In My Shoes: How to Get Ahead in Retail Management in Working
Twenty-five-year-old Jenni Birrell, from Glasgow, started her first job in retail at 17 and now is the Store Manager at Dr. Martens, Edinburgh.
When did you first get started in retail?
I first started working in retail as a Christmas temp at Schuh when I was 17. I then started working as a childminder for a while but then I headed back to retail, working in Office. After that I jetted of to Australia to do some travelling, and when I returned home I headed back to retail once more, as a Christmas temp at Urban Outfitters.
How did you work up to a management position?
Just through hard work really. I worked my way up to Manager in Training at Urban Outfitters, before leaving to start as Assistant Manager in the Glasgow Dr Martens store, which eventually led to where I am now. I’m very career-driven and keen to learn so throughout my career I’ve always expressed an interest in progression. Putting in the hard work and dedication pays off in the end, and I was excited by the challenge of taking on the Manager role at Dr. Martens Edinburgh.
What’s your top tip for a young person looking to progress to a management position?
Definitely make it known, that’s the key! If you don’t tell your line manager that you want to progress, that you want to learn more, they’re not going to know. Ask to take on more responsibility to show what you’re capable of doing and always follow up for feedback on your performance.
Do you ever face any challenges being a young manager?
Being a young manager can at times be challenging, such as when dealing with complaints from some elder customers. It’s really important to act professionally and treat your customer with respect in order to gain theirs in return. Internally however, Dr. Martens has been hugely supportive in giving me the opportunities to excel in my role regardless of my age – I’m treated with the same level of trust as managers in the company with 20 years’ more experience than me, which is really refreshing and encouraging.
What is the one quality you think is most important in a manager?
Respect! I treat all of my staff and customers with the same level of respect that I hope to receive. Once you build that mutual relationship, you create a better working environment.
What is your favourite thing about working in retail management?
I love going to global conferences twice a year, and meeting people from all over the world who work for the company. I get to pick exactly what stock package I want for the store, which I really enjoy.
What career opportunities are there for young people in retail?
I think a lot of young people often don’t realise the career opportunities there are in retail, sometimes seeing it as a ‘part-time job or something to do until they get a ‘real job.’ But there’s actually so much that you can do in retail - from sales to visual merchandising to marketing to buying to HR, and progressing to management positions.
Finally, what are your top fashion picks for Spring/Summer 2015?
I’ve just recently bought myself the black Gryphon sandal to take with me on holiday to Barcelona. I’m also really into crop tops just now and I fancy a pair of flares.