Retail Is The New College

Retail doesn’t have to be temporary.


Imagine you are a student in high school, entering your junior year, traditionally the most challenging year of your high school career. You are taking 5 of the hardest classes offered at the school and despite some anxiety you might be feeling, you are excited to learn about new topics and absorb as much information as you can. 


After a few weeks, you need clarification about some of the topics you are learning, specifically in calculus. So you approach your teacher and ask them a handful of questions after class, and this is their response:


“I can’t answer your questions right now, come back tomorrow morning.”


That was an odd answer to you, but they may need to get to a meeting or go on their lunch break. So you leave, with no answers, and come back early the next day in hopes of gaining some clarity. 


When you show up, your calculus teacher isn’t there and shows up 2 minutes before their other class is about to start. They see that you are waiting and say:


“Oh, I’m so sorry! I overslept this morning, come back during my lunch break and I will get your questions answered.”


You start to get frustrated but understand that it happens to the best of us. So you show up during their lunchtime and they are nowhere to be found. After days and weeks of trying to connect with your teacher and learn, you ultimately decide to give up trying and will figure out the answers to your questions yourself. 


You started the year excited and ready to learn but were shut down daily by the one person who was supposed to answer your questions, provide support, and teach you.


This was my experience working for an outdoor retailer during college… 


Like many students in college, I was looking for a job to make some extra money and to hone my skills working for an industry I loved.


However, after getting hired at a local outdoor retailer in Raleigh, NC, I sought education and support, yet did not receive it. 


I am a highly motivated worker and want to learn. I tried to understand their customer service experience, learn about products, and more. Yet, after months of asking, I never received formal training. It was beyond frustrating and I could not understand how they turned away motivated employees from learning and growing within the company.


Now, there were many factors involved that created this barrier, from internal manager support, staff turnover, etc. but the takeaway is that working in retail is a unique experience that can provide an opportunity for young adults and beyond to be a well-rounded worker. 


Think about it… individuals can learn conflict management skills, interpersonal communication, the backend financial knowledge to run a business, product knowledge, and more. 


Where else can and do you get that opportunity? Not to mention in an environment where you can make mistakes and learn from them in a safe environment… 


Over time, we have started to view retail as a temporary and transactional job. One that most people do not stick with for more than a year or two. Most of the time it’s a high school or college student looking for part-time work and they may not be fully engaged and interested in participating while they are on the clock. 


All of this sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it? 


But retail doesn’t have to be temporary and we have to start viewing it that way. 


To change the way we look at retail, we have to shift our mindset to provide a space for young adults to develop their professional skills and support them in the process while also equipping everyone else on staff with the tools and support they need to be successful (aka managers).


What does this look like?

  • Hiring: Deeply understanding the goals and motivations of the individuals you are hiring.  Ask yourself what they want to get out of the job and what skillsets they want to develop.
  • Training: INVEST IN ONGOING TRAINING!!! Now I am not just saying this because I work for The Mann Group, I am saying this as someone who did not receive adequate training… your staff will only take you as seriously as you take them. If you do not invest in your staff through ongoing and quality training, you will see and feel the impact of “lazy” employees. Set the standard and expectations from the beginning! 
  • Mindset: Retail does not have to be temporary. Retail can and is providing young adults and others with valuable skills they may not learn elsewhere. It is becoming the new form of college because of the versatility of the space and job, so own it! 



If you are interested in learning more about my (Makenzie) experience working in retail throughout college, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. If you have any further questions about The Mann Group and want to reawaken retail, contact Leslie Cunningham at [email protected].


Great Mann Group content, right to your inbox.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.