My first job in retail – Tony Richards

Curiosity for the ever-changing and fast-paced landscapes of the retail sector has resulted in a string of interviews with the industry’s leading professionals, sharing their insights and experiences that have led to their current position.

The Trading Director at Beales Department Stores, Tony Richards, takes us through the stages of his pursuit…

“Convinced I wanted to be a lawyer, and coming from a not so well-off background, I set off with a CV in my hands, determined to get a Saturday job and earn some cash. I visited the what was then the Arndale Centre in Doncaster.

After the first couple of ‘thanks, but no – thanks’ responses I came across Zodiac Toys, who were short-staffed and quite pleased with my interest. They agreed I could start on a trial basis straight away.

At 16, and believing I had all the answers, I was eager to learn the ropes quickly from till work to stockrooms to replenishment. After a few weeks of Saturday-only work, it was then that I realised I loved the public and nothing gave me more satisfaction than finding them a product they wanted.

I regularly opted for extra hours both after school and during holidays, and learned the merchandising techniques quite quickly after joining a number of the store opening teams on refits and refurbishment. I had found my niche – a true passion for retail and a stalwart of good customer service. I said goodbye to any idea of being a lawyer, as I knew I wanted to work in retail and longed for the completion of my O and A Levels, so that I could move into retail full-time.

The opportunity arose post A-Levels to join full-time – the start and the making of my 32 years in operations and trading as well as Board Director. I was mobile and enjoyed the challenges of working in different stores and cities.

I regularly wonder what I missed from not going to university or whether I got enough from The University of Life? I knew one thing and that was that I could not wait to put down the school books, get out on that sales floor and hear those tills ringing. I may have missed some of the refinement of my career, but I would not have changed my path.

What I believed then, and regularly advise people now, is that if you don’t like the Great British Public and enjoy satisfying your customer – run for the hills. There should be nothing that gives you more buzz than opening those doors, seeing your customers enter your store and leaving satisfied with their purchases.