open arms, got to know the typical customer and her needs and wants.
A lot of the time, customers just want some help navigating the store. The clothes are grouped in "collections" but while they appear to co-ordinate, they don't necesarily match. So if it's complicated for the staff to identify what goes where, you can imagine how difficult if can be for customers! *curses designers and buyers*
The most frequent question from customers is "What goes with this?" It's a question that's sometimes quite difficult to answer but that's just about as difficult as the job gets.
I love the bits of the role where I have customer contact. The fitting room, the till, being on the shopfloor. Even size tidying i.e. putting stock in order of size and ensuring it has the right size "pip" on the hanger, can be a bit zen - a little bit of shopfloor meditation - time to ponder how far I've come in the past year and what I'm going to do on my days off.
And there's a lot to ponder.
Recent thoughts include:
- Thank God I'm not in HR any more
- Why don't you put that dress down and pick up your baby who needs you.
- Nah....you'd look better in the blue/bigger size/something more classic
- What shall I have for dinner tonight?
- I need to do some sewing soon, that quilt won't finish itself.
- I need to get petrol
and so on.......
But for now five days off.