How Retail Employees Can Maintain Sanity During The Holidays

Holiday Employee

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As the week before Thanksgiving unfolds, it often serves as the calm before the storm in the retail world. Seasoned employees are well-versed in the whirlwind that's about to ensue. At the same time, newcomers and seasonal staff may be blissfully unaware of the intensity of the holiday season to retail.

To navigate this bustling period successfully, there are several proactive steps that retail employees can take to maintain their sanity and ensure a smooth, efficient holiday season. These strategies are not just about surviving the rush but thriving in it, providing exceptional customer service while keeping personal well-being in check.

15 Tips for Holiday Retail Employees:

1. Get your shopping done early. You won’t have the time or inclination to walk around for hours to try to buy something – and no one will blame you.

  • Avoid the holiday rush and stress by shopping ahead of time.
  • This strategy ensures you can focus on work without personal shopping distractions.
  • Early shopping often means better deals and more product choices.

2. Know where you are supposed to park. I can’t tell you how many employees I’ve had who had their car ticketed or towed by the mall because they didn’t follow its employee parking rules. It’s an easy thing to avoid.

  • Familiarize yourself with employee parking areas to avoid fines or towing.
  • Check for any particular holiday parking rules or shuttle schedules.
  • Consider carpooling or public transport to avoid parking hassles altogether.

3. There will be traffic. That means you must allow twice as much time to arrive on schedule. If you work two or more jobs, talk to your bosses now so you aren’t trying to pull off the impossible.

  • Anticipate delays and plan your route accordingly.
  • Consider alternative routes or modes of transportation.
  • Text with your employer about potential late arrivals due to traffic.

4. Know where all the supplies are – from register tape to scissors to gift card envelopes, and even how to reboot your Wi-Fi system. The more prepared you are, the calmer you can be when others may be freaking out.

  • Familiarize yourself with the location of essential supplies to save time.
  • Regularly check and restock supplies to avoid running out during peak times.
  • Understanding basic troubleshooting, like Wi-Fi rebooting, can be a lifesaver.

5. Know when to take a break. With holiday parking – in the snow or rain, pushing past people to get where they need to be, being stuck in lines to check out, and trying to get done with shopping, tension is bound to be coming at you from customers. If you get overwhelmed, ask the manager if you can go to the back for five minutes to be alone. For me, it was shooting imaginary basketball hoops. You might choose to listen to a favorite – non-Christmas – song. Take care of your psyche before you reach the breaking point.

  • Recognize the signs of stress and take short breaks to reset.
  • Find a quiet spot to relax and decompress during hectic shifts.
  • Engage in quick stress-relief activities, like deep breathing or stretching.

6. Limit caffeine. I'm aware it is the drug of choice for salespeople, but caffeine is often accompanied by sugar, which means you’ll crash when it wears off. Then you’ll have to have more, which can shorten your fuse when dealing with demanding customers.

  • Opt for healthier alternatives like water or herbal tea.
  • Monitor your intake to avoid jitters or energy crashes.
  • Remember to eat balanced meals for sustained energy.

7. Busy is good – don’t bitch about it. Days go faster, and you don't have time to overthink. That's a good thing.

  • Embrace the fast pace as it makes time fly and keeps you engaged.
  • Focus on the positive aspects, like meeting new people or learning new skills.
  • Remember, a busy store often means a thriving business.

8. Change your final question. Instead of asking if the customer needs “Anything else?” ask, “Who else is on your list?’ Getting a larger sale rather than flitting from one customer to another is much better.

  • This approach can lead to discovering additional customer needs.
  • It shows attentiveness and can enhance customer satisfaction.
  • It’s an opportunity to provide personalized service and build customer loyalty.

9. Jump in when you can. If someone is slammed at the counter, especially seasonal employees, don’t avoid it. See if you can bag or do something to make the line go quicker. Your co-worker will be inclined to do the same for you. Oh, and adding a thank you whenever you can goes a long way.

  • Teamwork is crucial during busy periods.
  • Helping others can create a positive and supportive work environment.
  • Your initiative can inspire others and improve overall team efficiency.

10. Bring your lunch. It will take you twice as long to get anything in the mall, and the less you have to go out into the chaos on a busy day – the less stress you’ll have. 

  • It saves time and money and ensures healthier eating options.
  • It avoids the stress of navigating crowded food courts.
  • A home-packed meal can be a comforting break from the hectic retail environment.

11. Double-check your schedule. People call in sick, and plans can change on a dime, so before leaving for the day, confirm when you are scheduled to avoid misunderstandings.

  • Stay updated with any last-minute changes to avoid confusion.
  • Keep a copy of your schedule on your phone for quick reference.
  • Regularly communicate with your manager about your availability.

12. Footwear is critical. You’ll move around much more than standing still, and poor-fitting shoes can affect your posture, balance, and back. Wear shoes with good support.

  • Invest in quality, comfortable shoes to prevent foot and back pain.
  • Consider shoes designed for long-standing hours.
  • Rotate between a couple of pairs to avoid wear and tear.

13. Leave your problems at the door. Nothing’s worse than getting a text or call about something out of your control while you’re slammed in a retail store during Christmastime. Limit your communication if you want to lower your stress.

  • Create a mental separation between work and personal issues.
  • Stay present and focused on your work responsibilities.
  • Use work as a positive distraction to keep personal worries at bay.

14. Complaints aren’t about you – until they are.  While you will be surprised by how many customers, if you treat them nice, will treat you nice, some customers will not be on their best behavior. Understand it and try to figure out how not to take their comments personally. If you do, they’ve won.

  • Find the empathy in handling difficult situations with harried shoppers.
  • Learn not to internalize negative feedback.
  • Use complaints as opportunities for improvement and learning.

15. Maintain work-life balance: Remember to balance your professional and personal life during the hectic holiday season to avoid burnout. While your husband, spouse, or girlfriend might say they understand you must work, it doesn’t mean they like it. So when you’re with them, be with them.

  • Prioritize your time to ensure a healthy balance between work and personal life.
  • Communicate openly with your loved ones about your work schedule and its demands.
  • Plan and schedule quality time with loved ones in advance, making them feel valued.
  • Be mindful of the need for personal downtime to recharge and avoid burnout.
  • Utilize your days off effectively, engaging in relaxing or enjoyable activities.
  • Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is key to long-term job satisfaction and personal well-being.

In Sum

The holidays can be a fun time to work retail as you vicariously participate in a customer’s selection of a gift. Holiday retail sales employees can use these tips to maintain their sanity, health, and jobs.


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